Rate survey: Average card APR climbs to all-time record high of 17.07 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 smashed another record this week, climbing to 17.07 percent – an all-time high. According to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report, the average card APR is now almost a full percentage point higher than it was last year – and it’s almost certain to keep climbing. 

Several cards included in the weekly rate report helped push the average card APR to record highs by increasing rates in tandem with the Federal Reserve’s latest quarter-point rate hike. When the Fed increases interest rates, most variable rate cards eventually hike APRs by the same amount. This week, several major card issuers, including Citi, Barclaycard and SunTrust, hiked APRs by 0.25 percent. 

Other issuers, such as Bank of America, Discover, U.S. Bank, American Express and Wells Fargo, have also recently matched the Fed’s rate change. 

Meanwhile, some issuers, such as Chase, have yet to increase rates on new offers. However, once they do, the average card APR will almost certainly swing higher, potentially breaking another record. Lenders don’t always increase rates on new offers immediately after the Federal Reserve. But most eventually match the Fed’s changes. 

So far, more than half of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com have increased rates by a quarter of a percent. However, there are still several more cards that have yet to do so. Among the 100 cards that CreditCards.com evaluates each week, 61 have increased rates in tandem with the Fed.  

Citi revamps the promotional offer on the Simplicity card

In addition to checking rates, CreditCards.com also evaluated the annual fees and promotional rates of all 100 cards included in the weekly rate report. Most card issuers left annual fees and promotional terms alone this week. 

However, the popular Citi Simplicity card advertised a big change to its interest-free promotion: Rather than offer 18 months of interest-free purchases and balance transfers, it now offers a shorter interest-free period for new purchases and a longer period for old balances. New cardholders now get just 12 months to carry a balance on new purchases, interest-free. But they also get a lot more time – 21 months – to pay off a transferred balance before being charged additional interest. 

Cardholders looking for a lengthy interest-free promotional period for new purchases will now have a somewhat harder time finding a card with an outstanding promotion. Most cards with 0 percent purchase offers give cardholders just 12 to 15 months to carry a balance on new purchases, interest-free. 

However, there are still a handful of standout cards that offer lengthier promotions. The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card, for example, gives cardholders 20 months to take advantage of interest-free purchases. Meanwhile, the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card, the BankAmericard credit card and the HSBC Gold Mastercard credit card all give select cardholders up to 18 months to carry a new balance without paying any interest. 

See related: Historic credit card interest rates chart

Delinquencies fall, despite higher APRs

Despite higher rates on most variable rate loans, including credit cards, new research from the American Bankers Association (ABA) shows that the majority of credit card holders are still managing to pay their bills on time

According to ABA’s latest Delinquency Bulletin, late payments on bank-issued credit cards fell below 3 percent in the second quarter of 2018, indicating that slightly more cardholders are maintaining control over their cards. 

Late credit card payments are still a little more frequent than they were a year ago. For example, the delinquency rate for bank-issued cards is currently 2.93 percent – up from 2.67 percent in the second quarter of 2017. However, delinquency rates are still well below historical averages, suggesting that many cardholders are doing a better job paying their bills these days than they used to, despite the rising cost of revolving credit.  

“Consumers are spending in line with their income and managing their credit cards very well,” said ABA’s James Chessen in a news release. “This vigilance has kept credit card debt low relative to income for six years and positions consumers to continue supporting our growing economy.” 

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 17.07% 17.01%
Low interest 14.16%
14.13% 13.42%
Cash back 17.19%
Balance transfer 16.33%
Business 14.74%
Student 17.20%
Airline 17.05%
Rewards 17.08%
Instant approval 19.74%
Bad credit 24.30%
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: Oct. 10, 2018

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Updated: 03-19-2019