Rate survey: Average card APR spikes to all-time high of 15.80 percent

Kelly Dilworth
Personal finance writer
Specializing in new trends in credit

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The national average APR for new credit card offers busted another record this week, rising to an all-time high, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The average card APR jumped to a record 15.80 percent after several issuers increased credit card interest rates.

Some issuers, such as USAA, Credit One and First National Bank, increased rates by a quarter of a percent to match the Federal Reserve’s March 2017 rate increase.

Other lenders, such as Pentagon Federal Credit Union and Discover, increased rates by a much larger amount. For example, Discover hiked the minimum available APR on the Discover it cash back card from a low of 11.74 percent to a minimum rate of 13.74 percent. Meanwhile, Pentagon Federal Credit Union increased the minimum APR on the PenFed Promise Visa from 8.99 percent to 10.74 percent.

Online fraud continues to rise
Credit card thieves who go online to use stolen credit card information are increasingly testing small credit card transactions before they charge bigger purchases, according to new data from the retail commerce company, Radial.

Radial detected a 200 percent spike in 2017 in the number of times fraudsters made tiny purchases with stolen credit card information before moving on to larger targets. Credit card thieves often make small-dollar purchases to test whether they can use a stolen card without credit card holders or card issuers noticing the purchase.

E-commerce fraud has also spiked, said Radial, as scammers move online to compensate for stronger security protections at stores. As more retailers upgrade payment systems to accept chip-based transactions, fraudsters are having a harder time committing card-present fraud.

According to Radial, online fraud rose 30 percent in 2017, compared to the previous year.

A February 2017 report by Javelin Strategy and Research also found evidence that online fraud is increasing at a rapid clip. For example, the study found that card-not-present fraud – which occurs when scammers use stolen card details online or over the phone – spiked by 40 percent between 2015 and 2016. Many retailers just started accepting chip-based transactions in 2016 after liability for card present fraud shifted from credit card companies to retailers in October 2015. 

Card crooks are also turning more to stolen gift cards to steal money. According to a 2017 report from the business risk intelligence company Flashpoint, for example, fraudsters are getting around crackdowns on gift cards purchased with stolen credit card information by stealing unused gift cards instead. 

“Toward the end of 2015, cybercriminals who had previously established underground empires selling ‘carded’ gift cards – otherwise known as gift cards purchased with stolen credit cards – saw their cards being declined and their clients demanding refunds,” wrote Flashpoint’s Olivia Rowley in the report. “Thus, carded gift cards were no longer viable products to sell. This prompted cybercriminals to pursue other, noncarded means of obtaining gift cards.”

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 15.80% 15.74%
Low interest 12.70%
12.59% 12.00%
Cash back 15.89%
Balance transfer 15.08%
Business 13.66%
Student 13.92%
Airline 15.77%
Reward  15.87%
Instant approval 18.28%
Bad credit 23.23%
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: May 3, 2017

See related: The new card skimming is called 'shimming', Would you trust your card at these sketchy ATMs?

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Updated: 03-25-2019