Rate survey: Average card APR remains at record high of 16.73 percent

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The average credit card interest rate didn’t budge this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. The national average credit card APR remained fixed at 16.73 percent for the third straight week.  

CreditCards.com reviewed the APRs, promotional terms and annual fees of 100 U.S. credit cards. None of the cards included in the weekly rate report advertised new interest rates. Promotional rates, such as interest-free purchase offers and 0 percent balance transfer rates, also remained unchanged.

Credit card interest rates are currently at an all-time high after climbing steadily throughout 2018. As a result, new cardholders are paying more, on average, to carry a balance than they have at any other point since CreditCards.com began tracking rates in mid-2007.

Ten years ago, for example, the average card APR was just 11.44 percent – more than 5 points lower than it is now. Since then, rates have trended steadily upward. Five years ago, the average APR settled at 14.98 percent. Two years ago, it rose to 15.19 percent.

The past two years have seen the sharpest rate increases, thanks mostly to a series of rate hikes by the Federal Reserve. When the Federal Reserve increases interest rates, most variable rate cards eventually do the same. As a result, nearly everyone’s paying more to carry a balance these days.

Over the past year, the average card APR has climbed from 15.77 percent in May 2017 to an average of 16.73 percent today.

The average card APR is expected to keep climbing over the next year as the Federal Reserve continues to gradually increase interest rates.

Consumers using credit to fund summer vacations

Higher card APRs aren’t stopping people from using their plastic, though. Credit card usage has climbed steadily in recent years, according to multiple reports, as people increasingly turn to credit rather than cash or debit for everyday purchases.

Now, as people get ready for summer vacations and weekend trips to the beach and other summer locales, issuers are expected to ring up even more new purchases. Credit card spending often increases during the summer as people rely on plastic for travel purchases.

According to survey released May 21 by Discover, nearly half of consumers – 46 percent – prefer to use credit cards to pay for summer vacation purchases rather than cash or debit.

Older travelers and members of the baby boom generation are especially likely to use credit cards to pay for vacations. Twenty-somethings, on the other hand, tend to favor cash.

Among those who do use credit for holidays and other summertime activities, many are favoring their cards, in part, because of the rewards. According to another survey, released May 18 by Capital One, a sizable number of card-wielding consumers are strategically using cards this summer to rack up more rewards points.

For example, 46 percent of consumers admitted to eating out just so they could claim a dining bonus or boost their overall rewards. Meanwhile, more than half (58 percent) of consumers say they’ve opted to charge a group’s meal to their card just so they can get the rewards. Some even admit to buying pricier items from the menu so they could claim more rewards points or cash back. 

Not everyone’s planning to overspend on summer fun, though. A Bankrate survey reported that nearly a quarter of Americans plan to stay home this summer and skip going on vacation because they don’t think they can afford it.

Among those who are planning a vacation, a substantial number plan to spend more than $1,000 on the whole trip.

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.73% 16.73%
16.15%
Low interest 13.58%
13.58% 12.89%
Cash back 16.99%
16.99%
16.40%
Balance transfer 15.96%
15.96%
15.38%
Business 14.34%
14.34%
13.68%
Student 16.26%
16.26%
15.70%
Airline 16.66%
16.66%
16.07%
Rewards 16.81%
16.81%
16.24%
Instant approval 19.05%
19.05%
18.60%
Bad credit 23.77%
23.77%
23.46%
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: May 30, 2018

See related: To understand interest costs, convert APR to dollars, Historical credit card rates, 2007-2018

 


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Updated: 12-14-2018