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Consumers continue to grow happier with their credit cards, and a federal law requiring better transparency and lower rate increases from credit card companies has a lot to do with it, according to a new report by J.D. Power and Associates.

Customer satisfaction dropped to 705 on a 1,000-point scale in 2009, when many card issuers reacted to the financial crisis were slashing credit limits and hiking interest rates, often with little warning. In its latest survey, published on Wednesday, J.D. Power found that average customer satisfaction rose to 731 in 2011, the second annual increase in a row.

[Related article: Fed Closes More CARD Act Loopholes]

Much of that increase may be attributable to the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009. The act limits card issuers’ ability to raise interest rates, and requires issuers to give card holders 45 days’ notice before increasing interest rates.

Better transparency appears to be leading to more satisfied customers, J.D. Power found.

“I definitely think it has a lot to do with the CARD Act,” says Beverly Harzog, Credit.com’s credit card expert. “There’s still a lot of room for improvement. But based on where it was before the CARD Act, it is so much easier for customers to read their statements and feel empowered to make decisions.”

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The survey tries to gauge customer satisfaction with things including credit card terms, rewards programs, payment and billing process, benefits and services, and the issuer’s problem resolution process. American Express rated the highest in all five areas for the fifth consecutive year. The company’s cards garnered five stars in every category from card holders, earning an overall satisfaction score of 786. Discover came in second, with a score of 779.

HSBC cards fared the worst, eliciting just two out of five stars in each of the satisfaction categories.

“American Express has a reputation for great customer service, so I’m not surprised at all. And I always hear good things about Discover, too,” says Harzog. “Some of HSBC’s cards aren’t that bad. But I have heard that they can be kind of unresponsive” to customer complaints.

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