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Rate survey: Credit card rates steady as 2012 begins

By Kate Tomasino

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 15.14% 15.14%
14.75%
Low interest 10.62%
10.62% 10.73%
Balance transfer 12.85%
12.85%
12.78%
Business 13.13%
13.13%
13.07%
Student
13.77%
13.77%
13.77%
Airline  14.54%
14.54%
14.31%
Cash back  14.74%
14.74%
13.90%
Reward 14.82%
14.82%
14.28%
Instant approval 15.49%
15.49%
15.99%
Bad credit 24.96%
24.96%
24.96%
Methodology: The national average credit card APR is comprised of 100 of the most popular credit cards in the country, including cards from dozens of leading U.S. issuers and representing every card category listed above. (Introductory, or teaser, rates are not included in the calculation.)
Source: CreditCards.com
Updated: Jan. 4, 2012

Interest rates on new credit card offers were unchanged to start the new year, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The average annual percentage rate (APR) stayed fixed at 15.14 percent. We saw no APR changes this week in any of the 100 credit cards that we track. It's the first time since CreditCards.com began tracking rates in 2007 that the national average APR didn't move in the first week of the year.

Though they were static this week, rates are significantly higher than they were in the first week of 2011. A year ago, the national average APR stood at 14.71 percent. And in the first week of 2010, the national average stood at just 12.87 percent -- more than 2 percentage points lower than the current rate.

Still, today's rate is shy of the record high of 15.22 percent, set in mid-December. It was the seventh record high set in 2011, equaling the number seen in 2010.

Several credit card categories CreditCards.com tracks saw major increases in 2011 as well. For example, the cash back category reached 14.86 percent in December of 2011. That's up more than 2 percentage points from this time last year, when it stood at 12.48 percent.

Those records mean real money to consumers. For example, a cardholder who borrowed $5,000 on a credit card with an APR of 15.22 percent and consistently paid $150 per month would have to pay $6,541 to pay off the debt. That's $74 more than would have been required at 14.71 percent -- the average APR of a new card offer a year ago. (Calculator: How long will it take to pay off your credit card balance?)

As the new year begins, the highest interest rate we currently track is offered by First Premier -- a bank that issues cards targeting consumers with below-average or limited credit. Its Bank Gold MasterCard comes with an interest rate of 49.9 percent. The next highest APR belongs to the USAA World MasterCard at 25.9 percent.

The lowest current rates are offered by Navy Federal Credit Union. Its Platinum MasterCard offers an interest rate as low as 7.99 percent, though the high end of the APR range is 18 percent. As always, it is important to note that APRs are offered based on your creditworthiness, and those with the best credit will get the lower interest rates. 

See related: A guide to the Credit CARD Act of 2009

Published: January 4, 2012


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