Rate survey: Average card rate soars to record high of 17.02 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 shattered a major record this week, soaring past 17 percent for the first time. 

The average card APR settled at 17.02 percent after several card issuers increased rates, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. 

This week’s spike in rates is especially notable because CreditCards.com only considers a card’s lowest available interest rate when calculating average rates. In previous years, 17 percent was considered relatively high for a credit card. Instead, many cards charged minimum rates well below 15 percent. 

Now, cards that charge minimum APRs just under or above 15 percent are much more typical, even on cards designed for consumers with excellent credit. 

Since the Federal Reserve began increasing rates in late 2015 after a pause of several years, interest rates have increased substantially on new credit card offers. For example, in August 2015, the national average APR hovered at 15 percent, more than 2 percentage points lower than it is now. 

Several rate changes

To calculate the average interest rate, CreditCards.com evaluated the APRs of 100 U.S. credit cards. Among the 100 cards included in the weekly rate report, 11 advertised higher interest rates. One card, the Cabela’s Club Visa, advertised a slight rate cut; but the .01 percent change was too tiny to significantly impact the national average. 

Most of the cards that hiked rates this week increased them by 0.25 percent in response to the Fed’s June 2018 rate change. It often takes card issuers several weeks to fully update the APRs on new cards. 

See related: Historical credit card rates, 2007-2018

Meanwhile, a few card issuers adjusted rates independently this week. 

Bank of America, for example, hiked APRs on two of its affinity rewards cards for the second time since June, increasing the cards’ APRs by a quarter of a percent less than five weeks after hiking them by the same amount in early July. As a result, the APRs on the World Wildlife Fund credit card and the MLB Cash Rewards Mastercard have increased by half a percent since early July. Both cards now charge a range starting at 14.99 and maxing out at 24.99 percent. 

Meanwhile, American Express also hiked the APR on the Starwood Preferred Guest® credit card after sweetening its rewards program. American Express raised the card’s minimum APR by half a percent, increasing it to 17.49 percent. Meanwhile, it increased the card’s maximum APR much more dramatically, hiking it to 26.49 percent – up from a previous high of 20.99 percent. 

As a result, the average maximum APR for new credit cards rose to 24.31 percent. Meanwhile, the average median APR has climbed to 20.67 percent. 

Maximum rates are climbing fast on new credit cards

Credit cards with maximum rates near 25 percent have become much more common in recent years, underscoring just how high cardholders’ rates have become. 

Few cardholders are actually offered a card’s lowest available interest rate. Instead, many are offered a card’s median interest rate, or its maximum. 

Among the 100 cards included in the weekly rate report, 35 advertise maximum rates above 25 percent. Meanwhile, 30 advertise maximum rates between 24 and 25 percent. 

Many of the cards that advertise such high maximum interest rates are marketed to consumers with good to excellent credit. For example, the Chase Slate card, the Blue Cash Everyday card from American Express and the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards card all advertise maximum rates above 25 percent. 

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 17.02% 16.99%
Low interest 13.89%
13.87% 13.14%
Cash back 17.30%
Balance transfer 16.22%
Business 14.59%
Student 16.48%
Airline 16.93%
Rewards 17.10%
Instant approval 19.45%
Bad credit 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: August 8, 2018

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Updated: 03-25-2019