Rate survey: Average card APR jumps to record 16 percent

Kelly Dilworth
Personal finance writer
Specializing in new trends in credit


The national average APR for new credit card offers hit another record this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

For the first time since CreditCards.com began tracking average interest rates, the national average credit card APR climbed to 16 percent – up from 15.18 in June 2016. It is the 16th time this year that the average credit card APR has set a new record high in the CreditCards.com survey, which has been conducted weekly since 2007.

This week’s rate change was due to the Federal Reserve’s June 2017 rate hike. On June 14, the Fed announced it would increase its benchmark interest rate, the federal funds rate, by a quarter of a percent. Since then, several card issuers have increased rates by the same amount, including Citi, American Express and US Bank.

The national average card APR is expected to rise again next week as more card issuers alter rates in response to the Fed’s latest increase. Several major issuers haven’t yet increased APRs.

Issuers scale back card offers
Consumers aren’t just seeing higher APRs on their credit card offers. They’re also receiving fewer rewards offers. According to new research released by the financial services firm Credit Suisse, just 69 percent of card offers mailed in May 2017 advertised a rewards program – down from 72 percent in April.

Card issuers mailed slightly more offers overall than the previous month. For example, issuers mailed roughly 306 million advertisements in May – 23 percent more than the previous month. But instead of luring cardholders with more rewards, card issuers instead sent a larger number of offers for basic cards that are typically marketed as low-interest-rate credit cards. For example, 28 percent of the card offers consumers received were for basic, no-frills cards that don’t offer rewards, while 3 percent of card offers were for consumers who are building or rebuilding their credit.

Offers without rewards are often touted for offering lower interest rates. But according to CreditCards.com, most no-frills cards from major banks still charge relatively high rates these days. For example, among the 100 cards that CreditCards.com monitors, just one card from a major nationwide bank, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card, charges an APR below 11 percent. Meanwhile, the national average APR for low interest rate cards hit 12.83 percent this week – up from 11.98 percent in June 2016.

Card issuers also mailed out slightly fewer premium offers, according to CreditSuisse, indicating they’re cutting back on marketing to cardholders who are willing to pay a substantial annual fee in exchange for more rewards.

Over the past year, premium card offers dominated media coverage as card issuers introduced unprecedented bonuses and bigger rewards for affluent cardholders. But analysts have warned that card issuers may have to scale back their most generous offers if their expenses become too large.

Card issuers did ramp up the number of interest-free offers in the mail compared to the previous month. But year-over-year, offers that advertise a 0 percent APR on purchases are down, according to Credit Suisse. For example, 223 million card offers advertised interest-free purchases in May – down from 244 million card offers in May 2016. Issuers also mailed fewer 0 percent balance transfer offers. Just 196 million card offers advertised an interest-free balance transfer.

On the bright side, the average length of interest-free balance transfer offers has increased slightly, so cardholders who need to transfer a lot of high-interest debt have more time to shave their balances. According to Credit Suisse, the average balance transfer card offers new cardholders at least 14.8 months to take advantage of an interest-free balance transfer – up from an average of 14 months the previous year.

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.00% 15.96%
Low interest 12.83%
12.80% 12.09%
Cash back 16.17%
Balance transfer 15.20%
Business 13.76%
Student 15.01%
Airline 15.90%
Reward  16.06%
Instant approval 18.39%
Bad credit 23.40%
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: June 28, 2017

See related: How much higher can card interest rates go?, Fears rise of consumer debt delinquency, N.Y. Fed survey shows

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Updated: 12-12-2018