Credit card interest rates slide to 15 percent

By's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 15.00% 15.09%
Low interest 10.37%
10.37% 10.37%
Cash back 14.98%
Balance transfer 12.82%
Business 12.85%
Student 13.14%
Airline 15.46%
Reward  14.95%
Instant approval 23.33%
Bad credit 22.73%
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: Nov. 12, 2014

Average rates on new card offers declined this week for the first time in nearly two months, according to the Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The national average annual percentage rate (APR) dropped to 15 percent Wednesday after remaining at 15.09 percent for two straight weeks.

Barclays spurred this week's rate change by replacing the Apple Financing Visa with a new Apple-branded credit card, the Barclaycard Visa with Apple Rewards. The newest Apple card features a much lower minimum APR of 13.99 percent as well as a new rewards structure. Previously, the Apple Financing Visa featured a minimum APR of 22.99 percent.

In a Nov. 6 Facebook post announcing the card's launch, Barclays touted the rewards card's Apple-centric perks, including bonus points for every dollar spent at an Apple store or through iTunes and deferred interest financing on Apple purchases.

Subprime card accounts multiply
According to new research from the credit bureau Equifax, some card issuers are finally starting to give subprime borrowers a second chance with new cards and fatter credit limits.

According to Equifax's latest Consumer Credit Trends Report, consumers with Equifax scores of 660 or below opened nearly 43 percent more bank-issued card accounts in the first seven months of 2014 than they did during the same period in 2013. Borrowers with low credit scores also opened nearly 13 percent more retail-issued credit cards.

Card issuers, meanwhile, were much more generous this year with the amount of credit they were willing to lend. According to Equifax, credit limits for consumers with Equifax scores of 660 or below increased by nearly 44 percent on bank-issued credit cards. Credit limits on retail cards expanded by just over 16 percent.

According to Equifax's Brad Jones, card issuers are becoming more willing to lend to subprime borrowers, in part, because they're dealing with a different kind of customer than in the first few years after the Great Recession. "As consumers continue to become less credit averse, financial institutions are in a different position than in the past five to six years," said Jones in a Nov. 10 news release.  

Late payments on credit cards have become exceptionally rare in recent years after falling to historic lows. Meanwhile, lenders have deployed nontraditional credit scoring techniques to get a better idea of who's likely to skip paying their bills on time and who's more creditworthy than their traditional credit score indicates.

"As the economy improves, consumers appear to be ready to expand, or in some cases, rebuild their credit," said Equifax's Amy Crews Cutts in the release. But despite an increased willingness to take on debt, many are still exceptionally cautious about how much debt they'll ultimately take on, she said. "Interestingly, balances for both subprime and prime have risen very little, suggesting that while consumers are positioning themselves for growth, they are also hesitant to take on new debt."

Cardholders tentatively embrace new credit
That said, credit card balances are continuing to rise somewhat this year. According to the Federal Reserve's consumer credit report released Nov. 7, credit card debt rose 2 percent in September after falling slightly in August. Overall, card balances have risen by approximately $22 billion since Jan. 1.

Consumers are also opening new card accounts at a higher rate. Between January and July, for example, cardholders added nearly 29 million new bank cards to their wallets -- 21.3 percent more than first seven months of 2013, according to Equifax.

Cardholders have also enjoyed higher credit limits this year, but they're still not maxing out their cards. According to Equifax, cardholders have used up just 22 percent of the total amount of credit that banks have made available. 

See related: Fed: Card balances on the rise once again

Published: November 12, 2014

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