Rate survey: Credit card interest rates remain at 14.96 percent

Interest rates on new credit card offers remained at 14.96 percent for the fifth straight 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: Dec. 12, 2012

None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com advertised new APRs for customers with the best credit.

One issuer, PNC, did raise the highest available rate on one of its rewards cards, the PNC Points Visa. However, the card's modest two-point rate hike didn't affect the national average because CreditCards.com only considers a card's lowest available rate when calculating average interest rates. 

PNC applicants with less-than-perfect credit may now be assigned an APR as high as 21.99 percent -- up two percentage points from the previous week, when the highest available rate stood at 19.99 percent.

Credit card applicants with excellent credit will continue to be offered an APR as low as 11.99 percent on the PNC Points Visa.

Rate hikes more common in past six months
This is the eighth time in the past six months that an issuer has widened the spread of possible rates on a credit card by raising the maximum rate available on a card.

In most cases, the changes have been relatively small, often by a few percentage points. Bank representative say that the wider APR ranges make it easier for consumers with less-than-perfect-credit to qualify for their first choice card. However, critics say that widening the range of possible APRs on a credit card makes it harder for consumers to determine what APR they'll receive after they apply.

Consumers with less-than-perfect credit aren't the only ones feeling the sting of higher rates, however. Issuers have also increased the lowest available rates on a number of credit cards since June. As a result, even consumers with the best credit are spending more to carry a balance on a select number of cards. 

For example, among the 100 credit cards tracked by CreditCards.com, six have begun advertising a higher rate for consumers with the best credit in the past six months. Only one issuer, American Express, has lowered the cheapest available rate on a credit card tracked in our database.

That said, the cards that have begun advertising higher rates this year are just a small percentage of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com. The vast majority of issuers have left interest rates alone. As a result, the national average APR has remained remarkably sticky since 2011. For example, the average APR for all of 2012 has remained at 14.95 percent for most of the year, despite occasional fluctuations from week to week.   

The average APR for 2011 was just slightly lower, hitting 15.22 percent by the end of the year.   

See related: Fed: Record low rates are here to stay

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Updated: 01-23-2019