C redit unions have retained their title, for the 16th consecutive year, as leaders among financial institutions when it comes to customer satisfaction, according to the latest American Banker/Gallup consumer survey.

"Significantly, the rate of satisfaction among consumer/members has spiked by five percentage points over last year," says Daniel A. Mica, president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association Inc.

Nearly 79% of consumers surveyed who use a credit union as their primary financial institution said they were "very satisfied," compared with 74% in 1999. Banks, by contrast, received a 53% "very satisfied" rating, down from 56% last year. Savings and loans and other thrifts scored 51% in this area, down from 55% last year, according to American Banker (Sept. 27).

Observers looked to the wave of bank and thrift mergers during the late 1990s for an explanation for dissatisfaction with these institutions. However, credit unions took the lead in other areas, including charging competitive rates on loans.

For example, 18% of bank customers said their institution did an "excellent" job on charging competitive rates. Compare that with 45% of credit union members who gave their institution the highest mark. (Check out PCCU rates!)

Credit unions also beat banks in the area of customer/member trust. For the second year, more respondents (32%) who use both a bank and credit union said they have more confidence in their credit union. Thirty percent said they have more confidence in their bank.

Of all types of financial institutions, credit unions came out No. 1, trailed by banks and insurance, mutual fund, and finance companies. The survey was conducted as a national telephone poll, by the Gallup organization for the American Banker newspaper. One thousand U.S. households were surveyed between May 23 and June 18.

© 2000 Credit Union National Association Inc.