Rate survey: Average card rate registers at 16.92 percent for fourth week

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 didn’t budge Wednesday, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. For the fourth consecutive week, the average card rate registered at 16.92 percent.

CreditCards.com evaluated the APRs, annual fees and promotional terms of 100 U.S. credit cards. 

All 100 cards included in the weekly rate report left credit card terms alone this week, including interest-free promotional offers.  

Promotional offers advertised online rarely change these days. Over the past three months, for example, just three cards included in the weekly rate report have advertised new promotional offers. 

Instead, issuers have been much more likely to alter APRs. Nearly all of the cards included in the weekly rate report, for example, have increased rates this summer in tandem with the Federal Reserve’s quarter point rate hikes. When the Federal Reserve increases interest rates, most variable rate cards increase rates by the same amount. 

Some issuers have also separately hiked rates on select cards. For example, State Farm recently hiked the APR on its student card by four percentage points, causing the card’s minimum APR to rise to 16.99 percent. 

Meanwhile, Wells Fargo increased rates on two of its rewards cards, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card and the Wells Fargo Rewards card. The Wells Fargo Cash Wise card now charges a minimum APR of 15.74 percent – up from a previous low of 14.74 percent – while the Wells Fargo Rewards card charges a minimum APR of 18.90 percent. Previously, Wells Fargo set the points rewards card’s lowest rate at 18.24 percent. 

The ongoing rate hikes have pushed up average card APRs to record levels. Two years ago, for example, the average card APR stood at just 15.22 percent. In September 2007 – when the Federal Reserve’s benchmark interest rate was much higher than it is now – the average card APR hit just 13.43 percent.  

See related: Historic credit card interest rates chart 

Interest rates are destined to keep climbing

Interest rates on new card offers are expected to rise further in coming weeks as the Fed increases its benchmark interest rate for the third time this year. 

The rate-setting committee, the Federal Open Market Committee, is likely to announce another rate hike Sept. 26. 

If the Fed increases rates by a quarter of a percent, the average card APR could soon climb well above 17 percent. 

Interest rates on current card accounts will also be affected. In addition to hiking rates on new card accounts, issuers also respond to rate increases by hiking rates on older cards. 

That, in turn, could have a significant impact on cardholders’ debt repayments. Just one quarter-point rate increase, for example, can cause a cardholder who only pays the minimum amount due and carries several thousand dollars in debt on a card with a 17 percent APR to owe more than $100 in additional interest. 

The uptick in rates won’t end with the latest Federal Reserve rate increase, either. The Fed is expected to keep increasing rates through at least 2020, causing cardholders’ APRs to continue to expand. 

Some analysts have suggested that issuers will eventually respond to increasing interest rates by advertising lower rates to new customers. For example, card issuers may decide to set themselves apart by cutting rates, rather than increasing them. But so far, few issuers have cut or frozen rates on new cards. 

Almost none of the cards included in the weekly rate report, for example, have cut minimum interest rates this year. As a result, the average card APR has only fallen once since January 1. 

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.92% 16.92%
16.41%
Low interest 13.99%
13.99% 13.14%
Cash back 17.09%
17.09%
16.67%
Balance transfer 16.21%
16.21%
15.63%
Business 14.59%
14.59%
13.93%
Student 16.98%
16.98%
15.92%
Airline 16.93%
16.93%
16.41%
Rewards 16.92%
16.92%
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. 26, 2018


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Updated: 12-18-2018