Rate survey: Average card APR climbs to all-time high of 16.38 percent

Kelly Dilworth
Personal finance writer
Specializing in new trends in credit

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The average credit card interest rate reached another 10-year high this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The national average card APR on new card offers jumped to 16.38 percent, which is the highest it’s been since CreditCards.com began tracking rates in mid-2007.

Bank of America helped trigger this week’s rate increase by hiking the APR on one of its airline cards. The minimum APR on the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card jumped from 13.49 percent – which was well below average for an airline card – to a minimum APR of 16.24 percent. The average airline card charges a minimum rate of 16.47 percent. Meanwhile, the Alaska Airlines card’s maximum APR rose from 20.49 percent to 24.24 percent, which is just slightly below the average maximum APR for airline credit cards.

Two other credit cards included in the weekly rate report also advertised slightly higher rates this week. The APR on the TD Cash Rewards Visa credit card increased by 0.25 percent to a range of 14.24 to 24.24 percent.

Meanwhile, the APR on the rebranded American Express Hilton Honors card rose by half a percentage point to a range of 16.99 to 25.99 percent.

As card balances rise, more consumers are missing payments

Despite rising credit card interest rates, consumers have continued to pack on debt.

A report released by the Federal Reserve earlier this month found that in November, credit card debt jumped to an all-time high of $1.022 trillion. Also this month, credit reporting agency Experian reported the average credit card balance hit $6,354 in 2017.

New research also shows that some cardholders may be having trouble absorbing the higher costs associated with bigger balances and rising rates.

The British newspaper, The Financial Times, for example, found that four of the largest U.S. banks, Citi, J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, lost roughly $12.5 billion in uncollected debt in 2017 – almost 20 percent more than they wrote off the year before.

Meanwhile, a December 2017 forecast from the Mercator Advisory Group, cited in the article, predicted credit card charge-offs – where debt issuers have given up on collecting – will rise significantly in 2018 as more consumers open cards and increase how much they charge.  

Similarly, a January 2018 analysis by Experian and the credit agency S&P also found seriously late payments have risen significantly in recent months. The S&P/Experian Default Index measures late payments that are 180 days or more past due. The default rate currently sits at 3.44 percent – up from 3.28 percent in December.

According to S&P and Experian, credit card defaults have risen nearly half a percentage point in just the past year. Compared to three years ago, the default rate has increased by 0.79 percent.

Analysts at S&P attribute part of the increase in late card payments to rising consumer spending. “Continued low unemployment and low inflation, rising home prices and stock market gains combined with gains in consumer confidence to support strong gains in retail sales in the last four months of 2017,” said S&P’s David M. Blitzer in a news release. “However, the same expansion in consumer spending is now appearing in the bank card default data.”

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.38% 16.35%
Low interest 13.09%
13.09% 12.83%
Cash back 16.60%
Balance transfer 15.64%
Business 13.93%
Student 15.92%
Airline 16.47%
Reward  16.48%
Instant approval 18.76%
Bad credit 23.59%
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.)
Source: CreditCards.com
Updated: Jan. 24, 2018

See related: Historic credit card rates chart, Carrying debt while approaching retirement is on the rise, Poll: 2 in 3 US adults in debt double they'll ever be debt-free

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Updated: 12-11-2018