Rate survey: Average card APR climbs to 17.21 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 climbed to another record high Wednesday, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. The national average APR hit 17.21 percent. 

Average card rates are now at their highest point since CreditCards.com began tracking rates in mid-2007. 

The average maximum credit card APR also rose significantly, climbing within rounding distance of 25 percent. CreditCards.com only considers a card’s lowest available interest rate when calculating the national average. However, most card issuers advertise a wide range of APRs. When issuers increase a card’s minimum APR, they typically increase the card’s maximum APR as well. 

The average credit card currently charges new cardholders up to 24.55 percent, on average, to carry a balance. Meanwhile, many cardholders are qualifying for APRs just above 20 percent. The average median card APR, for example, climbed this week to 20.88 percent. 

See related: Historic credit card interest rates chart

Capital One raises rates for consumers with average credit

Capital One spurred this week’s rate hike by increasing rates on a number of cards designed for consumers with new or average credit. 

For example, Capital One increased the APRs on the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, the Capital One Platinum Credit Card and the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One credit card from 24.99 percent to 26.96 percent. Meanwhile, it increased the APR on the Capital One Secured Mastercard from 24.99 percent to 26.99 percent. 

Interest rates are likely to rise again if the Federal Reserve decides to increase the federal funds rate. Most consumer credit cards are tied to the U.S. prime interest rate, which increases in tandem with the Fed’s benchmark interest rate. When the Fed increases rates, most cards eventually increase rates by the same amount. 

The federal funds rate is likely to rise in December, causing a quarter-point rate increase for most cardholders. Analysts expect several more rate hikes in 2019. 

However, the Fed has come under some pressure in recent months to slow down its interest rate increases. 

If the Fed decides to hit pause on upcoming rate increases, then interest rates on credit cards likely won’t rise nearly as sharply in 2019 as they did the previous year. 

Over the past 12 months, the average card APR has climbed by more than a full percentage point. On Dec. 19, 2017, the average card APR stood at just 16.14 percent.  

Cardholders still paying bills on time, despite rising cost of credit 

As interest rates rise, consumers could have a harder time keeping up with their credit card payments. When card issuers hike consumers’ APRs, minimum payments often increase, too. But so far, most consumers have managed to pay their bills on time, despite the rising cost of credit. 

According to new research released Dec. 18 by Experian and S&P, defaults on credit cards and other bank-issued loans have remained relatively stable, despite this year’s ongoing rate increases.  

The default rate for bank-issued cards remained unchanged in November, signaling that many consumers are managing to hold on, despite their bigger balances. Year-over-year, the default rate for bank cards has even dropped somewhat. In November 2017, the default rate was 3.28 percent. In 2018, it was 3.09 percent. 

Analysts warn, though, that missed credit card payments could become more common if consumers’ interest rates continue to go up. 

“Looking ahead, stable default rates will depend on personal incomes and interest rates,” said S&P’s David M. Blitzer in a news release. “Rising interest rates – not just the fed funds rate – are being noticed.”  

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 17.21% 17.15%
Low interest 14.19%
14.19% 13.63%
Cash back 17.26%
Balance transfer 16.37%
Business 14.78%
Student 17.51%
Airline 17.12%
Rewards 17.18%
Instant approval 19.83%
Bad credit 24.77%
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. 19, 2018

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Updated: 03-23-2019