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Barclays' move sends credit card interest rates lower

Issuer continues to test multiple offers on card

By Kate Tomasino and 

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 14.65%
14.66%
14.15%
Low interest 11.18%
11.18% 11.99%
Balance transfer 12.78%
12.80%
12.68%
Business 12.91%
12.91%
12.85%
Cash back  13.41%
13.45%
12.31%
Student
13.42%
13.42%
14.05%
Reward  14.32%
14.33%
14.32%
Airline 14.33%
14.39%
14.14%
Instant approval 15.99%
15.99%
15.99%
Bad credit 23.95%
23.95%
20.64%
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: 03-09-2011

Credit card interest rates inched lower for the second straight week as more banks begin testing offers for the spring.

The national average annual percentage rate (APR) on new credit card offers dropped to 14.65 percent on Wednesday, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. The decline -- by just a hundredth of a percentage point -- was slight, but it pushed the national average to its lowest level in three months. 

This week's modest drop was spurred by a test offer from Barclays. During our weekly evaluation of credit card interest rates, Barclays' U.S. Airways Premier World MasterCard offered multiple rates several weeks in a row. For example, we saw a range of 15.99 percent to 24.99 percent on the card. However, the issuer also simultaneously offers the card's old offer range of 15.24 percent to 18.24 percent, depending on when and where we looked on its site. The difference in rates offered online indicates that the bank has not yet settled on an offer.

In order to reflect the differences that we saw on Barclays' APR offer for the U.S. Airways card, we adjusted the bottom end of the card's range this week from 15.99 percent to 15.24 percent in the CreditCards.com database. We then left the credit card's top end at 24.99 percent -- which is one of the highest initial APRs on record for applicants with less-than-stellar credit.

This is the fourth time this year that Barclays has adjusted interest rates on the U.S. Airways Premier World MasterCard, as the bank continues to test possible rates.

Responding to a request for comment on the different rates, Kevin Sullivan, a spokesman for Barclays, said in an e-mail: "Many factors drive the rate associated with a particular card offer. We offer several different product combinations in different channels -- designed to meet the needs of different customers."  

Experts say that banks often test offers on credit cards in order to see which rate is more successful in attracting applicants while still maintaining profitability. As a result, multiple offers on a card -- with varying APR ranges and sometimes different promotional terms -- may be available, depending on when and where you look. That means that if a bank is testing an offer on a credit card, you may see a different APR range in the terms and conditions of your application than another applicant applying for the same card.

Now that credit card issuers are feeling more comfortable with the economy and sending out a larger number of credit card mailings, the overall number of test offers may be increasing as well, say experts.

"Competition is increasing and issuers are doing everything they can to gain a competitive edge in an increasingly cluttered mailbox," says Andrew Davidson, Senior Vice President at Mintel Comperemedia, which tracks credit card mailings. That includes sending out test offers on existing cards in order to see which APR for new cardholders is more competitive.

Other banks tested card offers this week as well, according to CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report. For example, Discover introduced a new balance transfer offer this week on the Discover More card after wrapping up its limited promotion on 0 percent balance transfers at the end of February.

Last week, Discover dropped its promotional balance transfer period from an unusually lengthy 24 months to its previous promotional period of 12 months. However, this week, the bank adjusted its offer again, giving the card's newest customers 0 percent on balance transfers for 15 months.

Discover also adjusted its promotional balance transfer offer on the Discover Open Road card this week, but the offer was less sweet. Discover shortened its offer period for the Discover Open Road card from 18 months to just 12 months.   

See related: 0 percent balance transfers make a comeback

Published: March 9, 2011


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