Rate survey: Average card rate rises to 16.92 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 inched up Wednesday, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. The national average APR rose to 16.92 percent after two cards tracked by CreditCards.com increased rates.

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

The sporting goods store Cabela’s tweaked the APR on the Cabela’s Club Visa, but the change was small and didn’t significantly affect the national average. Cabela’s increased the card’s minimum APR from 17.07 to 17.09 percent. It also pushed the card’s maximum interest rate up from 26.07 to 26.09 percent. 

Unlike most U.S. credit cards, the Cabela’s Club Visa is tied to Libor, rather than the Prime rate, and so its APR goes up or down in tandem with the one-month Libor rate.  

The insurance company State Farm made a much more dramatic change this week to its student credit card, the State Farm Student Visa card. It increased the card’s minimum APR from 12.99 to 16.99 percent and pushed the card’s maximum APR up from a high of 19.99 to 24.99 percent. As a result, the average APR for student cards rose to 16.98 percent, according to CreditCards.com data – up from a previous average of 16.48 percent. 

Low-interest student cards getting harder to find

The hike in rates on the State Farm Student Visa has made it even harder for today’s students to find a card with a genuinely low interest rate. 

Low rate student cards have become rare in recent years, according to a survey of student cards by CreditCards.com. Until now, State Farm offered one of the lowest rate student cards on the market. Now, Wells Fargo is the only major issuer to offer a student card with a minimum APR below 14 percent. The Wells Fargo Cash Back College card charges a minimum interest rate of 12.90 percent. 

Most student cards, by contrast, charge minimum rates between 14 and 21 percent. Meanwhile, maximum APRs on student cards often run as high as 23 to 25 percent or more, making it much more costly for students to carry a balance. 

APRs on new card accounts up 2 percent since 2015

CreditCards.com also made one other change to the cards included in the weekly rate report that affected the national average. After American Express pulled the Blue from American Express card from its website, CreditCards.com replaced it with a somewhat lower rate rewards card, the Discover it® Miles Card

Occasionally, CreditCards.com refreshes the cards that are included in the weekly rate report in order to better represent the current card market. Last week, CreditCards.com also replaced a discontinued gas card with the lower-rate Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card. As a result, the national average fell below 17 percent for the first time in weeks. 

Average rates are still near record highs, thanks in part to ongoing rate changes by the Federal Reserve. Since the Fed began increasing rates in late 2015, after a multiyear pause, average rates on new credit card offers have climbed by roughly 2 percentage points. Interest rates on older variable cards have also increased in tandem with the Fed. 

According to the Federal Reserve’s May 2018 G.19 consumer credit report, for example, the average APR on credit card accounts that are assessed interest has climbed to 15.54 percent – up from an average of 13.49 percent during the same period in 2015. 

Cardholders still spending, despite rate hikes

Higher rates aren’t keeping people from using their credit cards, however. According to recent bank data culled by the market research company Trefis, consumers are continuing to ramp up their credit card purchases. For example, card issuers recorded roughly $927 billion worth of purchases in the second quarter of 2018 – nearly 10 percent more than consumers bought around the same time last year. 

If consumers continue to increase their spending as the holidays approach, credit card issuers could have a record-setting season by the end of the year, says Trefis. 

“Given that the U.S. credit card purchase volume was $902 billion in Q4 2017, a year-on-year increase of 10.8 percent would nudge it past the $1 trillion mark in Q4 2018,” wrote Trefis in an August 2018 research note.

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.92% 16.91%
16.41%
Low interest 13.99%
13.90% 13.14%
Cash back 17.09%
17.08%
16.67%
Balance transfer 16.21%
16.20%
15.63%
Business 14.59%
14.59%
13.93%
Student 16.98%
16.48%
15.92%
Airline 16.93%
16.93%
16.41%
Rewards 16.92%
16.96%
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: Sept. 5, 2018


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Updated: 11-19-2018