Rate survey: Average card rate rises to 17.03 percent

Kelly Dilworth
Personal finance writer
Specializing in new trends in credit

CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report

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Just one week after scaling past 17 percent for the first time, the average credit card interest rate inched a tad higher Wednesday. The national average APR rose to 17.03 percent – another all-time record. 

CreditCards.com evaluated the APRs, annual fees and promotional rates of 100 U.S. credit cards. Most issuers left credit card terms alone this week. 

Wells Fargo, however, increased the lowest available APR on its flagship cash back card, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card, by 1 percentage point, helping push the national average higher. Cash Wise Visa cardholders are now offered a minimum APR of 15.74 percent and a maximum APR of 26.74 percent. 

Wells Fargo also trimmed the minimum APR on the Wells Fargo Rewards card by more than half a percentage point. Cardholders may now qualify for an APR as low as 18.24 percent – down from a previous minimum APR of 18.90 percent. Wells Fargo left the card’s maximum APR of 27.74 percent unchanged. 

Interest rates are currently at their highest point since CreditCards.com began tracking rates in mid-2007 and are expected to keep climbing over the next year. 

The Federal Reserve decided not to raise rates earlier this month after its latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting. But policymakers signaled that they still plan to hike rates at least one to two more times before 2019, defying calls from some quarters to take a break from raising the Fed’s benchmark interest rate.  

See related: Historical credit card rates, 2007-2018

Two more hikes over the next several months could lead to substantially higher payments for some cardholders who carry balances. When the Fed increases rates, most variable rate loans, such as credit cards, rise in tandem. 

Balances are growing, and fewer cardholders are paying them in full

According to the American Bankers Association’s latest Credit Card Market Monitor, a growing number of credit card holders are revolving balances on their credit cards and so are susceptible to the rate increases. For example, 44.8 percent of account holders carry debt from month-to-month. Meanwhile, fewer than 30 percent of cardholders avoid paying interest by paying off their credit card balances in full. 

The amount of debt cardholders are carrying these days is also growing, making higher rates on credit cards even more expensive.

According to credit bureau TransUnion, the average credit card borrower owes around $5,472 to their credit card companies – up from $5,332 in the first quarter of 2017. A 0.50 percent rate hike on that high of a balance could make a substantial impact on cardholders’ payments – especially if they aren’t aggressive in paying off what they owe on their cards. 

For example, if a cardholder owes $5,472 on a card that charges a 17.03 percent interest rate and only pays the minimum amount due, they’ll spend a total of $4,468 on interest payments until the balance is paid off. But if their APR increases by another half a percentage point before their payments have made much of a dent to their overall balances, then they could wind up paying at least another $250 in interest or more.

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 17.03% 17.02%
Low interest 13.90%
13.89% 13.14%
Cash back 17.33%
Balance transfer 16.23%
Business 14.59%
Student 16.48%
Airline 16.93%
Rewards 17.11%
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 15, 2018

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Updated: 11-14-2018