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Rate survey: Credit card rates remain in holding pattern

By Kate Tomasino's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 14.91% 14.91%
Low interest 10.40%
10.40% 10.73%
Balance transfer 12.60%
Business 13.13%
Cash back  14.45%
Airline  14.54%
Reward 14.73%
Instant approval 15.49%
Bad credit 23.41%
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.)
Updated: Feb. 15, 2012

For the third straight week, the average interest rate on a new credit card offer stayed at 14.91 percent, according to the Weekly Rate Report, matching its lowest level since August 2011.

It is the ninth straight week without an increase in the national average annual percentage rate (APR) -- the longest such stretch since began tracking rates in 2007. The previous long stretch was seven weeks straight, in early March 2011.

The last increase came in mid-December as rates shot from 14.98 percent to a record high of 15.22 percent. That jump was the largest in more than a year. However, rates have slowly fallen since then, including two declines in 2012.

Infrequent change 
Rates haven't always decreased, however. The national average has gone unchanged week-to-week five times in so far in 2012 -- another rarity. It's unusual because creditors traditionally make some sort of rate adjustments in the early months of a year.

Not in 2012, however. We've never seen issuers sit on their hands in the first two months of the year the way they have this year.

  • In 2012, no rate hikes in the year's first seven weeks.
  • In 2011, for example, we saw three rate increases in the first five weeks of the year.
  • In 2010, rates increased four times in the first six weeks of the year. Rate instability in 2010 was largely due to issuers wrestling with the implications of the Credit CARD Act of 2009, landmark pro-consumer regulation that greatly changed the credit card business.
  • In 2009, rates went up each of the first two weeks of the year.

Since 2009, the categories of cards that show the most APR increases at the beginning of the year are: rewards cards, student cards, airlines cards and balance transfer cards. Business cards are the least likely to increase at the beginning of the year, but are also less prone to APR tweaks in general. According to data, issuers only made three APR adjustments in 2011 to the business credit cards we track.

Although this period of stability may seem like a good time to invest in a new credit card at a low APR, it's important to be informed when comparing cards. Examine the terms and conditions of the credit card. Some cards come with myriad fees and charges that may overshadow any savings from low interest rates or rewards programs.

See related: Calculator: How long will it take to pay off your credit card balance?

Published: February 15, 2012

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Credit Card Rate Report

Updated: 03-27-2015

National Average 14.90%
Low Interest 11.62%
Business 12.85%
Student 13.14%
Balance Transfer 14.04%
Reward 15.04%
Airline 15.10%
Cash Back 15.28%
Instant Approval 17.93%
Bad Credit 22.48%