Rate survey: Average card rate jumps to 16.93 percent

Kelly Dilworth
Personal finance writer
Specializing in new trends in credit

CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report

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The average credit card interest rate inched higher this week after several cards adjusted APRs. The national average APR rose to a record high of 16.93 percent, according to CreditCards.com’s Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

CreditCards.com evaluated the APRs, promotional terms and annual fees of 100 U.S. credit cards. Three of the cards included in the weekly rate report increased APRs by 0.25 percent in order to match the Federal Reserve’s June 2018 rate hike.

Most major credit card issuers, including Bank of America, Capital One, American Express and Citi have now increased rates by the same amount as the Fed. When the Federal Reserve adjusts its benchmark interest rate, most card issuers eventually respond with identical rate increases.

Among the country’s largest card issuers, Chase is the only one that hasn’t yet revised its online card offers in line with the Federal Reserve’s rate change. Once Chase eventually increases rates on its online offers, the average credit card APR will inevitably jump higher and may even break 17 percent for the first time on record.

Interest rates on new credit card offers have climbed sharply in recent years as the Federal Reserve gradually adjusts its benchmark interest rate after pausing interest rate changes for several years. Since December 2015, for example, the average card APR has climbed by nearly 2 percentage points. The average maximum rate that issuers charge has also climbed significantly, affecting millions of cardholders who can’t get approved for a card’s lowest rate. According to CreditCards.com data, the average maximum interest rate that issuers currently charge has climbed to 24.20 percent – a rate that used to be reserved for cardholders with bad credit.

Cardholders paying significantly more to carry a balance

The higher rates are having a big impact on cardholders’ balances. When the Federal Reserve increases interest rates, issuers don’t just hike rates on new credit cards. They also increase the amount cardholders owe on variable rate cards that consumers already own. As a result, the average amount of interest on unpaid balances that longtime cardholders are paying has also increased.

According to the Federal Reserve’s latest consumer credit report, the average APR for consumers who are currently carrying a balance – including longtime cardholders who used to pay much lower rates – has increased to 15.54 percent. In 2015, by contrast, the average APR for accounts that were charged interest was 13.66 percent.

The higher rates don’t appear to be scaring cardholders away from carrying a balance, though. According to the Federal Reserve, card balances broke another record in May after expanding by more than 11 percent in just one month. The total amount of revolving debt that consumers carry climbed to $1.039 trillion – an all-time high.

Late payments on credit cards have also increased, according to new research from the American Bankers Association – a development experts predicted would happen once interest rates started to rise. For example, the delinquency rate for bank-issued credit cards – which measures late payments by 30 days or more – rose to 3.06 percent in the first quarter of 2018, up from 2.46 percent.

Experts say that lenders’ relaxed lending standards are also partially responsible for the pop in late payments, since cardholders with a history of running late on payments have had an easier time accessing cards. 

Despite the recent increase, late payments are still more rare than they used to be, thanks in part to higher consumer incomes and a more cautious attitude toward credit.

“Bank card delinquencies have been near historical lows for five years as consumers have done a great job managing their levels of debt,” said the American Bankers Association’s James Chessen in a June 10 news release. “The ratio of credit card debt to disposable income remains low and is nowhere near pre-crisis levels.

See related: Historical credit card rates, 2007-2018

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.93% 16.92%
16.32%
Low interest 13.83%
13.82% 13.08%
Cash back 17.15%
17.15%
16.56%
Balance transfer 16.17%
16.17%
15.56%
Business 14.57%
14.53%
13.91%
Student 16.48%
16.48%
15.92%
Airline 16.84%
16.84%
16.26%
Rewards 17.00%
16.99%
16.41%
Instant approval 19.20%
19.20%
18.74%
Bad credit 23.90%
23.90%
23.59%
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: July 11, 2018


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Updated: 07-17-2018