The average credit card APR held steady this week as card issuers left interest rates alone, according to data from CreditCards.com. As a result, the national average card APR remained at its lowest point since June.
Credit card lenders left interest rates on digital credit card offers unchanged this week. As a result, the national average credit card APR for brand-new cards remained at 16% for the third consecutive week.
Most issuers tracked by CreditCards.com haven’t revised the APRs on new card offers since early summer. As a result, average rates have remained mostly static since June.
Over the past 12 weeks, for example, the average new card APR has only changed twice, hovering between 16% and 16.03% since July 1.
Average rates have also remained within rounding distance of 16% since April, mostly due to lower federal interest rates. That’s a big change from earlier this year, when the average card rate remained well above 17%. A year ago, average rates were even higher, with the national average card APR settling at 17.61% in mid-September.
After the Federal Reserve slashed its benchmark interest rate, the federal funds rate, to near zero in March in response to economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, most lenders tracked by CreditCards.com eventually matched the surprise rate cuts. As a result, the average credit card offer advertised a much lower APR than what lenders were offering before the 2020 pandemic.
Rewards cards that previously charged minimum APRs near 17% and 18%, for example, began advertising rates as low as 15% to 16%. In addition, some cards began advertising rates as low as 10% to 12% for the first time in years.
The average card APR would likely be even lower today if all credit card issuers tracked by CreditCards.com had matched the Fed’s 1.5-percentage-point spring rate cut.
But some lenders, such as Capital One, have so far declined to cut rates on general purpose credit cards. Although lenders are required to match federal interest rate changes on open credit cards, they aren’t required to revise the APRs on brand-new offers. Meanwhile, other lenders have hiked rates on select cards after trimming the cards’ APRs in early spring.
See related: How to lower your credit card interest rate
Lenders unusually quiet in past two quarters
CreditCards.com has been tracking the APRs on a representative sample of 100 U.S. credit cards since mid-2007. The last time issuers left credit card offers alone for such long stretches was in 2015, just before the Federal Reserve began revising its benchmark interest rate for the first time in years. At that time, the national average card APR had remained within rounding distance of 15% for five consecutive years.
Once the Federal Reserve began increasing its benchmark interest rate in late 2015, though, card issuers became much more active. In addition to matching federal rate changes, for example, lenders began independently revising APRs much more often than they had previously. Many issuers hiked APRs after significantly retooling a card’s rewards program.
It’s not clear if lenders’ reluctance to revise rates now is related in any way to the Federal Reserve’s rock bottom lending rate or simply to ongoing uncertainty with the pandemic and the economy.
Regardless, borrowers can expect rates on brand-new credit cards to remain relatively low for some time. The Fed has made it clear it has no plans to hike rates itself any time soon.
On Sept. 16, members of the Federal Open Market Committee indicated that the Fed will almost certainly leave rates near zero for the next year. Meanwhile, the majority of members have also projected that rates will likely remain near rock bottom until at least 2023.
Average credit card interest rates this week
|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: September 16, 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.