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Credit card interest rates unchanged despite move from Chase

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A Chase interest rate tweak plus a Federal Reserve announcement still added up to zero movement in the average APR on new credit card offers this week.

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 14.63%
14.63%
14.31%
Low interest 11.91%
11.91% 12.04%
Cash back  12.48%
12.48%
12.63%
Balance transfer 12.73%
12.73%
12.88%
Business 12.91%
12.91%
12.96%
Student 13.96%
13.96%
13.96%
Airline 14.24%
14.24%
14.46%
Reward
14.29%
14.29%
14.51%
Instant approval 15.99%
15.99%
15.99%
Bad credit 24.64%
24.64%
20.32%
Methodology: The national average credit card APR is comprised of about 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: 12-15-2010

According to the CreditCards.com Weekly Rate Report, the national average interest rate on new card offers held steady at 14.63 percent this week. It's the fifth straight week that annual percentage rates (APRs) have either declined or remained flat, with rates not increasing since early November.

Things weren't entirely uneventful, however. Chase began offering a rate of 13.24 percent on its Sapphire card in addition to its previous 12.24 percent rate. However, because CreditCards.com only uses the lowest available rate in its calculations, that change had no impact on the national average APR. Those who apply for the Chase Sapphire card will find that their actual rate depends on their credit score.  

The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, left its lending rate at record lows on Tuesday, as the central bank continues to wait for the economy recovery to gain speed. The Fed said that although data shows an ongoing rebound, unemployment still remains high. Joblessness  -- combined with other factors -- is weighing down consumer spending. "Household spending is increasing at a moderate pace, but remains constrained by high unemployment, modest income growth, lower housing wealth and tight credit," the Fed said in its statement

For those reasons, analysts don't expect the Fed to raise the federal funds rate before 2012. That's likely good news for consumers. Why is that? An eventual increase in the fed funds rate would result in a higher prime rate, to which most credit cards are indexed -- meaning that when the Fed does increase rates, millions of Americans will see their credit card APRs increase almost immediately. 

Even before the Fed takes action, existing cardholders will incur higher APRs if they commit a borrowing error, such as submitting a late payment, or if the bank decides to raise rates. The Credit CARD Act of 2009, however, requires lenders to provide 45 days' advance warning about any rate hikes that aren't the result of cardholders' mistakes. There is an exception for rate changes that result from Fed policy adjustments.

Amid the current lull in rate hikes, cardholders appear to be filling their shopping carts. Data released Tuesday showed that retail sales increased in November for the fifth straight month, driven by a 2.8 percent surge in department store sales -- the biggest gain in two years.   

See related: Credit card reform arrives in the form of the Credit CARD ActBanks loosen credit card lending standards, Fed report says, Calculator: How long will it take to pay off your credit card balance?Credit card rates: interactive graphic on APR changes

Published: December 15, 2010


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