Credit card interest rates hold steady at 15.03 percent

Kelly Dilworth
October 30, 2013

Interest rates on new card offers lingered at 15.03 percent Wednesday for the fourth straight week, according to the Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

None of the cards tracked by advertised new interest rates.

For the second consecutive week, Barclays floated a slightly higher APR on the Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature card. However, the hotel card's newest rate didn't affect the national average because the card's original APR is still being advertised online. Some Wyndham Rewards card applicants are now offered an APR range of 15.24 percent to 19.99 percent. Others are offered an APR range of 13.24 percent to 19.24 percent.

Meanwhile, Chase eliminated the promotional APR on one of its cash-back credit cards. Previously, applicants who qualified for the Chase Freedom card had 15 months to make interest-free purchases. Chase left the card's 15-month 0 percent balance transfer offer alone.

Retail spending picks up slightly
New research from the Commerce Department shows that retail sales inched up last month, despite lower levels of consumer confidence and slower employment growth. According to advance estimates released Oct. 29 by the Census Bureau, retail sales, excluding sales for automobiles and auto parts, rose 0.4 percent in September.

With plunging auto sales factored in, however, overall retail sales actually fell 0.1 percent in September. As auto dealers suffered a more than 2 percent drop in sales, most other retailers saw a slight boost last month. Year over year, retail sales are currently up by 3.2 percent, said the Commerce Department.

Food sales were especially strong last month. Grocery sales, for example, rose by a full percentage point in September after falling by 0.2 percent the previous month.

Restaurants also enjoyed a significant uptick in customers. Food services and drinking places rang up 0.9 percent more sales in September.

Meanwhile, electronics stores saw more people lining up at cash registers last month as well, likely due to the September release of the iPhone 5S and 5C. Electronics and appliance stores combined reported a 0.7 percent boost in sales.

In addition, consumers bought more furniture and gardening supplies last month as well as books, sporting goods and music.

Fewer consumers purchased new clothes, however, despite back-to-school sales that lasted through September. For the second month in a row, clothing sales dropped, this time by 0.5 percent. Department stores sales also slipped, dropping by 0.9 percent in September.

Consumers purchased substantially fewer cars last month as well, in part because of the timing of this year's Labor Day holiday - a traditionally strong sales weekend. According to multiple reports, some of this year's Labor Day weekend sales were counted in August, rather than September, helping drag down September's overall sales.

According to the Commerce Department, motor vehicles sales fell by 2.4 percent in September, after increasing by 0.8 percent in August.

Confidence tumbles
Despite spending slightly more last month, consumers spent much of October in a sour mood, according to research released October 29 by The Conference Board, likely dampening their willingness to spend.

According to The Conference Board's latest consumer confidence index, consumer sentiment dove sharply in October, thanks to ongoing uncertainty over the 16-day government shutdown and lawmakers' near-brush with defaulting on the U.S. government's debt.

"Consumer confidence deteriorated considerably as the federal government shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis took a particularly large toll on consumers' expectations," said The Conference Board's Lyn Franco in a statement.

Consumers reported feeling worse about the overall state of the economy and were especially pessimistic about the next six months. For example, people were considerably less likely to expect business conditions to improve before next spring and were also less confident that the job market would improve.

Analysts say that consumers' expectations could remain low for some time. "Similar declines in confidence were experienced during the payroll tax hike earlier this year, the fiscal cliff discussions in late 2012, and the government shutdown in 1995/1996," said Franco. "However, given the temporary nature of the current resolution, confidence is likely to remain volatile for the next several months."

See related: Card debt fell in August