April 29, 2015: Interest rates on new card offers held steady Wednesday, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.
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The national average annual percentage rate (APR) remained at 14.92 percent after increasing the previous week to its highest point in four months.
Despite last week’s modest rate hike, average rates on new card offers remain lower now than they were for most of 2014, due to issuers’ rate cuts.
In November, Wells Fargo slashed the APR on two rewards cards, causing the national average to fall below 15 percent for the first time since 2013. Since then, several other issuers, including Pentagon Federal Credit Union, U.S. Bank and Capital One, have cut rates of certain cards.
Over the past six months, the national average APR has decreased seven times and increased just three times.
Applicants want low rates — and rewards
Many credit card holders wind up with higher interest rates because they opt for a rewards card, which is typically more expensive than plain vanilla cards that don’t offer points, cash-back or miles with every purchase. But when cardholders shop around for new plastic, nearly a third of them say they care more about interest rates than rewards, according to a report from the American Bankers Association published in The Credit Line.
According to the study, 32 percent of cardholders say a “low APR” is their most important criterion for choosing a new card. Slightly fewer cardholders — 29 percent — say that a card’s rewards program is more important.
However, cardholders who want a rewards card and a low rate may have a hard time finding one. The average APR for rewards cards is currently 15.04 percent, according to CreditCards.com data — nearly 3.5 percentage points higher than the average APR for low interest cards.
Despite placing a high value on a low APR, many cardholders wind up choosing a rewards card instead. For example, 83 percent of cardholders now carry a rewards card, according to the ABA — up from 77 percent in November 2012.
Consumers who carry a rewards card also tend to use it heavily, making it more likely that they’ll take on more debt than they can repay in full by the time their bill is due, says the ABA study. For example, a 2012 Phoenix Marketing study cited by the ABA found that 72 percent of household card spending occurred with a rewards card.
The same study also found that cardholders in low-income brackets are nearly as likely as middle and high-income cardholders to opt for a rewards card, despite the higher finance charges. For example, 74 percent of households that bring in between $20,000 and $29,900 a year carry a rewards card. Meanwhile, 81 percent of households making between $60,000 and $74,900 a year carry one as well.
Research from the ABA also found that rewards card spending has increased by nearly 50 percent since 2007, while spending on plain vanilla cards shrunk by 32 percent.
|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: April 29, 2015|