Rate survey: Average card APR holds steady at 17.55 percent

Kelly Dilworth
Personal finance writer
Specializing in new trends in credit

CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report

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The average credit card interest rate remained at a record high Wednesday after most major credit card issuers left interest rates alone. The national average APR clocked in at 17.55 percent for the second consecutive week. 

That’s the highest national average CreditCards.com has recorded since it began tracking rates in mid-2007. The average maximum card APR also remained unchanged, registering at 14.89 percent. 

When CreditCards.com calculates the national average, it only takes into account a card’s lowest available interest rate. However, most major credit cards offer a wide range of APRs, sometimes spanning as wide as 10 percentage points or more. 

When lenders hike a card’s lowest available interest rate, they often increase the card’s maximum APR as well. 

As a result, the average median card APR – which is closer to what many new cardholders are actually being charged – has also climbed significantly in recent months. It currently stands at 21.22 percent. That’s up from an average median card APR of 20.67 percent six months ago. 

See related: Historic credit card interest rates chart 

Most card issuers left credit card offers alone this week

Every week, CreditCards.com evaluates the APRs, annual fees and promotional terms of 100 U.S. credit cards. Most of the cards included in the weekly rate report left credit card terms unchanged this week. 

The grocery chain Meijer increased rates on the Meijer credit card by 0.25 percent in response to the Federal Reserve’s December rate hike. However, the change was so small it didn’t affect the national average. 

Meanwhile, none of the issuers included in the weekly rate report altered promotional terms, such as 0 percent APRs on purchases or balance transfers.  

Changes to promotional offers are relatively rare these days. Currently, just three of the cards included in the weekly rate report advertise 0 percent balance transfer offers for longer than 15 months. The Citi Simplicity Card gives cardholders 21 months to pay off a transferred balance interest-free. Meanwhile, the Citi Double Cash Card and the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card currently give cardholders up to 18 months to carry a transferred balance without paying any interest. 

Issuers instead have been much more likely to tweak rates. 

Interest rates continue to go up

Interest rates have climbed steadily in recent years as the Fed boosts interest rates and lenders revamp offers. Since Feb. 13, 2018, for example, the average minimum card APR has climbed by 1.14 percentage points. 

Meanwhile, the national average APR has only slipped once in the past year, underscoring just how reluctant issuers have become to trim rates on new offers. 

In 2017, for example, the national average APR declined just three times all year. In 2014, by contrast, it fell eight times. In 2010, when interest rates were much less stable, the weekly average fell 18 times throughout the year. 

Rate cuts have become so rare, in fact, that cardholders are unlikely to see much lower rates any time soon. 

Cardholders could get a temporary reprieve from increased rates, though. The Fed indicated in January it could decide to pause its quarter-point rate hikes – at least for a little while. Previously, it had signaled it would increase rates at least two more times in 2019.   

See related: Guide to rising credit card interest rates

Many cardholders have more debt than savings

Record high interest rates have made borrowing much more costly in recent years, making it tough for some borrowers to dig their way out of debt. 

According to a new survey released Feb. 12 by Bankrate, more than a quarter of U.S. households – 29 percent – currently owe more money to their credit card companies than they have available for emergency savings. 

Meanwhile, fewer than half of the households surveyed by Bankrate reported having more emergency savings than card debt.  

A year ago, by contrast, 58 percent of the households surveyed said they had set aside more money in a rainy day fund than they owed to credit card lenders and just 21 percent said they had more card debt than emergency savings. 

The substantial uptick in cardholders relying on credit cards for emergency funding could make ongoing rate increases even more significant over the next year. 

It also suggests many U.S. households are financially struggling, Bankrate’s Greg McBride said in a news release. 

“The sharp deterioration in the relationship between credit card debt and emergency savings – with an increasing number of households having more credit card debt than emergency savings and a decline in those with more emergency savings than credit card debt – is an ominous indicator of the financial health among American households,” said McBride. 

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 17.55% 17.55%
17.02%
Low interest 14.57%
14.57% 13.89%
Cash back 17.66%
17.66%
17.30%
Balance transfer 16.72%
16.72%
16.22%
Business 15.09%
15.09%
14.59%
Student 17.79%
17.79%
16.48%
Airline 17.39%
17.39%
16.93%
Rewards 17.52%
17.51%
17.10%
Instant approval 20.06%
20.04%
19.45%
Bad credit 24.99%
24.99%
24.18%
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: Feb. 13, 2019


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Updated: 03-18-2019