Rate survey: Average card APR inches up to 17.57 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 ticked up Wednesday to another record high, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. The national average APR climbed to 17.57 percent, which is the highest weekly average CreditCards.com has recorded in more than a decade. 

The average maximum interest rate also increased this week, climbing to 24.90 percent. When CreditCards.com calculates the national average, it only takes into account a card’s lowest available interest rate. However, most card issuers advertise a wide range of APRs. Typically, only cardholders with the highest credit scores receive a card’s best rate. Others receive a rate closer to the card’s median APR or maximum. 

The average median card APR currently stands at 21.23 percent – a big change from just two years ago when the average median APR stood at 19.04 percent. 

See related: Historic credit card interest rates chart

Maximum interest rates are climbing at a somewhat faster pace

According to CreditCards.com data, the average median card APR and the average maximum have both climbed at a slightly faster pace than the national average, thanks in part to issuers who expand a card’s maximum interest rate, but leave a card’s minimum APR alone. 

Wells Fargo, for example, recently increased the maximum APRs on the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card and the Wells Fargo Rewards card. However, it left the cards’ minimum rates alone.

Other card issuers have made similar moves, causing the average maximum card APR to grow at a slightly faster pace than the average minimum.  

For example, on Feb. 20, 2017, the average maximum card APR stood at 22.57 percent – 2.33 percentage points lower than it stands now. The average minimum card APR, by contrast, stood at 15.50 – 2.05 percentage lower than it is today. 

Rate changes by the Federal Reserve have also helped push up both minimum and maximum interest rates. Since Dec. 16, 2015, the national average minimum card APR has climbed by 2.58 percentage points. 

Issuers have also helped bump up the national average by tweaking their rewards offers and increasing rates at the same time.  

See related: Guide to rising credit card interest rates.

Lower rate cards are also disappearing

In addition, cards that offer significantly lower rates have gradually disappeared from the national landscape in recent years, causing the national average to go up. 

Bank of America, for example, recently discontinued the Platinum Plus for Business Mastercard, which offered a competitive minimum rate of 11.49 percent. As a result, CreditCards.com replaced the card in the database this week with another business card, the Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard, which offers a slightly higher APR. 

Bank of America continues to offer the Bank of America Platinum Visa Business credit card, which also charges an 11.49 percent APR. However, business cards with APRs below 13 percent have become increasingly hard to find – especially from large issuers. For example, the average business card APR (which measures a card’s lowest available rate) currently stands at 15.24 percent. 

Low interest credit cards are also becoming harder to find these days. As a result, the average APR for low rate credit cards has climbed to 14.61 percent, thanks in part to issuers who have significantly increased minimum APRs on plain vanilla credit cards. 

In January, for example, U.S. Bank increased the minimum APR on its low rate credit card, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card, from a low of 12.24 percent to a minimum APR of 14.74 percent. 

Other plain vanilla cards that are marketed as low interest cards charge similarly high interest rates. The BankAmericard credit card, for example, charges a minimum APR of 15.24 percent. Meanwhile, the PNC Points Visa and the Barclaycard Ring Mastercard both charge a 14.24 percent minimum APR. 

Cardholders looking for a lower rate are more likely to find them through credit unions and small regional banks. 

CreditCards.com's Weekly Rate Report

  Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 17.57% 17.55%
Low interest 14.61%
14.57% 13.90%
Cash back 17.55%
Balance transfer 16.77%
Business 15.24%
Student 17.79%
Airline 17.37%
Rewards 17.46%
Instant approval 20.06%
Bad credit 24.99%
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: Feb. 20, 2019

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Updated: 02-21-2019