Rate survey: Average card rate holds steady at 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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The average credit card interest rate remained unchanged Wednesday after rising steadily for more than two consecutive months. None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com advertised new interest rates. As a result, the national average APR remained at 17.03 percent – an all-time record high. 

CreditCards.com evaluated the APRs, annual fees and promotional terms of 100 U.S. credit cards. Most cards included in the weekly rate report have increased rates by at least a quarter of a percent in recent weeks. After the Federal Reserve increased its benchmark interest rate in June, the majority of variable rate cards matched the quarter-point rate change. 

Some cards recently increased rates by even larger amounts, causing the national average APR to swing higher. For example, Wells Fargo recently increased the minimum APR on the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card by a full percentage point to 14.74 percent. Meanwhile, American Express increased the APR on the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express by half a percent to 17.49 percent. As a result of all these changes, the national average APR has climbed from 16.75 percent in mid-June to 17.03 percent today.

The average card APR has also become much less stable in recent months as the Fed gradually increases the federal funds rate and card issuers tweak rates more often. For example, this is the first week since July that all 100 credit cards included in the weekly rate report left interest rates unchanged. 

Over the past 11 weeks, the average card APR increased eight times and remained unchanged just three times. Meanwhile, it hasn’t decreased once since 2017 – a sign that card issuers are reluctant to lower cardholders’ interest rates. 

See related: Historic credit card interest rates chart

Consumers are mostly staying on top of their bills

Despite higher rates on credit cards, consumers are largely keeping their balances under control. According to new research released Aug. 22 by TransUnion, the 90-day delinquency rate has increased somewhat since last year; but it’s still well below historic levels. 

For example, in the second quarter of 2018, the delinquency rate for bank-issued credit cards rose to 1.53 percent – up from 1.46 percent last year. However, before the 2008 credit crisis, average delinquency rates were typically much higher. For example, in the second quarter of 2008, the average delinquency rate hit 2.71 percent. 

Meanwhile, cardholders’ balances have only modestly increased, despite increased consumer spending. For example, the average credit card balance in the spring of 2018 was $5,543, TransUnion found – just $121 higher than the average card balance in the second quarter of 2017. 

“Balance growth continues to remain healthy and we continue to see an expected increase in consumer delinquency,” TransUnion’s Paul Siegfried said in a news release. “While we are taking note of the rising delinquencies, they still remain below recession levels.” 

Banks have helped keep cardholders’ balances under control in recent months by being increasingly selective with how much credit they dole out. According to TransUnion’s latest industry insights report, banks have curbed some cardholders’ credit lines, causing the average credit line to decrease to $5,649 for new accounts – down from an average credit line of $5,817 in 2017.

The number of new card openings has also decreased somewhat, falling to 14.5 million in early 2018 – down by half a million from the previous year. However, issuers have been somewhat more willing to extend credit to cardholders with damaged scores. 

“Despite originations decreasing overall, subprime bankcard originations grew for the first time in five quarters,” Siegfried said in the release. “However, this expansion has been deliberate as lenders have reduced credit lines on subprime accounts.” 

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 17.03% 17.03%
16.41%
Low interest 13.90%
13.90% 13.14%
Cash back 17.33%
17.33%
16.67%
Balance transfer 16.23%
16.23%
15.63%
Business 14.59%
14.59%
13.93%
Student 16.48%
16.48%
15.92%
Airline 16.93%
16.93%
16.41%
Rewards 17.11%
17.11%
16.51%
Instant approval 19.45%
19.45%
18.82%
Bad credit 24.18%
24.18%
23.62%
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 22, 2018


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Updated: 11-16-2018