Rate survey: Average card APR remains at 16.15 percent

Kelly Dilworth
Personal finance writer
Specializing in new trends in credit


The average APR for new card offers remained at a record high Wednesday, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com advertised new interest rates this week. As a result, the national average APR stayed at 16.15 percent. The average APR for the year, meanwhile, climbed to an all-time high of 15.80 percent.

Average card rates have climbed steadily this year, expanding by more than three quarters of a percentage point in just nine months. The increases are primarily linked to the Federal Reserve raising interest rates in December 2016, March and June. The last time average rates changed this much was in 2010 when issuers hiked rates in response to the Credit CARD Act of 2009. Since January 1, 2017, the national average APR has increased 22 times.

Issuers are much more reluctant to cut interest rates these days. The national average APR has fallen just twice since January 1.

Consumers showing less interest in prepaid cards and debit
Fewer consumers are reaching for prepaid cards and bank-issued debit cards. According to new research from Mercator Advisory Group, a growing number of consumers – particularly those making $100,000 or more a year – are choosing to use rewards credit cards to pay for their everyday purchases rather than debit.

“There has been a shift away from debit cards by consumers with higher income levels,” wrote Mercator’s Sarah Grotta in a September 2017 report. “When U.S. adults are asked each year which payment methods they use, fewer and fewer survey respondents earning $100,000 or more annually say that they are currently using debit cards.”

According to Mercator, many former debit card users have shifted to rewards cards that offer generous rewards bonuses and are essentially using their rewards cards as “informal delayed debit cards” by paying off their balances each month.

Consumers are also gaining access to other nontraditional payment methods, such as virtual preloaded gift cards, says Mercator, threatening bank-issued debit cards’ longtime dominance as consumers’ favorite payment tool.

In addition, other research from Mercator Advisory Group has found that consumers’ interest in prepaid cards has slowed considerably in recent months. A survey conducted in June found that just 53 percent of U.S. adults purchased at least one prepaid card in the past year. In June 2016, by contrast, 63 percent of adults had purchased at least one card.

Previous research has also supported the findings that consumers are backing away from debit. A 2016 report from the payment company TSYS, for example, found that more people preferred to reach for their credit cards than their debit cards.

“Although debit continues to be a strong preference, we saw a stronger preference toward credit,” wrote TSYS in the report. That was especially true for cardholders making at least $75,000 a year. Affluent consumers are particularly likely to reach for a credit card rather than a debit card, said TSYS, in part because they offer more rewards.

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report
  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.15% 16.15%
Low interest 12.89%
12.89% 12.44%
Cash back 16.40%
Balance transfer 15.38%
Business 13.68%
Student 15.70%
Airline 16.07%
Reward  16.24%
Instant approval 18.60%
Bad credit 23.46%
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: Sept. 27, 2017

See related: Historic credit card rates chart, Gift cards: what to do when a retailers files for bankruptcy

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Updated: 02-19-2019