Rate survey: Average card APR remains at 17.15 percent for second week

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 held still Wednesday, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. For the second consecutive week, the national average APR registered at 17.15 percent. 

None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com advertised new interest rates. Issuers also left promotional terms, such as interest-free balance transfer offers, unchanged. 

Every week, CreditCards.com evaluates the APRs, annual fees and promotional rates of 100 U.S. credit cards. 

Most cards included in the weekly rate report have increased rates by roughly a full percentage point over the past year in tandem with the Federal Reserve’s quarter-point rate hikes. As a result, the national average APR has climbed to an all-time record high. 

A year ago, for example, the average credit card interest rate stood at 16.15 percent. Three years ago, it registered at just 14.98 percent – a big change for cardholders who carry a balance every month. Just one percentage point increase can potentially add hundreds of dollars to a cardholder’s interest payments – especially if cardholders with big balances only pay the minimum amount due. 

The average maximum interest rate has also climbed steadily in recent months. CreditCards.com only considers a card’s lowest available interest rate when calculating the national average. However, most credit card issuers advertise a wide range of possible interest rates. As a result, many cardholders are paying significantly more than 17.15 percent to carry a balance. 

Typically, only cardholders with the best credit scores and lengthy credit histories are awarded a card’s minimum interest rate. Other applicants are typically awarded rates closer to the average median interest rate or average maximum. 

The average maximum interest rate is currently 24.49 percent, thanks in part to the large number of rewards cards that advertise maximum rates near or above 25 percent. Meanwhile, the average median card APR is currently 20.82 percent. 

Even cardholders who have used the same credit card for years are paying higher rates these days. According to the Fed, the average APR for credit cards that were charged interest was 16.46 percent in the third quarter – up from a yearly average of 13.66 percent in 2015. 

The higher rates don’t appear to be deterring people from carrying balances, though. The Federal Reserve’s latest G.19 consumer credit report, for example, revealed revolving debt – which is mostly made up of credit card debt – expanded by 10.7 percent in October, climbing to an all-time record high. U.S. consumers currently carry more than $1 trillion in revolving debt. 

Other loan categories have also expanded substantially as consumers continue to embrace borrowing in order to help smooth out their incomes and fund big-ticket purchases.  

See related: Historic credit card interest rates chart

Consumers are spending a record amount online

Now that the holidays are in full swing, consumers’ debt loads could get even bigger. Already, consumers are busting records with their holiday spending – especially online. 

According to new research from Adobe Digital Insights, consumers spent more than $80 billion online between Nov. 1 and Dec. 6 – up 18.6 percent from last year. 

Adobe predicts online shopping in November and December could total more than $124 billion this year. During the 2017 holidays, by contrast, online retailers rung up just over $108 billion. 

However, not everyone is planning to bust their budgets on holiday gifts this year. A survey released Dec. 12 by Country Financial showed nearly a quarter of consumers – 22 percent – plan to trim their holiday spending. Meanwhile, around of half of consumers expect to spend close to what they did in 2017. 

Most consumers have also drawn up a budget for the holidays, the survey found. Among the 70 percent of consumers who have a target range in mind, 39 percent have budgeted between $250 and $500 for holiday spending. Just 17 percent have budgeted more than $1,000.  

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 17.15% 17.15%
Low interest 14.19%
14.19% 13.63%
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. 12, 2018

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Updated: 03-23-2019