Credit card interest rates hold steady at 14.98 percent
|CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report|
|Avg. APR||Last week||6 months ago|
|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. 26, 2014|
Average rates on new credit card offers remained unchanged this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.
After sliding two weeks in a row, the national average annual percentage rate (APR) stayed put at 14.98 percent Wednesday. None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com advertised new interest rates. Issuers left promotional rates unchanged as well.
Average rates on new card offers are at their lowest point in more than a year. The last time average rates were this low was in September 2013 when the national average hit 14.99 percent.
Before this month, average rates had been hovering near record highs. For example, on Oct. 29, the national average rose to 15.09 percent and stayed there for two weeks before dropping to 15 percent in mid-November. The national average APR for the year is currently 15.03 percent.
Card issuers gear up for the holidays
As the holiday season launches, credit card issuers are stepping up their marketing efforts.
According to a report from the financial services firm Credit Suisse, card issuers mailed 17 percent more offers in October than they did the previous year. Month-over-month, credit card mail volume expanded from 336 million offers in September to 355 million offers.
Typically, card issuers increase the number of offers they send between September and October by around 4 percent, said Credit Suisse. This year that number expanded by 6 percent, indicating that issuers are working harder this year to win new customers before the holiday season peaks.
Consumer spending typically increases substantially during the holidays when shoppers hit the stores for Black Friday bargains and holiday gifts, and card issuers are eager to cash in on increased spending.
In addition to sending more mailings to cardholders' homes, issuers frequently introduce new promotions. Historically, mailings also tend to increase by an even larger amount in November and December, according to Credit Suisse data.
This year was no exception. Citi, for example, announced Nov. 24 that it was expanding its travel protection benefits, such as trip cancellation and interruption protection. It also used the opportunity to promote its price rewind service, which searches for a lower price on eligible purchases and refunds cardholders the difference.
Chase reintroduced holiday-themed VIP lounges for United Mileage Plus cardholders at two major shopping malls Nov. 20, while Discover announced last month that it was ramping up the amount of cash back Discover "it" and Discover More cardholders could receive on select purchases.
According to Credit Suisse, Capital One was the most aggressive issuer in sending out new offers last month. The issuer mailed 61 million promotions to potential cardholders -- 36 percent more than it mailed during the same time last year. Citi was a close second, mailing just under 61 million offers to potential cardholders.
Credit Suisse estimates that card issuers will have mailed 4.3 billion promotions by the end of 2014 -- up from 3.9 billion offers in 2013. But despite steady increases in spending over the past two years, the rate of growth in the number of offers has slowed, said Credit Suisse. For example, card issuers mailed 30 percent more offers in 2013 than they did in 2012. But they're expected to mail just 10 percent more offers in 2014 than they did the previous year.
Interest-free promotions shorter, more abundant
Credit card issuers are also continuing to rely heavily on interest-free purchase and balance transfer offers to attract new cardholders. But according to Credit Suisse's latest analysis of consumer credit offers, some issuers are being less generous with their terms.
For example, the average duration period for 0 percent balance transfer offers has plummeted since July when the average balance transfer period rose to almost 20 months. In October, the average balance transfer period was just 14.2 months.