Credit card interest rates remain at 14.89 percent for third week
|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: Jan. 21, 2015|
Interest rates on new credit card offers remained at 14.89 percent Wednesday for the third consecutive week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.
None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com advertised new interest rates. Issuers left promotional rates alone as well.
Average credit card interest rates are currently at their lowest point in nearly three years. The last time rates were this low was in February 2012 when the national average briefly dipped to 14.87 percent.
This is the first time since August 2011 that the national average APR has remained below 14.9 percent for more than two consecutive weeks.
Over the past three years, credit card interest rates have mostly increased. In 2012, for example, the national average APR for the year was 14.96 percent. In 2013, it rose to 14.98 percent. In 2014, average rates climbed to 15.02 percent.
Interest rates are expected to increase sometime in 2015 when the Federal Reserve raises the federal funds rate target after leaving it near 0 percent for more than six years. However, the Fed has declined to give a specific date for when it will finally begin to raise rates.
Most variable rate cards are tied to the U.S. prime rate, which is directly influenced by the federal funds rate. When the U.S. prime rate finally does go up, interest rates on variable rate credit cards will also automatically increase.
Late payments inch up
More than five years after the Great Recession, consumers are still being extra careful about how much debt they take on and are repaying their bills at record rates. However, a growing number of consumers are starting to fall behind on their payments, according to research released Jan. 20 by S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian.
For the fifth month in a row, the group's composite index -- which measures late payments on auto loans, home loans and credit cards combined -- increased in December as a larger number of consumers struggled to pay their bills during the holidays.
Consumers had an especially hard time paying their mortgage and credit card bills last month. For example, the default rate for first mortgages increased to 1.02 percent of all accounts in December -- up from 0.97 percent of accounts the previous month. The first-time default rate for bank-issued credit cards rose to 2.65 percent of all accounts -- up from a historic low of 2.59 percent of all accounts in November.
The default rate on auto loans, by contrast, fell last month from 1.05 percent of all accounts to 1.02 percent.
Consumers are still managing their finances much better than they had in previous years as they were significantly less likely to miss a credit card payment last December than they were the previous year. The credit card default rate for December 2013 was 2.98 percent. Late payments on credit cards also continue to be near historic lows and show few signs of increasing sharply any time soon.
Persistently sluggish wages could make it harder for some consumers to remain on top of their bills, says S&P Dow Jones Indices' David Blitzer. "While the economy is strengthening and consumer spending is gaining, wages have shown little growth," said Blitzer in a news release. Even with the recent dip in gas prices, a significant number of consumers are still struggling to keep up. "Default rates remain very low, but could be a cause for concern if the rising trend gains strength," said Blitzer.
Financial optimism abounds
Despite stubbornly slow wage growth and uncertainty over interest rates, a growing number of consumers agree that they are much better off now than they were last January. According to Gallup's personal financial assessment poll released Jan. 15, 47 percent of consumers say their finances are in better shape this year than they were at the beginning of 2014. Only 28 percent said their finances have deteriorated.
In January 2014, by contrast, 42 percent of consumers said their finances were in worse shape that year, while 35 percent said they were in better shape.
The current Gallup poll shows a clear majority of Americans -- 65 percent -- think their personal finances will continue to improve over the next 12 months. Only 15 percent think their finances will sour. "Americans' ratings of their personal financial situations have improved greatly over the past year," said Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones in a news release. "The current personal financial situation ratings are now at or near the high levels Gallup measured in the past four decades when the U.S. economy was strong."