Rate survey: Average card APR breaks new record, climbing to 17.14 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 continued its record-setting streak on Wednesday, climbing to another all-time high. The national average APR for new credit card offers rose to 17.14 percent, which is the highest weekly average that CreditCards.com has recorded since it began tracking rates in mid-2007. 

Several card issuers boosted rates this week, causing the national average APR to rise. 

Among the 100 cards that CreditCards.com tracks for the weekly rate report, 12 increased rates by a quarter of a percent in tandem with the Federal Reserve’s September rate hike

When the Fed increases its benchmark interest rate, the federal funds rate, most variable rate cards eventually increase rates by the same amount. However, some issuers tend to be slower to match the rate changes than others. As a result, it sometimes takes a few months for issuers to update all of their card offers. 

This week, a number of smaller lenders, such as USAA, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, Navy Federal Credit Union, Credit One and Fifth Third Bank, pushed interest rates up by a quarter of a percent. 

CreditCards.com also evaluated the annual fees and promotional rates of the 100 U.S. credit cards included in the weekly rate report. None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com advertised new fees or promotions. 

See related: Historic credit card interest rates chart 

Interest rates continue to rise to historic highs

Interest rates on new card offers are now well above historical averages and are poised to continue rising as the Federal Reserve gradually increases its benchmark interest rate. 

For example, consumers shopping for a new card are now seeing interest rates that are roughly a full percentage point higher, on average, than what was offered last year. In November 2017, for example, the average minimum card APR stood at 16.15 percent. On November 7, 2015, it registered at just 15.01 percent. 

As federal rates climb higher, consumers with less-than-perfect scores are also contending with record high card rates. CreditCards.com only takes into account a card’s lowest available interest rate when calculating the national average. However, issuers have been increasing maximum rates at an equally fast clip, causing the national average maximum interest rate to soar. 

This week, for example, the average maximum interest rate climbed to 24.50 percent -- thanks in part to a growing number of general market cards advertising APR ranges that run as high as 25 percent or more. Among the 100 cards included in the weekly rate report, for example, 39 now advertise maximum APRs above 25 percent. 

Nearly a year ago, by contrast, just 25 cards advertised rates above 25 percent. In December 2016, only 19 of the cards included in the weekly rate report advertised such high rates. 

Many of the cards that now advertise rates running as high as 25 percent or more are marketed to consumers with excellent credit. For example, popular cards such as the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, the Chase Slate card and the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card all advertise maximum rates above 25 percent.  

Meanwhile, 38 cards included in the weekly rate report now advertise maximum rates between 23 and 24.99 percent. Just eight advertise maximum rates below 20 percent. 

Consumers with middle-of-the-road credit scores are also being offered higher interest rates. The average median card APR, for example, has climbed to 20.82 percent. 

 The Federal Reserve has signaled that it will likely increase rates by a quarter of a percent at least three more times before the end of 2019. If that happens, average card ranges could soon run as high as 17.89 to 25.25 percent or more. 

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 17.14% 17.11%
Low interest 14.23%
14.19% 13.53%
Cash back 17.21%
Balance transfer 16.39%
Business 14.78%
Student 17.20%
Airline 17.12%
Rewards 17.13%
Instant approval 19.81%
Bad credit 24.34%
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: Nov. 7, 2018

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Updated: 12-15-2018