Rate Report

Rate survey: Average card APR holds steady at 15.19 percent


May 18, 2016: Interest rates on new credit card offers remained unchanged this week, according to the Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers; and please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Interest rates on new credit card offers remained unchanged this week, according to the Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. For the fifth week in a row, the national average annual percentage rate (APR) stayed put at 15.19 percent.

None of the cards tracked by advertised new interest rates. Promotional rates, such as 0 percent balance transfer offers, also remained unchanged.

Interest rates on new credit card offers are currently at their highest point in more than four years. The last time rates rose above 15.19 percent was in December 2011 when the national average briefly peaked at 15.22 percent.

At that time, rates only stayed above 15.19 percent for two weeks before falling below 15 percent the following month. This week marks the longest period of time rates have stayed above 15.16 percent since began tracking rates in mid-2007.

Interest rates increased on variable rate cards earlier this year after the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percent. Almost all the 100 cards tracked by quickly followed suit and increased rates by the same amount.

Higher APRs on new card offers are also driven, in part, by the large percentage of cards that include a rewards program.

Most credit cards these days advertise some type of rewards. Among the 100 cards in the database, for example, 78 advertise a a rewards program.

More cardholders carry balances on their rewards cards

Rewards cards also tend to have significantly higher interest rates. Since May 2010, for example, the average rewards card APR increased from around 14.33 percent to 15.30 percent.

As a result, experts frequently recommend that cardholders use rewards cards as payment tools, rather than as loans, and pay off their balances each month to avoid paying interest.

Despite progressively higher rates on rewards card offers, a growing number of consumers are carrying balances on those cards, according to new data from market research firm Phoenix Marketing International.

The marketing firm polled more than 3,000 credit and charge card holders and found that the vast majority of cardholders – 87 percent – owned at least one card that included a rewards program. Even cardholders with low incomes carried a rewards card.

For example, 73 percent of cardholders with incomes of less than $20,000 a year carried a rewards card. Eight-two percent with incomes between $20,000 and $50,000 also owned a rewards card. At the wealthy end of the scale, more than 90 percent of cardholders with higher incomes enjoyed rewards on their cards.

Among those cardholders carrying a card with a rewards program, 56 percent admitted to a carrying a balance on their card, up from 49 percent in 2013.

“Rewards credit cards are deeply woven into the fabric of today’s credit card market, with people from nearly every segment of American society using them,” said Phoenix International’s Greg Weed in a May 16 news release. “These cards contribute the lion’s share of credit card market spending, transactions and revolving balances.”

Missed card payments tick up

As cardholders rack up charges on their rewards cards and pack on more debt, a growing number of cardholders are falling behind on payments.

According to new research released May 17 by the credit rating agencies Experian and S&P, the default rate on bank-issued credit cards jumped to 3.09 percent in April – up from 2.92 percent in March.

Late payments on credit cards are still rare by historical standards. However, the percentage of cardholders falling behind on their card payments has increased significantly over the past two months, said Experian. Meanwhile, late payments on other types of loans have declined.

“For two months, the overall consumer credit default rate has dropped to new lows while the default rate on bank cards has climbed,” said S&P’s David M. Blitzer in a news release. “Since the financial crisis, consumers are paying more attention to their debts, particularly longer term financial commitments such as homes and auto.” But payments on credit cards have been more volatile, he said.

“The longer term post-crisis decline in the bank card default rate leveled off in 2014,” said Blitzer. “Since then, it has been in a range of 2.5 to 3.2 percent. Bank card, auto, and mortgage default rates are all lower than their pre-financial crisis levels. However, the bank card rate is more volatile than the others and more sensitive to consumer spending trends. Whether the default pattern for bank cards stabilizes remains to be seen.”’s Weekly Rate Report
Avg. APRLast week 6 months ago
National average15.19%15.19%14.96%
Low interest11.96%11.96%11.62%
Cash back15.30%15.30%15.27%
Balance transfer14.39%14.39%14.07%
Instant approval18.04%18.04%18.00%
Bad credit22.56%22.56%22.73%
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: May 18, 2016

See related:Privacy or rewards? Some card companies force you to choose

What’s up next?

In Rate Report

Infographic: Mobile payments quickly rising

Smartphone payments are gaining traction among consumers — and quickly

Published: May 11, 2016

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: August 14th, 2019
Cash Back

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company’s business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.