Credit card issuers left interest rates on brand-new credit card offers alone this week, according to CreditCards.com’s Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.
Credit card issuers left interest rates on brand-new credit card offers alone this week, according to CreditCards.com’s Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. None of the 100 online credit card offers that CreditCards.com tracks each week advertised new APRs. As a result, the average APR on brand-new cards hovered just three basis points above 16% for the second consecutive week.
Interest rates on new credit card offers are currently down by 1.73 percentage points compared to last year. On July 9, 2019, for example, the average credit card APR sat at 17.76% – just four basis points shy of an all-time record high of 17.8%.
But despite dramatically lower APRs on most new card offers, a number of credit card issuers tracked by CreditCards.com are quietly charging higher effective interest rates than they did last year.
Some are doing so by advertising the same APRs they charged when federal interest rates were higher. Others have strategically increased APRs on select cards, such as low interest credit cards. As a result, some new cardholders are technically paying card issuers a higher effective interest rate, even though their lenders are paying significantly lower rates themselves.
See related: How to lower your credit card interest rate
How some lenders are charging higher rates on new cards
When the prime rate moves up or down in tandem with the Federal Reserve’s benchmark interest rate, the federal funds rate, most issuers eventually revise their APRs to reflect the new federal interest rates. That’s because the APR that lenders typically advertise is the sum of both the card’s standard interest rate and the U.S. prime rate.
Although some lenders advertise the card’s interest rate plus prime, most lenders simply advertise one all-inclusive APR.
Lenders aren’t required, though, to revise the APRs they advertise on brand-new credit cards when federal interest rates change. (They do have to revise APRs on open card accounts.)
As a result, some lenders have chosen to leave the APRs they advertise on new variable rate cards unchanged, regardless of federal interest rates. That, in turn, has effectively increased those cards’ rate.
The regional lender First National Bank of Omaha, for example, hasn’t revised the advertised APR on its variable rate American Express card all year, even though the prime rate has dropped by 2.25 percentage points since last July. As a result, the American Express card’s effective interest rate – which is the card’s APR minus the U.S. prime rate – has climbed from 15.74% to 17.99%.
Similarly, Capital One currently advertises the same APR on its line of cards for consumers with average credit that it advertised last year: 26.99%. But with a dramatically lower prime rate, the effective interest rate on those cards is now 23.74% – up from 21.46% in the summer of 2019.
However, despite those significant outliers, most lenders tracked by CreditCards.com have largely matched the Federal Reserve’s rate changes.
As a result, many lenders are charging the same effective interest rates that they charged last year. But borrowers are benefiting from dramatically lower APRs.
In July 2019, for example, Bank of America charged a minimum APR of 16.24% on its cash back credit card and an effective interest rate of 10.74%. Today, it charges the same effective interest rate, but the minimum variable APR it advertises on the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card* is currently 13.99%.
*All information about the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card is no longer available through CreditCards.com.
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: July 8, 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.