Rate survey: Credit card interest rates fall to 14.93 percent

Kelly Dilworth

Interest rates on new credit card offers dipped this week for the first time in more than two months, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The national average annual percentage rate (APR) fell to 14.93 percent Wednesday. This is the first time since July 2012 that the national average has fallen below 14.95 percent.

Capital One spurred this week's rate change by lowering the minimum available rate on the Spark Miles Select Business card from 14.9 percent to 12.9 percent.

The issuer also raised the card's maximum rate by 1 percentage point from 19.9 percent to 20.9 percent. The higher rate didn't affect the national average, however, because CreditCards.com only factors in a card's lowest available rate when calculating average interest rates.

Capital One spokeswoman Alison Cahill-Rouse declined to comment on the card's latest update. "The details of our pricing strategy are proprietary," she wrote in an email. "However, we do adjust rates periodically based on the competitive landscape and market conditions."

U.S. Bank also sweetened the promotional offers on a number of business credit cards this week.

For example, the issuer extended the introductory APR and promotional balance transfer offers on the U.S. Bank Business Platinum card from a maximum of nine months to a maximum of 12 months. Previously, applicants were offered promotional rates that lasted anywhere between six and nine months.

The issuer also extended its 0 percent APR offer on the U.S. Bank Business Cash Rewards card from six months to nine months.  

Loan terms loosen on business cards, but small business owners may not care
The changes to the U.S. Bank and Capital One cards are notable in that they both reflect a slight loosening in terms for small-business credit card holders. For example, this week marks the first time since July 2012 that average interest rates on business cards fell below 13.13 percent. (The current average interest rate for business cards now stands at 12.98 percent -- nearly two full percentage points below the national average for all cards.)

However, a survey of small business owners that was released earlier this month by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) found that a substantial number of small-business owners aren't interested in taking advantage of the loans that are offered to them.

It's not that they're having trouble obtaining affordable credit, according to the NFIB. Just 3 percent of all respondents -- nearly a record low, according to the monthly survey -- reported that trouble with credit was their biggest challenge.

Instead, many small-business owners said they simply weren't interested in taking on more loans this spring. Twenty-nine percent of business owners said they already had all the credit they needed, while 49 percent said they did not want to borrow more.

Small-business owners also reported souring confidence in the economy, after feeling increasingly confident earlier in the year.

"After another false start, small-business confidence has sputtered and stalled again," said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg in a press release accompanying the report.

In the release, Dunkelberg blamed uncertainty over economic recovery for small businesses' disinterest in taking out bigger loans or hiring more staff. "Virtually no owners think the current period is a good time to expand, because they simply don't know what the future holds. So why invest? ... Overall, it appears that there will be little growth coming from the small business half of the economy; as the world economy slows, even big business may suffer," said Dunkelberg.

Sounding a similar note of economic pessimism, a survey released April 23 by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Institute of Management found that accountants and other finance professionals working for both large and small firms are wary too.

Slightly more respondents to the survey said they were more confident in their firms' prospects in the first quarter of 2013 than they were in the last few months of 2012. However, despite the slight uptick in confidence among some, 40 percent of all respondents to the survey worried that their firms may actually do worse going forward.

"Mid-2012 marked a turning point for the U.S. economy as politics cast a long shadow over the business environment, and only now are businesses beginning to recover and look ahead," said Emmanouil Schizas, an economist for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in a press release accompanying the report. "They are still suffering from a political hangover and appear to be waiting to see what happens."

See related: Fed: Card balances rose in February