Credit card interest rates held steady this week at their lowest levels since mid-May
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|CreditCards.com’s Weekly Rate Report|
|Avg. APR||Last week||6 months ago|
|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.)|
The national average annual percentage rate (APR) on new credit card offers remained at 14.15 percent this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. The average APR currently sits at the lowest point since mid-May. Despite the recent downturn, rates remain well above their levels of six months ago and the start of this year, when the average APR stood at 12.97 percent.
Some analysts say declining card use could be partially blamed on that long-term rise in APRs. “I think they are definitely continuing to inhibit card usage because consumers are being much more careful about managing their spending and budgets and steering clear of debt,” says Beth Robertson, director of payments research with Javelin Strategy & Research in Pleasanton, Calif.
Experts say a decline in card payments isn’t the only reason Federal Reservedata show revolving balances are falling. Along with the closure of unused accounts, Moody’s said the “data reflect in stark terms what card issuers know all too well — card usage is down and charge-offs remain high,” Moody’s said in a Sept. 9 report.
So if credit cards are declasse, just how are consumers doing their shopping? Instead of charging their purchases, Javelin’s research shows that an increasing number of consumers are using “pay now” options, including cash, checks, debit, prepaid and gift cards.
If consumers are going to put their purchases on credit, then they are likely to weigh the borrowing costs: According to Javelin, “Sixty-two percent of consumers say that interest rates are the most important factor when they select a new card, and when they select a card to use, 64 percent think interest rates are important or extremely important,” Robertson says.
Those rates are putting a dent in the average borrower’s pocketbook. For example, a cardholder who borrowed $5,000 on a credit card today and consistently paid $150 per month at the current average interest rate would have to pay $6,390 to pay off the debt. That’s $156 more than would have been required on Jan. 1, 2010. (Calculator: How long will it take to pay off your credit card balance?)
Some experts predict that APRs will continue to hold steady. “Because of current economic conditions — the tentative state of the economic recovery — it is unlikely that rates will rise, but they may remain stable for some time,” Javelin’s Robertson says in an e-mail.
See related:Consumer credit card debt shrinks again in July, Credit card lending standards loosen for 1st time in 3 years, Credit card reform arrives in the form of the Credit CARD Act, Calculator: How long will it take to pay off your credit card balance?, Credit card rates: interactive graphic on APR changes