By Liana B. Baker
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Consumers are slightly more satisfied with their credit cards after a new disclosure law came into effect in February, with American Express being the top pick for the fourth year in a row, an annual survey showed.
The J.D. Power and Associates poll released on Thursday showed that satisfaction rebounded from a 3-year low in 2009.
"The Credit Card Act has motivated the issuers for clearer more transparent communication," said Michael Beird, director of banking services at J.D. Power." Consumers are a little more empowered to know a little more at what's going on in with their accounts."
But only a third of cardholders who received disclosures as part of the law said they completely understand their credit card terms, the survey found. Sixteen percent of card customers said they did not receive the disclosures.
The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, or Credit CARD Act, is intended to protect consumers from credit card companies making unfair rate hikes and charging exorbitant fees. It was passed in May 2009.
J.D. Power's customer satisfaction index rose 9 points to 714 on a 1,000-point scale, up from 705 points last year.
The survey showed that people who keep their balances from month to month -- who are more sensitive to interest rate hikes -- are "significantly more likely to say that CARD Act disclosures improved their understanding of their credit card terms," Beird said.
J.D. Power said its online research, which was conducted in May and June, shows that consumers view their relationship with credit card companies as an "ongoing game of cat and mouse, with each side trying to outsmart the other."
For the fourth year in a row, American Express Co, the largest U.S. credit card company by sales, ranked first in the satisfaction survey, helped by its rewards program, followed by Discover Financial Services. JPMorganChase, the largest issuer of Visa branded credit cards, which had ranked above average last year, fell below the average.
(Reporting by Liana Baker; Editing by Richard Chang)