Research and Statistics

Credit card interest rates steady for record 4th straight week


Interest rates on new credit card offers held steady for a record fourth straight week on Wednesday, according to’s Weekly Rate Report. But that doesn’t mean issuers are sitting on their hands.

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers; and please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Interest rates on new credit card offers held steady for a record fourth straight week on Wednesday, according to’s Weekly Rate Report. But that doesn’t mean issuers are sitting on their hands.’s Weekly Rate Report
Avg. APRLast week 6 months ago
National average14.65%14.65%14.35%
Low interest11.18%11.18%12.06%
Cash back13.41%13.41%12.55%
Balance transfer12.78%12.78%12.81%
Instant approval15.99%15.99%16.49%
Bad credit23.95%23.95%21.04%
Methodology: The national average credit card APR is comprised of about 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.)
Updated: 4-6-2011

The national average annual percentage rate (APR) on new credit card offers held steady at 14.65 percent. It has been static for most of 2011, but is still up from six months ago, when it stood at 14.35 percent.

Though the national average remained static, Citi, American Express and Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) were among issuers that made adjustments to introductory purchase and/or balance transfer offers, continuing a recent trend of longer introductory periods.

For example, Citi extended the introductory period on the 0 percent balance transfer offer for its Platinum Select MasterCard from 18 to 21 months, one of the longest introductory periods has seen. After that, the balance transfer APR ranges from 11.99 percent to 20.99 percent.

PenFed went a step further. Its Promise and its Visa Platinum Cashback Rewards cards offer a rate of 4.99 percent for the life of any balance transferred between April 1, 2011 and June 30, 2011. After that date, the balance transfer APRs on those cards range anywhere from 7.49 percent to 13.99 percent.

However, a change American Express made is not as clear, experts say.

Typically, the terms of a balance transfer are laid out in a card’s terms and conditions. For example:

  • APR for balance transfers: 2.99 percent introductory APR for 18 months if the request for a balance transfer is made within 60 days. After that, your standard APR will be 10.99 percent to 19.99 percent, based on your creditworthiness.

The above shows the introductory rate, how long it is applicable, when you must make the transfer and what the rate will be when the intro period is over. However, consumer groups say some recent changes have made terms ambiguous. Here’s an example:

  • On its website, for its Blue Cash and Blue Sky cards, American Express is offering a “17.24, 19.24 or 21.24 percent introductory APR on balance transfers requested within 30 days of account opening, based on your creditworthiness.”

The American Express offers were unusual in that they did not provide any detail on what rate would be applied to a balance transfer after that 30-day period — or if balance transfers would be allowed on the account after that time. We contacted American Express for comment and spokeswoman Leah Gerstner said, “On those particular cards, we don’t allow a balance transfer unless there is a balance transfer offer on the card at the time.” That means, she said, that if you tried to do a balance transfer to either of those cards after that 30-day period, it would likely not be possible.

Ambiguous terms bring challenges, consumer groups say
According to consumer groups, oftentimes cardholders can be vulnerable to credit card debt due to vague and ambiguous language used in credit card contracts.

Poor understanding of the contracts between consumers and card issuers is a factor in high levels of credit card debt and the ills that go along with it, says David Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies. However, it is not the primary factor.

Other experts agree.

“Consumers who are worried about their financial situation often try to make financially savvy decisions, such as transferring a balance to a card with a lower rate,” says Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  “If this decision backfires on them due to an ambiguous explanation of rates, the consumer and the issuer both lose.”

It’s important that customers do extensive research, especially on possible risks associated with any new financial arrangement. Confusing legal jargon could ultimately lead a well-meaning consumer down the wrong path, Cunningham says.

Still, consumer advocacy groups are finding that ambiguity may not be hindering customers’ behaviors as much one might imagine.

“We have found that our clients generally aren’t put off by the agreement language and accept whatever rate is applied without much question,” Jones says. “That may be a holdover from years of basically being unable to decipher the agreement language and accepting the card contract on faith alone.”

Introductory periods growing
Either way, it looks like card issuers are sticking to a trend of testing card offers. Marketing researchers say term-period extensions have been on a steady incline since 2010.

“The squeeze on credit observed during mid-2009 is being reversed and many issuers are now offering durations of 15, 17 or 18 months or more,” says Andrew Davidson, spokesman for direct marketing research firm Mintel Comperemedia “We have even seen offers with 24- and 30-month intro rate durations in recent months,” he says.

See related:8 things you must know about credit card debt

What’s up next?

In Research and Statistics

Credit card interest rates unchanged for record 3rd straight week

For the first time since began tracking interest rates in 2007, APRs on new credit card offers remained unchanged for a third week in a row, according to the Weekly Credit Card Rate Report

Published: March 30, 2011

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: August 14th, 2019
Cash Back

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company’s business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.