Survey: Average card APR jumps to record 15.27 percent

The average APR on new credit card offers rose to an all-time high Wednesday after the Federal Reserve increased its benchmark interest rate last week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The national average APR jumped to 15.27 percent, the highest average APR that CreditCards.com has recorded since it began tracking rates in mid-2007. Previously, the highest national average recorded was 15.22 percent.

The Federal Reserve spurred this week’s rate change by raising its benchmark interest rate, the federal funds rate, by 0.25 percent. When the federal funds rate increases, lenders typically change rates on variable rate cards by the same amount. 

Already, several major card issuers, including American Express, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, have responded to the Fed change by increasing card APRs. Among the 100 cards tracked by CreditCards.com, 26 increased rates by 0.25 percent.

Interest rates are likely to keep rising
The national average APR will likely jump higher over the next year as the Federal Reserve continues to ratchet up the federal funds rate. Most Federal Reserve policymakers project the Federal Reserve will likely raise rates at least three times in 2017. That will have an appreciable impact on consumers’ credit card balances since card issuers also raise rates on existing balances when the federal funds rate rises.

Cardholders with the biggest balances will bear the brunt of the interest rate increases; but even cardholders with modest balances will see a noticeable change.

According to information provided by TransUnion to CreditCards.com, the average card balance will rise by just $6.45 a month after the latest quarter-point rate hike; however, some cardholders could be asked to pay an extra $25 to $50 or more a month -- a huge increase for borrowers who are already struggling to pay their bills.

With such a big change in card balances, TransUnion expects that more consumers will fall behind on payments as their credit card costs continue to increase. “We call it a payment shock, because you can’t control it,” said TransUnion’s Nidhi Verma in an interview with CreditCards.com.

In the short-term, the national average APR on new credit card offers is also likely to inch higher over the several weeks as more issuers adjust to the new federal funds rate and increase card rates. When the Federal Reserve changed the federal funds rate in December 2015, nearly all of the cards included in the CreditCards.com database increased rates by the same amount. Several major card issuers, including Bank of America, Chase, Discover and Barclaycard, have yet to adjust rates this month.

Average rates on new card offers are already at record highs; as a result, many consumer credit card applicants are being asked to pay substantially more to carry a balance than just a few years ago. In December 2014, for example, the average APR ended the year at 14.91 percent. Toward the end of December 2009 – a few months before the Credit CARD Act of 2009 went into effect, causing rates on new offers to increase – the national average APR stood at 12.97 percent. 

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 15.27% 15.20%
15.18%
Low interest 12.09%
12.00% 11.98%
Cash back 15.41%
15.38%
15.32%
Balance transfer 14.51%
14.44%
14.38%
Business 13.24%
13.16%
13.12%
Student 13.51%
13.42%
13.42%
Airline 15.22%
15.15%
15.08%
Reward  15.33%
15.27%
15.29%
Instant approval 17.88%
17.86%
18.04%
Bad credit 22.92%
22.86%
22.56%
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: December 21, 2016

See related: APRs go up as Fed raises interest rates, Fed: Card balances up $2.3 billion in October


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Updated: 11-21-2017