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Rate Report

Average credit card interest rates: Week of Dec. 4, 2019

The average APR on new credit card offers inched up to 17.27% after several cards advertised higher rates

Summary

The average credit card interest rate ticked up to 17.27%, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.  

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The average credit card interest rate is 17.27%.

The national average APR for brand-new credit cards inched higher Wednesday after a number of cards advertised significantly higher APRs.

Discover, for example, eliminated the range of possible APRs on its student credit cards, the Discover it® Student Cash Back card and the Discover it® Student Chrome card, and replaced the range with a single APR of 19.49% variable.

The Discover cards’ new APR is five points higher than the lowest APR that Discover used to offer students. Previously, select cardholders could qualify for a rate as low as 14.49% variable.

As a result, the national average APR – which only takes into account a card’s lowest possible interest rate – climbed significantly on Wednesday. The average APR for student cards also markedly increased.

The average maximum APR for all credit cards, by contrast, fell this week, thanks in part to the Discover student cards’ lower maximum rate. Previously, Discover charged new student cardholders up to 23.49% to carry a balance – a 4 percentage point difference.

Several cards included in the weekly rate report – including Bank of America’s line of credit cards — also cut rates by a quarter of a percentage point this week in tandem with the Fed’s latest rate change. That, too, helped push average maximum rates lower.

The average maximum credit card interest rate for new cardholders is now 24.49% — down from 24.60% last week.

See related: New Mexico carries heaviest credit card debt burden, study shows

Discover’s rate change makes student card offers more transparent

Although it may cause some students to pay higher interest rates than they would have otherwise, the single APR on Discover’s line of student cards will make it easier for students to compare credit card offers. Rather than try to guess what rate will be assigned, students will now know exactly what APR they’ll get if they apply for a Discover card.

Students who are new to credit also won’t have to worry anymore about being assigned an APR well above 20% — a nice perk for students who may need to carry a balance and are trying to get the best rate possible on a new card

That’s relatively rare for credit cards these days. Most consumer credit cards charge a wide range of possible APRs. In many cases, the difference between a card’s highest and lowest rate spans as much as 10 percentage points or more, making it tough to gauge what rate you’ll actually get.

Cards with single APRs are slightly more common amongst student cards, though – perhaps because most students have a similarly limited credit history.

See related: Credit card purchase volumes surged in second quarter: ABA

PenFed hikes rate on Promise card

Pentagon Federal Credit Union also adjusted rates this week. It increased the minimum variable APR on the PenFed Promise Visa Card by half a percentage point to 12.49% — up from a previous minimum variable APR of 11.99%.

This is the second time since early November that PenFed has boosted the Promise card’s APR. Previously, PenFed charged a minimum variable APR of 11.74%.

TD Bank sweetens a promotional offer

TD Bank has also been active recently. It lengthened the amount of time cardholders could take advantage of a 0% balance transfer offer on the TD Cash Credit Card. Cardholders now have 15 months to carry a transferred balance for free.

TD also added a 15-month 0% APR on new purchases, allowing shoppers who apply for the card to spread out their credit card payments without incurring any interest.

Every week, CreditCards.com evaluates the APRs, annual fees and promotional terms of 100 U.S. credit cards.

None of the other cards included in the weekly rate report advertised new promotions.

Average credit card interest rates this week

Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average17.27%17.20%17.72%
Low interest14.09%14.15%14.71%
Cash back17.38%17.12%17.68%
Balance transfer15.24%15.04%15.63%
Business15.09%15.09%15.61%
Student18.58%17.19%17.79%
Airline16.88%16.90%17.50%
Rewards17.04%16.95%17.55%
Instant approval19.58%19.60%20.24%
Bad credit24.90%24.93%25.33%
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: December 4, 2019

Historic interest rates by card type

Some credit cards charge even higher rates, on average. The type of rate you get will depend in part on the category of credit card you own. For example, even the best travel credit cards often charge higher rates than basic, low interest credit cards.

CreditCards.com has been calculating average rates for a wide variety of credit card categories, including student cards, balance transfer cards, cash back cards and more, since 2007.

How to get a low credit card interest rate

Your odds of getting approved for a card’s lowest rate will increase the more you improve your credit score. Some factors that influence your credit card APR will be out of your control, such as the length of time you’ve been handling credit.

However, even if you’re new to credit or are rebuilding your score, there are steps you can take to ensure a lower APR. For example:

  1. Pay your bills on time. The single most important factor influencing your credit score – and your ability to win a lower rate – is your track record of making on-time payments. Lenders are more likely to trust you with a competitive APR – and other positive terms, such as a big credit limit – if you have a lengthy history of paying your bills on time.
  2. Keep your balances low. Lenders also want to see that you are responsible with your credit and don’t overcharge. As a result, credit scores take into account the amount of credit you’re using, compared to how much credit you’ve been given. This is known as your credit utilization ratio. Typically, the lower your ratio, the better. For example, personal finance experts often recommend that you keep your balances well below 30% of your total credit limit.
  3. Build a lengthy and diverse credit history. Lenders also like to see that you’ve been successfully using credit for a long time and have experience with different types of credit, including revolving credit and installment loans. As a result, credit scores, such as the FICO score and VantageScore, factor in the average length of your credit history and the types of loans you’ve handled (which is known as your credit mix). To keep your credit history as long as possible, continue to use your oldest credit card so your lender doesn’t close it.
  4. Call your lender. If you’ve successfully owned a credit card for a long time, you may be able to convince your lender to lower your interest rate – especially if you have excellent credit. Reach out to your lender and ask if they’d be willing to negotiate a lower APR.
  5. Monitor your credit report. Check your credit reports regularly to make sure you’re being accurately scored.The last thing you want is for a mistake or unauthorized account to drag down your credit score. You have the right to check your credit reports from each major credit bureau (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once per year for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.

What’s up next?

In Rate Report

New Mexico carries heaviest credit card debt burden, study shows

An analysis by CreditCards.com found that New Mexico strains under the heftiest credit card debt load in the country, while Massachusetts carries the lightest. Here’s why some states struggle more than others when it comes to getting out of debt.

Published: December 4, 2019

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: December 4th, 2019
Business
15.09%
Airline
16.88%
Cash Back
17.38%
Reward
17.04%
Student
18.58%

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