Rate survey: Average card APR breaks new record, climbing to 17.51 percent
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The average credit card interest rate climbed to another all-time high this week, coming within rounding distance of 18 percent for the first time on record.
The national average APR now sits at 17.51 percent – more than a full percentage point higher than it stood last year.
The average maximum APR also increased this week as lenders continued to extend the range of APRs they advertise on new offers.
Although CreditCards.com only considers a card’s lowest available interest rate when calculating the national average, most credit cards advertise a wide range of APRs – often diverging by as much as 10 percentage points or more. Depending on an applicant’s credit score, a new cardholder could be given an APR in the middle of that range or they could be assigned a card’s maximum rate.
The average maximum APR now runs as high as 24.86 percent as a growing number of rewards cards – including cards marketed to consumers with excellent credit – advertise maximum rates well above 25 percent. Meanwhile, the average median card APR – which is closer to what many cardholders are charged – has climbed to 21.19 percent.
Fed changes help push up rates
This week’s rate hikes were largely due to the Federal Reserve’s December 2018 rate hike. When the Fed increases its benchmark interest rate, the federal funds rate, most credit cards increase rates by the same amount.
Chase was one of the last issuers to match the rate change. It hiked APRs this week, causing the national average to significantly increase.
Several card issuers have also independently hiked rates in recent weeks, moving the national average higher.
For example, Citi increased the APR on one of its gas cards, the ExxonMobil Smart card, by 0.75 percent this week.
Wells Fargo also tweaked the maximum APRs on some of its rewards cards. It increased the maximum APR on the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card by a full percentage point. Potential applicants are now presented with a range starting at 16.24 percent and maxing out at 28.24 percent.
Wells Fargo also cut the maximum available APR on the Wells Fargo Rewards card from a high of 28.24 percent to a maximum APR of 27.74 percent. It left the card’s minimum rate of 18.74 percent unchanged.
Meanwhile, Bank of America hiked the APRs on its line of cash back cards this month after redesigning its rewards program. Cardholders who apply for one of Bank of America’s no annual fee cash back cards, such as the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card, are now given a range of 16.24 percent to 26.24 percent.
Capital One has also independently hiked rates in recent weeks, causing the national average to increase. It increased the APRs on a number of cards, including the Quicksilver Rewards card, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, the Capital One Platinum Credit Card, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Journey Student Rewards from Capital One, by half a percent.
See related: Historic credit card interest rates chart
Interest rates are likely to continue to increase
Applicants who haven’t shopped around for a new card in a while may be feeling some sticker shock as they compare rates. The average card APR has climbed by roughly two and a half percentage points since December 2015. However, cardholders are unlikely to get a reprieve any time soon.
The Federal Reserve has estimated it will likely hike rates at least two more times over the next year. That could cause average rates to climb by at least half a percent.
Meanwhile, card issuers are also independently hiking rates on select cards – particularly after they redesign a rewards program. Several card issuers redesigned rewards programs in recent months and then introduced slightly higher rates.
Rate cuts, on the other hand, continue to be exceptionally rare.
According to CreditCards.com data, for example, the national average APR has only fallen once in the past year. Although the national average APR only takes into account a card’s minimum APR, it’s a good indicator of card issuers’ appetite for trimming rates.
In the past, some analysts predicted that, in an era of increasing interest rates, some lenders would set themselves apart from the competition by trimming rates on select cards. However, few lenders have actually done so. Instead, credit cards continue to get more expensive, while truly low rate credit cards are becoming harder to find.
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. 23, 2019|
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