Rate survey: Credit card interest rates hold at 14.96 percent

Interest rates on new credit card offers held steady this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 14.96%
Low interest 10.40%
10.40% 10.40%
Balance transfer 12.62%
Business 13.13%
Cash back  14.30%
Airline  14.63%
Reward 14.80%
Instant approval 15.49%
Bad credit 23.64%
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. 21, 2012

The national average APR remained at 14.96 percent Wednesday, after dropping below 15 percent the previous week for the first time in more than two months.

One issuer, Bank of America, increased the maximum possible APR on its cash rewards card for baseball fans by 2 percentage points. However, the change didn't affect the national average because CreditCards.com only considers a card's lowest possible rate when calculating average interest rates.

The MLB BankAmericard Cash Rewards card previously advertised an APR range of 12.99 percent to 20.99 percent. The card now features a somewhat wider range of possible APRs, starting at 12.99 percent and topping out at 22.99 percent.  

This is the fifth Bank of America credit card offer tracked by CreditCards.com that has been altered in the past month. Each time, the issuer has widened the range of possible APRs by hiking the maximum possible APR for cardholders with less-than-perfect credit.

Each of these changes that Bank of America has made has been relatively small; however, the series of changes have been notable since all six of the nation's largest credit card issuers, including Bank of America, have left the bulk of their credit card offers alone for much of the past year.

Bank of America appears to be slowly rolling out APR changes to a select group of its cards, rather than change them all at once. 

Offers flat, consumers step up card use
Experts say issuers remain hungry for new customers and are especially eager to draw in customers with pristine credit. However, the slow-moving economy in the past year has dampened issuers' appetite for going after just any new customer.

The number of new card offers mailed to consumers has dropped by nearly half since 2011 and has remained notably depressed for the past several months, according to analysts at the financial services firm Credit Suisse, citing Mintel Comperemedia research. Since August 2012, credit card mailings have remained especially flat, hovering at or just below 239 million, according to figures published by Credit Suisse in a research note released Nov. 20. 

Credit card holders, meanwhile, have shown more enthusiasm for credit in the past several months, according to new research released by the credit reporting agency TransUnion. However, their use of credit is still nowhere near what it was before the recession, say experts.

The amount of debt consumers piled up increased by 4.91 percent in the third quarter of 2012, compared to the same period in 2011, and increased by half a percent compared to the previous quarter.

The number of late payments consumers made on their credit card bills also increased in the third quarter of 2012. However, analysts at TransUnion say the recent bump in credit card delinquencies is largely seasonal. Historically, consumers tend to fall behind on payments during the summer.

"Credit card delinquencies are following a pattern similar to what we observed in 2011, with declines in the first two quarters of the year followed by an increase in the third," said TransUnion's Ezra Becker in a press release. "That seasonal consistency is encouraging ... With both delinquencies and debt levels remaining quite low relative to historical norms, we are confident in the continued stability of credit card usage patterns in the short term."

That said, a significantly greater number of consumers fell behind on their bills in the third quarter of 2012 than during the same period in 2011. Analysts at TransUnion say that may be due to the fact that consumers with less-than-perfect credit histories have had slightly easier access to credit in the past year.

"Nonprime borrowers continue to gain more access to credit," said Becker in the press release. "It is possible that the slight increase in delinquencies year over year can be attributed in part to the increased share among nonprime borrowers of new accounts, but even so, delinquency numbers are not a cause for concern. We've found that consumers continue to value their credit cards more than ever, and will likely do so at least until unemployment further abates."   

See related: Card issuers roll out limited-time offers for 2012 holidays

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Updated: 03-22-2019