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Rate Report

Average credit card interest rates: Week of Feb. 19, 2020

The average APR on new credit card offers remained at 17.30% for the third straight week

Summary

The average APR on new credit card offers stood pat at 17.30% for the third straight week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.  

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The average credit card interest rate is 17.30%.

The average APR on new credit card offers held still this week, averaging 17.30% for the third consecutive week.

None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com advertised new terms this week. Issuers not only left key terms, such as APRs and annual fees, unchanged. They also left promotional terms, such as 0% APRs on new purchases and balance transfers, in place.

Rate changes have become more common in recent years as lenders tinker with new offers and rewards programs. However, changes to interest-free promotions – at least on web offers – continue to be somewhat rare.

Most issuers give cardholders no more than a year to 15 months to carry an interest-free balance. A small minority give cardholders up to 18 months to pay off a balance without incurring any interest. One card tracked by CreditCards.com gives cardholders up to 21 months.

A few cards also waive promotional balance transfer fees. However, research by CreditCards.com has found that average balance transfer fees are growing, making it more expensive to take advantage of a 0% balance transfer offer.

Standard APRs are also much higher these days than they used to be, forcing cardholders to pay significantly more to carry a balance.

See related: TransUnion data show credit availability is higher than ever

According to CreditCards.com’s Weekly Credit Card Rate Report, the average APR on new credit card offers has declined slightly over the past year after hitting an all-time high of 17.80% in July. Compared to February 2019, for example, the average card APR is down by a quarter of a percentage point.

But when you compare the current national average to the average APR consumers were assigned in previous years, it’s still near record highs. In February 2018, for example, the average APR on new card offers stood at just 16.41% – nearly a full percentage point lower than it stands now. In February 2017, it stood at 15.5%. The year before, it registered at 15.16%.

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

Average rates on new card offers are unlikely to decline much further this year – if at all – if the Federal Reserve continues to leave interest alone for the time being.

The Fed has spurred most of the rate decreases from the past six months by gradually trimming its benchmark interest rate, the federal funds rate. When the Fed revises rates, most lenders have chosen to match the Fed’s rate change on new offers, as well as on existing cards – at least temporarily.

Lenders are required to match changes in the prime rate (which is tied to the federal funds rate) on variable rate cards that consumers already own. However, they are free to set rates as they wish on new offers.

As a result, average rates on new card offers haven’t declined as sharply as the federal funds rate has over the past year – in part because issuers continue to raise rates on select cards.

Average credit card interest rates this week

Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average17.30%17.30%17.71%
Low interest14.08%14.08%14.67%
Cash back17.32%17.32%17.63%
Balance transfer15.45%15.45%15.59%
Business14.95%14.95%15.55%
Student18.58%18.58%17.69%
Airline16.91%16.91%17.50%
Rewards17.11%17.11%17.50%
Instant approval19.56%19.56%20.22%
Bad credit25.37%25.37%25.24%
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: February 19, 2020

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.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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Credit Card Rate Report Updated: February 19th, 2020
Business
14.95%
Airline
16.91%
Cash Back
17.32%
Reward
17.11%
Student
18.58%

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