For the third week in a row, the average APR on new credit cards is 15.97%.
More than a dozen major credit card issuers tracked weekly by CreditCards.com left card APRs alone again this week. As a result, the national average credit card APR remained just below 16% for the third consecutive week.
Average credit card APRs are currently 1.38 percentage points below where they stood this time last year.
CreditCards.com has tracked the APRs of a representative sample of 100 U.S. credit cards since mid-2007. Over the past decade, such big year-over-year drops in average rates is all but unheard of. Since 2008, for example, CreditCards.com has detected a year-over-year rate increase in annual rates every year except 2015. At that time, the average APR for the year dipped just slightly, falling from 15.02% in 2014 to 14.96% in 2015.
When you compare today’s rates to the national average card APR’s peak in July of 2019, the difference is even more stark.
Nearly 15 months ago, for example, the average new card APR was 17.8% – 1.83 percentage points higher than the average new card APR today.
Many existing cardholders are enjoying lower rates
Most balance transfer credit cards give consumers just 12 to 15 months to pay off a balance before the card’s standard rate kicks in. So many consumers who applied for a balance transfer card in the summer of 2019 are now poised to see their card’s standard APR be applied for the first time.
For those consumers, the APRs they accepted in 2019 are likely much higher than what they’d get if they applied for the same card today. For example:
- The Chase Freedom credit card charged a 16.24% minimum APR in July 2019 – 1.24 percentage points higher than the rebranded Chase Freedom Flex℠ card charges today.
- The Citi® Double Cash Card charged a 15.74% APR – 1.75 percentage points higher than it charges today.
- The AmEx Everyday® Credit Card* charged a 15.24% APR – 2.25 percentage points more than it charges today.
However, thanks to federal rate changes, they won’t actually have to pay the rate they originally agreed to. So many cardholders will likely get a significant break in the rates.
A consumer who applied for a balance transfer card with a 17.8% APR in July of 2019 can now expect at least a 15.55% APR once the card’s standard rate kicks in. That’s because most variable rate credit cards are tied to the U.S. prime rate, which, in turn, is affected by the federal funds rate.
Since July 2019, the Federal Reserve has cut its benchmark interest rate, the federal funds rate, by 2.25 percentage points, causing the U.S. prime to fall to its lowest point since 2015.
As a result:
- A consumer who transferred a balance onto the Chase Freedom card in July 2019 at the card’s lowest possible rate, for example, can now expect a 13.99% APR (a full point lower than new Chase Freedom Flex applicants are charged).
- A cardholder who transferred a balance onto the Citi Double Cash card can now expect a 13.49% APR if they received the card’s best rate (half a point lower than a new Double Cash cardholder could get).
- And a cardholder who qualified for the AmEx Everyday card’s best rate can expect the same APR as brand-new cardholders: 12.99%.
Consumers who are applying for a brand-new balance transfer card today, though, aren’t always so lucky. Average balance transfer APRs are down significantly since last year – but they haven’t tumbled nearly as sharply as federal interest rates. That’s because lenders are required to match federal rate changes on existing card accounts that are tied to the U.S. prime rate. However, they are free to set APRs on brand-new cards as they wish.
As a result, some lenders, including Citi, Chase, Capital One and Wells Fargo, have independently hiked interest rates on select cards in recent months, even though federal interest rates have declined.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card card, for example, charged a minimum 17.99% variable APR in July 2019. Today, it charges a minimum 17.24% variable APR – just half a point lower, despite a dramatically lower prime rate.
However, cardholders who transferred a balance to the Venture Rewards card in July 2019 can expect a much lower APR: unless Capital One warned them of a rate increase, those who were assigned a 17.99% APR in July 2019 should now enjoy a comparatively low 15.74% APR.
See related: How do credit card APRs work?
* Information about the Amex EveryDay Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.
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: October 21, 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