Rate survey: Average card APR remains at 16.15 percent

Interest rates on new card offers remained stuck in place this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The national average APR held steady at 16.15 percent, where it has been stuck since Sept. 20. None of the cards included in the weekly rate report advertised new interest rates. Issuers also left promotional rates, such as 0 percent balance transfer offers, unchanged.

This is the second-longest unchanged streak in the 10-year history of CreditCards.com’s weekly survey. Interest rates have remained stable in recent months after climbing quickly in the first half of the year. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 1, the average card APR climbed from 15.36 to 16.13 percent. Since then, it has inched up just slightly to 16.15 percent – an all-time high. A year ago, the average APR stood at 15.18 percent.

The higher rates on new credit card offers are due in part to ongoing rate increases by the Federal Reserve. Each time the Fed boosts its benchmark rate, lenders hike the APRs on most variable rate cards by the same amount.

As APRs increase, promotional offers drop

Lenders continue to use supersized rewards to lure new customers, but are cutting back on 0 percent APRs for new purchases and are giving cardholders less time to carry a balance without paying interest.

According to research released Nov. 21 by the financial services agency Credit Suisse, the percentage of card offers advertising interest-free purchases has continued to decline this year after dropping significantly since 2015.  

Just 71 percent of the credit card offers mailed to consumers’ homes in October advertised a 0 percent APR on purchases. That’s well below the percentage of offers that used to advertise a 0 percent interest rate. Between 2012 and 2015, for example, at least 75 to 85 percent of card offers typically contained a 0 percent rate.

Issuers are also trimming the amount of time consumers have to take advantage of 0 percent balance transfer offers. The average balance transfer offer gives cardholders just 14 months to pay off their balance interest-free, down from an average of 14.5 months in October 2016. 

Issuers have modestly increased the percentage of offers advertising a 0 percent balance transfer rate since 2016. But the total number of card offers consumers are receiving in their mailboxes has declined, indicating that issuers are cutting back on sending generous offers and are finding new ways to reach potential customers.

Lenders sending fewer advertisements

According to Credit Suisse, issuers are increasingly relying on the web to reach new customers, rather than mail expensive brochures directly to consumers’ homes.

In October, issuers substantially cut back the total number of mailed card offers, having mailed just 285 million card offers – 24 percent fewer than last year.

Some issuers, such as Chase, have dramatically curtailed the number of offers they send. Citi, Capital One and American Express have also pared back, said Credit Suisse.

The financial services company says that many issuers are focusing their efforts on web-based promotions instead. “Competitiveness in the industry is likely to remain high, though some issuers are running at historically low levels,” wrote Credit Suisse analyst Hoang Nguyen in a research note. “In general, we believe card issuers will ease their efforts in direct mail marketing in favor of more digital channels.”

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.15% 16.15%
Low interest 12.89%
12.89% 12.66%
Cash back 16.40%
Balance transfer 15.38%
Business 13.68%
Student 15.70%
Airline 16.07%
Reward  16.24%
Instant approval 18.60%
Bad credit 23.46%
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. 22, 2017

See related: Historic credit card rates chart, Card applicants getting approved more often, N.Y. Fed says

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Updated: 03-19-2019