Rate survey: Average card APR climbs to 17.15 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 broke another record this week, inching up to 17.15 percent. Average card rates are now at their highest point in more than a decade, causing many cardholders to pay significantly more to carry a balance.

Three years ago, the average card APR stood at just 14.96 percent – a nearly 2 and a quarter-point difference. 

The sharp uptick in rates is largely due to the Federal Reserve’s ongoing quarter-point rate hikes. The Fed first began hiking rates in December 2015 after cutting its benchmark rate to near zero in 2008 and leaving it unchanged for seven years. 

Since then, average rates have climbed steadily and are expected to keep climbing as the Fed continues to normalize interest rates. 

Maximum card rates have also dramatically increased in recent years. The national average APR calculated by CreditCards.com, for example, only takes into account a card’s lowest possible interest rate. However, issuers have also been steadily increasing median and maximum rates. 

As a result, the average maximum card APR has climbed to 24.49 percent – a rate that used to be reserved for cardholders with low credit scores. Now, even cards marketed to consumers with excellent credit advertise maximum interest rates near 25 percent.  

Meanwhile, the average median card APR has climbed to 20.82 percent. 

See related: Historic credit card interest rates chart

Walmart, Citi tweak offers

This week’s modest rate hike was spurred, in part, by a quarter-point rate increase on the Walmart Mastercard. New cardholders are now shown a range of APRs starting at 18.90 percent and maxing out at 24.90 percent. 

Citi was also active this week, removing two of its rewards credit cards from its website. Citi no longer advertises the Citi Thank You Preferred card or the Citi Thank You Preferred card for College Students. As a result, CreditCards.com replaced the two cards in the CreditCards.com database with two other widely available rewards cards. 

Citi cuts back on offering a bonus for entertainment

Citi’s decision to cut the Thank You cards from its lineup is significant, in part because it sharply limits the number of cards available to consumers who want to earn points for entertainment purchases.

Citi’s Thank You line of credit cards were best known for offering 2 points per dollar spent on a wide range entertainment purchases. They were also among the only points credit cards offered by Citi that didn’t charge an annual fee. Now, cardholders who want to earn bonus points on entertainment spending have just the Citi Premier Card to choose from, which charges a $95 annual fee. 

Citi is also getting ready to strip the entertainment bonus from the super premium Citi Prestige card (which will begin taking applications again in 2019). Previously, cardholders were awarded 2 points for every dollar spent on concert and theater tickets, sporting events, theme parks, movies, museums and more. 

Cardholders who spend a lot on entertainment can still choose the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, which awards 4 percent cash back for every dollar spent on entertainment. But that card also charges a $95 annual fee. 

Entertainment fans may also opt for the Citi Double Cash Card, which awards 2 percent cash back on every purchase that cardholders pay back in full. Now that the Citi Thank You Preferred card has been taken offline, the Citi Double Cash card is currently the only general Citi rewards card that doesn’t charge an annual fee. 

All other no-annual-fee Citi rewards cards are either airline cards, such as the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card or affiliated cards, such as the AT&T Access card. 

Students’ college card options also shrink

Citi’s decision to remove the Thank You Preferred card for College Students from its lineup also shrinks the pool of student cards that college students can choose from. The Thank You Preferred card was the only student card Citi still offered.

There are now fewer than 10 cards available nationwide that directly cater to student borrowers. 

Issuers have been cutting back on offering student cards for years, making it much harder for students to compare options. As a result, college students now have access to just a small handful of student cards, including the Discover line of student cards and student cards from Bank of America and Capital One.  

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 17.15% 17.14%
Low interest 14.19%
14.23% 13.58%
Cash back 17.18%
Balance transfer 16.33%
Business 14.78%
Student 17.30%
Airline 17.12%
Rewards 17.14%
Instant approval 19.83%
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: Dec, 5, 2018

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Updated: 03-23-2019