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.
Most lenders left credit card offers alone this week, according to CreditCards.com’s Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. As a result, consumers shopping for a new card continued to enjoy unusually low rates – especially compared to last year. A year ago, the average card APR was at least one and a half to two points higher, on average, than it is today.
On Sept. 18, 2019, for example, the average U.S. credit card advertised a minimum APR of 17.61% and a maximum APR of 24.98%, according to CreditCards.com data. Just a few months earlier, interest rates on brand-new cards were even higher, with the average credit card APR peaking at a range of 17.8% to 25.16% in July 2019.
Today, by contrast, credit card shoppers can expect to see the average credit card advertising a range closer to 16% to 23.33%. Some general-purpose cards from major issuers are even cheaper.
Among the least expensive rewards cards, for example, applicants with excellent credit could potentially snag a cash back card from Discover with an ultra-competitive 11.99% variable APR. Alternatively, cardholders may qualify for a rewards card from Wells Fargo with a 12.49% APR or a rewards card from American Express with a 12.99% variable APR. A year ago, by contrast, rewards cards with rates as low as 12 to 13% were exceedingly rare.
Regional and specialty banks and credit unions offer even lower rates, on average. Among the most competitive cards tracked by CreditCards.com, for example:
- USAA offers a minimum APR as low as 9.9% on its cash back and points rewards cards.
- Navy Federal Credit Union offers cash back card holders an APR as low as 9.65%.
- Huntington Bank advertises an 11.99% APR on its Voice Rewards card.
- SunTrust offers rewards card holders an 11.24% APR.
Interest rates on new card offers will almost certainly rise again once the Federal Reserve eventually begins raising rates, as most lenders typically follow suit and raise new card APRs.
In fact, that’s why APRs on most credit card offers are so comparatively low these days. After gradually trimming interest rates in the second half of 2019, the Fed dramatically cut rates in mid-March, pushing the federal funds rate to near zero. Overall, the federal funds rate fell by 2.25 percentage points between 2019 and 2020.
Most cards tracked by CreditCards.com have cut APRs by the same amount, causing the average card APR to fall nearly as sharply as federal interest rates.
Borrowers are likely to continue seeing relatively low rates on most new card offers for some time.
After a federal open market committee meeting last week, the majority of rate-setting committee members predicted that federal interest rates would remain at rock bottom for at least another year or more.
See related: How doed credit card APR work?
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: September 23, 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.
See related: How to lower your credit card interest rate