Rate survey: Average card APR jumps to 15.36 percent

Banks passing along Fed rate hike push rates to another new record

Already at a record high, the national average APR on new card offers jumped again this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The average card rate climbed to 15.36 percent Wednesday after ending 2016 at a record high of 15.29 percent.  

It is the third consecutive week the average APR climbed to an all-time high, and all have been for the same reason: Multiple issuers adjusted APRs in response to a rate hike from the Federal Reserve. In mid-December, the Fed hiked its benchmark interest rate by 0.25 percent, prompting issuers to increase rates by the same amount. Among the 100 cards tracked by CreditCards.com, 73 followed suit with 0.25 percent rate increases.

One issuer, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, cut rates this week. The PenFed Promise Visa now advertises a minimum APR of 8.99 percent, while the PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards card charges a minimum rate of 9.24 percent.

Issuers trim perks
Consumers who are in the market for a new card may want to apply now before card offers drop in value in the New Year. In addition to hiking rates on new card offers, some credit card issuers are advertising fewer perks on their latest offers.

J.P. Morgan Chase confirmed Monday to our sister site, ThePointsGuy.com, that it plans to dramatically size down the famously generous sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card this month. For now, the super-premium card offers new applicants 100,000 bonus points – worth roughly $1,500 – in exchange for signing up. Beginning Jan. 12, the card issuer plans to halve the offer. New applicants will get 50,000 bonus points, an amount that’s more in line with the bonuses offered by its competitors in the luxe card field.

Analysts predicted earlier this fall that the ultra-generous card offers that many consumers were seeing on a wide variety of cards were likely to deflate. According to an October 2016 survey by CreditCards.com, at least six major credit cards offered bonuses worth at least $1,000 or more while many others offered bonuses totaling several hundred dollars. The super generous offers indicated that card issuers were locked in a card rewards arms race for much of 2016; but analysts warned that the bubble in rewards promotions was too expensive to last.

According to analysts at Credit Suisse, issuers are also being selective about which cardholders receive advertisements for new rewards. In November, Credit Suisse found that many issuers cut the number of card offers advertising some kind of rewards program.

Card issuers also mailed fewer offers advertising a 0 percent APR on purchases, and cut the number of interest-free balance transfer offers consumers received.

The average balance transfer promotion did get slightly longer in November, though, indicating that card issuers are still using lengthy promotions to lure customers. The average balance transfer period rose to 14.9 months in November, up from 13.9 months in November 2015.

Credit Suisse also reported in a November 2016 research note that it expects card issuers to continue to spend heavily on rewards programs and overall marketing in 2017 as issuers try to attract a wider group of customers.  If so, cardholders could still see juicy rewards and lengthy promotions over the next year. However, the card offers may not be nearly as enticing as they were in the last few months of 2016.

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 15.36% 15.29%
Low interest 12.16%
12.09% 11.98%
Cash back 15.51%
Balance transfer 14.60%
Business 13.37%
Student 13.67%
Airline 15.35%
Reward  15.44%
Instant approval 18.00%
Bad credit 22.98%
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: Jan. 4, 2017

See related: Credit bureaus fined $17.7 million for deceptively marketing credit scores

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Updated: 03-19-2019