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by Sabine Hildebrandt-Woeckel, Euro am Sonntag
Credit cards have been part of everyday life for everyone in the USA for what feels like an eternity. We Germans, on the other hand, remained loyal to cash for a long time – and in many cases still do. Nevertheless, sales of plastic cards have risen continuously over the past decade: from a good 43 billion euros in 2010 to more than 118 billion euros in 2019. The Deutsche Bundesbank does not provide any more recent figures.
A survey by the Bundesbankers carried out every three years shows, however, for 2020 that the ongoing corona crisis has given cashless payments another strong push. Of all payments recorded there at the checkout, during leisure time, in online trading and for other payment occasions, 30 percent were made with a card. In the 2017 payment behavior study, the value was nine percentage points lower. Particularly interesting: More than a fifth of those surveyed who paid contactless in the past year tried this out for the first time during the corona pandemic.
The offer is getting bigger and bigger
The EC card has seen the greatest increase here, but credit cards are also being used more and more as a matter of course. In 2017, just 36 percent of those surveyed had at least one credit card, in 2020 it was already 58 percent.
But the more the colorful cards – quite a few can now even be individually designed – are used, the more important it becomes to find the right one for you. In line with the increased interest of consumers, the range on offer has also grown steadily. Not only banks or credit card companies issue cards, more and more large retail chains, travel and airlines are also providing customer cards with credit card functions.
With all the variety of offers: if you have the choice, you are spoiled for choice. In fact, the individual offers sometimes differ considerably. This makes it all the more important to shed light on the credit card test carried out by the German Customer Institute (DKI) for the fourth time on behalf of € uro am Sonntag. This year, both standard credit cards as well as gold and premium cards were examined. In addition to all the standard functions, the latter offer a bundle of additional services – from insurance, discounts and airline miles to attractive cashback systems. We will present the test result for gold cards in the next issue, everything about premium cards will be available a week later.
The following applies to all cards included in the test: if you want them, you have to go through a credit check. Prepaid credit cards, on the other hand, which can only be used to spend what has previously been topped up, are neglected. The 40 standard credit cards tested are divided into debit cards, with which payments are debited directly from the account, and charge cards, which are used to grant customers 30 days of deferment. Also included: Revolving credit cards, which also allow payment in installments. A total of 15 of the cards tested offer this additional service. Many consumers appreciate them, but consumer advocates in particular are skeptical about them because they can quickly lead to over-indebtedness of the user. If the partial payment function is used, high interest rates are incurred, the average value of which, at 14.34 percent, has even risen again compared to the test last year (14.18 percent). To put it into perspective: According to a study by Stiftung Warentest 2020, the overdraft interest averaged 9.61 percent.
The lowest interest rates are with the Miles & More Blue Credit Card: 8.90 percent. That did not help with the overall rating, however, because the interest for the partial payment function was not included in the actual test. In the overall rating, for which 190 individual criteria from the three categories of offer (scope of services), conditions and customer service were checked, the Miles & More card only achieved 26th place. Offer and conditions were each included in the overall evaluation with 35 percent Service quality of the providers with 30 percent (see “This is how it was tested” below). In order to assess the latter, the testers made telephone and written inquiries and analyzed the websites and social media pages of the providers.
The overall winner this time was the Barclaycard Visa (Barclaycard), which achieved 90.9 out of 100 credit points and thus finished with the grade “very good +”. The GenialCard from Hanseatic Bank and Mastercard Standard from Sparkasse Pforzheim Calw follow in second and third place, both with an overall rating of “very good”.
The test winner impressed above all with top ratings for the conditions and the offer. It is possible to apply for the Barclaycard Visa without opening a current account and there is no annual fee. Cash withdrawals and payment processes are also free of charge at home and abroad, by no means a matter of course. Overall, only 21 of the 40 credit cards examined are available without opening a current account with the associated bank. Annual fees apply for 25 of the cards tested. Four other credit cards are free in the first year, but fees apply thereafter. The fees range from 18 euros (Visa DirectCard from BBBank) to a lush 79.90 euros (TUI).
Which criteria are important?
At the bottom of the overall ranking is the Mastercard Standard from Sparda Bank West, which only got above “satisfactory” in terms of customer service. When it came to the offer, she even received an “unsatisfactory” rating. It costs 40 euros per year, making it the fifth most expensive card in the test, and additional fees are charged for cash withdrawals at home and abroad. Replacement cards or PINs also cost money – even though customers cannot even set a PIN of their choice.
In order to find the right card for yourself, the head of the German Customer Institute, Jörn Hüsgen, recommends not only looking at the overall rating, but first of all analyzing which criteria are particularly important to you. Those who are primarily interested in comprehensive service may be less interested in costs. And if you above all need the highest possible availability limit, it may not matter how quickly telephone inquiries are answered.
So that interested parties can also get a quick overall impression here, there is a separate ranking for all test categories. The individual card offers in the “Offer” category diverge most widely, with grades ranging from “very good +” to “unsatisfactory” – with more than half of the cards rated as “very good”. The Mastercard Standard from Sparda-Bank West also received the worst rating here.
The field is closest together for conditions and customer service with grades from “very good +” to “sufficient”. The providers awa7 and Hanseatic Bank are right at the fore in terms of conditions, with LBB marking the end. However, since the aim is not always to find the cheapest or best equipped card, the DKI has considered the relationship between the offer and conditions – and thus determined the price-performance ratio. The corresponding table also shows the Barclaycard Visa above, whereby a total of 15 cards scored “very good +” or “very good”. The “price-performance ratio” category was not included separately in the overall evaluation of the test.
No apps, but often Apple Pay
If, on the other hand, the tested cards are viewed purely from the point of view of customer service, Sparkasse Pforzheim Calw leads. However, it is precisely here that the testers see major deficits in almost all providers. For example, they waited an average of one day, ten hours and 48 minutes for feedback via email. “An absurdity”, thinks Jörn Hüsgen, “and with the possibilities that the digitalization offers, can no longer be explained today. ”
Hüsgen also sees the lack of apps that show card transactions in real time as a major shortcoming. On the other hand, he draws a positive conclusion for contactless payments. Apple Pay in particular is becoming more and more popular here. “A development that is of course particularly important in times of Corona.”
This is how it was tested:
The test design used for this study was developed together with the economics faculty of the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf. The evaluation is based on the so-called Kano model, which assumes that customers have basic, performance and bonus requirements for a product. If the requirements of the first two groups are not met, points are deducted, and if the customer receives more than expected, bonus points are awarded. For this reason, total points over 100 are also possible.
Three categories were examined, each with a large number of individual criteria. In the “Conditions” category (35 percent weight), this includes, for example, the requirements for receiving a card, the annual fee, the fees for cash withdrawals and payment transactions, the interest on the credit balance or the liability limit in the event of credit card misuse. In the “Offer” category (also 35 percent), points such as maximum credit limit, billing types, receipt of partner cards, contactless payment or included insurance or bonus benefits were included. “Customer service” (30 percent) was about speed, friendliness and competence in responding to inquiries, among other things. The study was carried out from January to March 2021. In the event of a tie in the tables, the other decimal places not shown decided on the specific placement.
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