Rate survey: Average card APR holds steady at 16.41 percent

Kelly Dilworth
Personal finance writer
Specializing in new trends in credit

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Interest rates on new credit card offers didn’t budge this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

CreditCards.com checked the APRs, annual fees and promotional terms of 100 of the most popular U.S. credit cards. None of the cards included in the weekly rate report advertised new interest rates.

A number of cards listed new terms, though, including new annual fees and lengthier promotional periods.

The Marriott Rewards Premier card from Chase, for example, hiked its annual fee from $85 to $99.

Meanwhile, American Express sweetened the promotional offer on the American Express Everyday card by increasing the length of time cardholders could take advantage of interest-free purchases and balance transfers from 12 to 15 months. It also dropped the card’s balance transfer fee, making the Everyday card one of the most attractive balance transfer cards on the market.

According to CreditCards.com survey of balance transfer cards, the most typical balance transfer fee is 3 percent to the amount transferred to the new card. That adds $30 to the cost of each $1,000 of transferred debt.

Cards that don’t charge a balance transfer fee are relatively rare, and the offers often are temporary. The Chase Slate card, for example, has been waiving its balance transfer fee when transferring a balance within 60 days of opening an account, however, it is testing an increased fee of 1 to 2 percent in its online card offer.  Navy Federal Credit Union is also offering a fee-free balance transfer, but its no-fee offer ends Feb. 28.

Bank of America’s plain vanilla BankAmericard temporarily waives the card’s balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance within two months of opening your account. However, the bank’s rewards cards do not.

The regional bank Comerica was also active this week. It extended the 0 percent promotional period on the Comerica Visa Platinum card by an extra three months. Cardholders now get 15 months to carry both new balances and transferred balances without paying any interest.

Discover makes debit card purchases more rewarding

Consumers who rather use a debit card rather than a credit card no longer have to forgo card rewards. Earlier this week, Discover became one of the latest financial institutions to add rewards to debit cards. The card issuer announced Feb. 20 that it’s adding a new cash back program to its checking account product.

Debit card users with a Discover Cashback checking account will earn 1 percent cash back on up to $3,000 worth of qualifying monthly purchases. That can add up to $360 a year if a debit card holder maxes out the card’s $3,000 per month rewards limit.

While the new Discover program isn’t as generous as the average credit card rewards program, it is unique for debit cards. Debit card rewards all but disappeared after the Great Recession, when the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act sharply limited the amount of interchange fees debit card issuers could charge merchants, which resulted in banks dropping debit card rewards programs. 

Since then, a number of banks have added back some kind of debit card-related rewards scheme. For example, a 2016 Mercator Advisory Group survey of the 25 biggest U.S. banks found that 14 offer a rewards program for debit card users – up from 11 in 2015.

However, most debit card rewards programs are modest compared to rewards credit cards. Most credit cards from major issuers offer at least 1 percent cash back, and some are more generous on certain purchases.

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.41% 16.41%
Low interest 13.14%
13.14% 12.88%
Cash back 16.67%
Balance transfer 15.63%
Business 13.93%
Student 15.92%
Airline 16.41%
Reward  16.51%
Instant approval 18.82%
Bad credit 23.62%
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. 21, 2018

See related: Historic credit card rates chart, More cards getting on/off switches, Late payments on cards worsen as balances rise, N.Y. Fed says

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Updated: 03-25-2019