Card rates remain locked at 15.01 percent for 7th week

CreditCards.com

Interest rates on new credit card offers didn't budge this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. 

The national average annual percentage rate (APR) remained locked at 15.01 percent Wednesday for the seventh consecutive week.

This is the second time this year that interest rates have remained unchanged for more than six weeks. 

Credit card issuers have left interest alone for most of 2014. In November 2013, average rates rose to 15.06 percent and remained there for nine straight weeks. Since then, rates have changed somewhat more often -- but not by much.

Since Jan. 29, interest rates have remained unchanged 15 weeks out of 20. The few times that interest rates have moved, the changes have been tiny. The national average hasn't risen above 15.02 percent since Jan. 22. Meanwhile, it hasn't fallen below 15 percent since September 2013. 

Delinquencies remain near record lows
Credit card holders are starting to use their cards more often this year, according to multiple reports.

The Federal Reserve's April report on consumer credit, released June 6, found that credit card balances swelled by more than 12 percent in April after increasing by more than 3 percent in March.

But despite taking on substantially more debt, most credit card holders are still managing to pay their bills on time. New research released June 17 by the credit reporting agency Experian, for example, shows that the number of bank card holders who fell behind on payments inched up slightly in May, compared to the previous month.

However, year-over-year, the bank card delinquency rate (which measures late payments by at least 30 days or more) actually fell this year from 3.63 percent in May 2013 to a near record low of 2.97 percent in May 2014. The all-time "historic low" for bank card delinquencies recorded by Experian occurred in March when the delinquency rate fell to 2.73 percent, according to an April 2014 report

A separate report released June 16 by the financial services firm Credit Suisse also found that late payments on credit cards are rarer than they used to be. "Overall, credit quality remains strong," wrote Moshe Orenbuch and Lesley Robertshaw in a research note. But "we would expect some increase in delinquencies in the coming months, followed by higher losses in late 2014 and early 2015."

The expected increase in late payments could be partially due to relaxed lending standards as more issuers approve applicants with lower credit scores. It could also result from current credit card holders using their cards more frequently. 

Prices jump in May
In addition, some cardholders may also have trouble keeping up with their credit card payments as prices on everyday items continue to squeeze their budgets.

According to new research released June 17 by the Labor Department, for example, prices on consumer goods, such as food and utilities, spiked last month, causing the overall consumer price index to increase by 0.4 percent. (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm)

That's the largest single increase in more than a year, said the Labor Department. Consumers paid higher prices on regular household purchases, such as food and medical expenses, electricity, shelter and gasoline.

They also paid more for extras, such as airline tickets, new cars and clothing.

The only consumer goods that were somewhat less expensive last month were used cars, fuel oil and piped gas.

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