Rate survey: Average card APR holds steady at 15.18 percent

The average APR on new credit card offers remained near record highs Wednesday, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

For the fifth week in a row, the national average APR stayed put at 15.18 percent. None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com advertised new interest rates. Issuers also left promotional rates, such as 0 percent balance transfer offers, unchanged. 

The average APR for 2016 has also settled at 15.18 percent. It is the highest yearly average that CreditCards.com has recorded since it began tracking rates in mid-2007.

Interest rates have been historically elevated all year. Since January, for example, the national average APR has remained well above 15.10 percent. If interest rates continue to be this high through the end of 2016, this will be the first year on record that interest rates stayed above 15 percent all year.

The Federal Reserve’s December 2015 decision to raise the federal funds rate by 0.25 percent largely contributed to the average APR’s rise.

Between Dec. 3, 2015, and Feb. 3, 2016, the average APR climbed from 14.96 percent to 15.18 percent. It hasn’t fallen below 15.10 percent since. The lowest average APR CreditCards.com recorded in 2016 was 15.12 percent. In August, the national average APR reached it highest point on record – 15.22 percent – and stayed there for six consecutive weeks. The last time the national average APR climbed that high was in December 2011 when average rates stayed above 15.10 percent for four weeks.

Credit card interest rates are expected to rise again when the Federal Reserve increases the federal funds rate. The Federal Reserve is scheduled to meet to discuss a possible interest rate increase in December.

Debit cards grow at a faster pace
More people around the world are reaching for a debit card to pay for goods and services. According to research released this month by the British firm Retail Banking Research, 70 percent of all cards around the world are debit rather than credit cards. In 2014, 68 percent of all plastic cards were debit cards.  

Credit card usage is also growing in some parts of the world, but at a slower pace. According to the research, just 22 percent of the payment cards people own are credit cards.

Analysts predict that by 2021, 72 percent of payment cards used globally will be debit cards, while 19 percent will be credit.

Credit card usage has expanded steadily in the United States. However, consumers in other developed countries, such as the Netherlands and Russia, are pulling back on acquiring credit cards, in part because of economic and regulatory changes.

In Europe, for example, a cap on interchange fees – which retailers have to pay each time a consumer uses a credit card – has led some banks to cut back on issuing credit cards, said the RBR. Economic uncertainty has also dampened credit card growth.

Debit cards, meanwhile, have expanded more quickly as a growing number of consumers open bank accounts and use checking accounts for the first time.

“We forecast that debit cards will continue to see faster growth than credit cards, as a result of rising bank account holding and regulatory and economic pressure on the credit card sector,” said RBR’s Chris Hebert in a news release.

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 15.18% 15.18%
Low interest 12.00%
12.00% 11.96%
Cash back 15.33%
Balance transfer 14.41%
Business 13.12%
Student 13.42%
Airline 15.13%
Reward  15.24%
Instant approval 17.86%
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: Nov. 9, 2016

See related: Blockchain could spur a card rewards revolution

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Updated: 03-19-2019