Since March, interest rates on most new credit card offers have dropped by roughly 1.25 percentage points in tandem with the Fed, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.
The average credit card interest rate is 16.04%.
The average APR for brand new cards remained just above 16% for the second consecutive week.
None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com advertised new interest rates. As a result, the national average card APR remained at its highest point since April.
APRs for new cards down slightly, year-over-year
Every week, CreditCards.com tracks APR changes across a representative sample of 100 U.S. credit cards.
Since March, interest rates on most new credit card offers have dropped by roughly 1.25 percentage points in tandem with the Fed.
The central bank slashed rates to near zero last spring as schools and businesses across the U.S. shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The emergency cuts were intended to help blunt the pandemic’s economic impact by making it significantly cheaper for consumers and businesses to borrow.
Although lenders aren’t required to match federal rate changes on advertised APRs for brand new cards, most lenders followed by CreditCards.com have chosen to dramatically slash APRs for brand-new cardholders.
As a result, the national average card APR has remained near a three-year-low since early spring. The last time average card APRs fell below 16% was in 2017.
See related: How do credit card APRs work?
Top-tier rewards cards enjoyed steep APR cuts in 2020Borrowers with good-to-excellent credit who are looking for a brand new rewards card have been the biggest beneficiaries of this year’s rate cuts. Many of the most popular rewards cards are currently advertising rates that, until this spring, hadn’t been seen in years.
Cash back enthusiasts, for example, can now snag a 5% cash back card with a variable APR of 11.99% to 22.99% if they choose the Discover it® Cash Back card or a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74% if they choose the recently rebranded Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit card. Each of these cards offers 5% cash back in categories that rotate each quarter after you activate (up to $1,500 in combined spending per quarter, then it’s 1%).
The last time the Chase Freedom card advertised an APR below 15%, by contrast, was in January 2017. Meanwhile, the last time the APR on the Discover it Cash Back card started at 11.99% was in December 2017.
Similarly, most premium rewards cards have also become dramatically less expensive. The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, for example, currently charges a 15.99% to 22.99% variable APR. A year ago, the lowest APR it offered was 17.74%.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card charged an even higher APR last year. In mid-November 2019, for example, its lowest APR stood at 18.74%. Today, new Reserve cardholders with great credit can get an APR as low as 16.99% (it charges a variable APR of 16.99% to 23.99%).
See related: How to lower your credit card interest rate
APRs for subprime cards rebound to pre-pandemic levels
Consumers with lower credit scores, on the other hand, aren’t seeing nearly as sharp a difference in current APRs compared to last year.
Many credit cards designed for consumers with lower scores, for example, currently advertise APRs that are identical to the APRs they advertised last year. All of Capital One’s cards for consumers with average credit, for example, continue to advertise a single APR of 26.99%, which is the same APR they advertised in November 2019. First Premier also charges the same 36% APR on its subprime bank card.
One card included in the weekly rate report even advertises an APR that is several points higher than what it advertised last year. Earlier this month, U.S. Bank hiked the APR on the U.S. Bank Secured Visa Card from 18.99% to 25.99%. A year ago, the same card advertised a 19.99% APR, which is six points lower than what it is now.
The rate hike on the secured card pushed the average APR for brand new subprime credit cards to 25.3%. The last time the average subprime card APR was that high was in early March, when the average subprime card APR registered at 25.37%.
CreditCards.com’s Weekly Rate Report
|Avg. APR||Last week||6 months ago|
|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.)|
|Updated: November 25, 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.