Rate survey: Credit card average APR holds steady at 14.98%

CreditCards.com

Interest rates on new credit card offers held steady for the third straight week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The national average annual percentage rate ( APR ) on new card offers stayed anchored at 14.98 percent Wednesday. This is the eighth straight week that interest rates have remained just below 15 percent.

Among the 100 cards that CreditCards.com tracks, only one card featured a rate change. The sporting goods store Cabela's lowered the highest available rate on the Cabela's Club Visa card from 18.24 percent to 18.22 percent.

The rate change didn't affect the national average, however, because CreditCards.com only considers a card's lowest possible interest rate when calculating average rates.

Every other card in CreditCards.com's database featured the same rates as last week. Other terms -- on promotional balance transfers and introductory purchases -- also remained unchanged

Issuers cautious, consumers cut debt
Issuers have refrained from heavily experimenting with offer terms for most of 2012. In the past eight months, for example, the national average has moved just 13 times. Promotional offers on balance transfers and introductory purchase rates also have rarely changed.

Experts say that issuers are remaining cautious about the credit they extend to new customers due to the slow pace of recovery from the recession.

The national unemployment rate has stubbornly remained above 8 percent since 2009 and the number of new jobs created in the past two quarters of 2012 has fallen far short of economists' expectations. 

Credit card holders, in turn, appear to be responding to the rocky economic environment by trimming their credit card balances and shying away from charging significant amounts.

Since January, credit card debt has fallen five months out of seven, according to research by the Federal Reserve. Total consumer credit, meanwhile, tumbled in July, the first such decline in almost a year, according to the Fed's monthly consumer credit report released Monday.

Fewer consumers miss loan payments
Consumers aren't just cutting back on debt, however. A record number also are steadily rebuilding their credit histories and paying their bills on time, according to multiple reports.

Late payments on credit cards, for example, fell to a record low in August, according to the Fitch 60-Day Delinquency Index . According to a press release the ratings company issued Monday, the percentage of credit card delinquencies is at its lowest point since Fitch Ratings began tracking credit card payments in the early 1990s.   

Credit card holders are also paying off their balances more quickly, according to Fitch. The Fitch Monthly Payment Rate Index, which tallies the rate at which cardholders pay down their credit card balances, also rose to a record high in August.

In addition, significantly more consumers are paying their home and automobile loans on time as well, according to multiple reports.

The number of late payments on automobile loans fell in the second quarter of 2012, reaching a record low, according to an analysis report from credit reporting agency TransUnion. The steady reduction in late payments occurred despite a significant rise in the amount of debt consumers are taking on to buy new cars and an uptick in the number of loans given to borrowers with less-than-perfect credit, the agency noted in a press release .

Late payments on houses also dipped this summer, according to the July Mortgage Monitor , released Monday by residential mortgage data company Lender Processing Services.

Not all consumers, however, are having an easier time paying their bills. Late payments on student loans increased two quarters in a row in 2012, according to the New York Federal Reserve's most recent report on household debt and credit . The total amount of debt that students are taking on has also increased sharply this year, according to Federal Reserve data.

See related: Libor, the federal funds rate and the US prime rate: A primer

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