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In the past month, consumers who were searching for a new credit card on Yahoo! typed this phrase most often: “Capital One credit card.” Based on our review of Yahoo! Search data, they weren’t looking for a specific card from Capital One, they just wanted to see what cards from that bank were available. This tells me that consumers have a good feeling about Capital One. They might end up with a card from a different bank, but Capital One is where they start their search.

I’m not surprised, even though the issuer didn’t score that high on J.D. Powers 2011 Credit Card Satisfaction Survey. American Express was number one, followed by Discover, Barclaycard, and Chase. Capital One checked in at number seven.

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So why did they come out on top in searches? Here are five solid reasons why I think Capital One appeals to consumers:

#1: No foreign transaction fees

Capital One was the first major issuer to remove foreign transaction fees from all of their cards. Since then, Discover has done this. Other major card issuers have also waived the fees from some of their top-tier cards.

But Capital One was the first to eliminate this fee. This is the kind of consumer-friendly move that sticks with people, especially if you travel frequently for pleasure or business.

#2: Memorable Commercials

Most recently, we’ve been treated to Jimmy Fallon talking to a baby about the Capital One Cash card. When Fallon asks the baby if it wants more cash back, the baby throws cereal at him. Okay, a celebrity plus a cute baby is memorable TV. A tiny food fight makes it even better.

Capital One also has run lots of ads featuring Alec Baldwin and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. We live in a celebrity-obsessed culture so it’s not surprising that celebs grab your attention when you see them in commercials.

And let’s not forget the “What’s in your wallet?” Vikings commercials, which were loaded with whimsy and humor. All of this makes Capital One look like they’re the Disney World of banks.

#3: The card details are easy to understand

I’ve often raved about the transparent and easy-to-read websites that Capital One provides for its cards. The “Rates & Disclosures” tab across the top is clearly marked and easy to find. The “Rewards” tab is also easy to find. The rewards program is straight-forward and doesn’t involve confusing tiers and caps. And you get the details laid out in bullet points.

There’s more detail in the fine print, of course, so make sure you read all the disclosure statements. But at least Capital One does a good job of giving you the important highlights in digestible doses.

#4: Costs are pretty low compared to other cards

If you have excellent credit, you have some great choices. There are Capital One cards that have zero, or fairly low, annual fees. And some have low starting APRs. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card starts as low as an 11.9 percent (V) APR, which is very good for a generous travel rewards card. The Capital One Platinum Prestige Credit Card has an APR range that starts at 10.9 percent and it doesn’t have an annual fee.

Another consumer-friendly aspect of Capital One cards is the 25-day grace period. In comparison, some cards from major issuers only give you 21 days to pay before the interest clock starts ticking away.

But don’t think about getting a cash advance with these cards. You’re looking at a 24.9 percent (V) APR and you start paying interest immediately on a cash advance.

#5: Flexible and mostly generous rewards programs

With the Capital One Venture Rewards Card you get two miles per dollar spent on all purchases. You can redeem the miles to fly on any airline. Unless you’re loyal to one airline, this kind of flexibility is a great reward in itself. For those who prefer cash, there’s the Capital One Cash credit card. You get, effectively, 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases.

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve got some generous rewards cards to choose from with Capital One’s new Spark brand. I just reviewed the Capital One Spark Miles for Business and gave it a 5-star rating. You get two miles for every dollar spent on all of your purchases. If you travel frequently on business, you can rack up miles quickly and earn free flights.

Even the Capital One No Hassle Cash Rewards Credit Card, which is targeted at consumers with fair credit, offers 2 percent cash back on groceries and gas purchases. Then, you get 1 percent on everything else. So even if you aren’t in the “excellent credit” club, Capital One has something to offer you.

Image: University of Salford, via Flickr.com


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