Rate survey: Average card APR holds tight at 15.22 percent

The average APR on new card offers didn’t budge this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

For the third consecutive week, the national average annual percentage rate held steady at 15.22 percent. None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com advertised new interest rates.

Average rates on new credit cards are currently at their highest point in nearly five years. The last time the national average climbed this high was in December 2011 when it briefly peaked at 15.22 percent. At that time, average rates stayed above 15.10 percent for just four weeks before falling to 14.95 percent in January.

This year, the average APR has remained solidly above 15.10 percent all year. As a result, the average APR for 2016 has climbed to 15.17 percent -- its highest point since CreditCards.com began tracking rates in mid-2007.

Card debt continues to climb
Despite higher rates on new credit cards, Americans are continuing to pack on increasing amounts of debt. According to research released earlier this month by the Federal Reserve, aggregate credit card balances are inching closer to the $1 trillion mark. 

In July, consumer credit card balances rose 3.4 percent to $969 billion. In June, balances rose at an even faster clip, climbing by 11.5 percent.

The last time Americans carried this much credit card debt was in 2008, just before the financial crisis caused many consumers to temporarily retreat from credit cards and other forms of high interest debt and aggressively shave down balances.

According to research released in August by the credit reporting company TransUnion, much of the recent growth in U.S. credit card balances is coming from new credit card holders, rather than existing users. 

The credit bureau found that roughly 10 million consumers who didn’t previously own a credit card have opened a new card account in the past year.  As a result, the number of cardholders carrying a balance jumped to 133 million by the second quarter of 2016.

Consumers with lower scores were especially likely to carry some kind of credit card balance, TransUnion found. Consumers with higher scores, by contrast, appear to be shedding debt, rather than increasing it.

“We have seen clear signs of deleveraging in this segment,” said TransUnion’s Paul Siegfried in a news release.

“At the same time, increasingly more nonprime consumers are getting access to card credit, usually at lower credit limits,” said Siegfried. “Together, these trends are causing slower growth of balances relative to accounts.”

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 15.22% 15.22%
Low interest 11.98%
11.98% 11.96%
Cash back 15.32%
Balance transfer 14.39%
Business 13.12%
Student 13.42%
Airline 15.13%
Reward  15.30%
Instant approval 18.04%
Bad credit 22.86%
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. 14, 2016

See related: Study: Credit card agreements unreadable to most Americans, 9 rewards card sign-up bonus mistakes

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Updated: 02-22-2019