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Rate survey: Average card APR remains unchanged at 15.22 percent

Kelly Dilworth

The average APR on new card offers remained near a record high this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

For the fourth week in a row, the national average annual percentage rate remained at 15.22 percent -- an almost five-year high.

None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com advertised new interest rates. Promotional rates remained unchanged as well.

This is the 38th consecutive week in which the national average APR has stayed above 15.10 percent. Meanwhile, the average APR for the year rose to 15.18 percent -- an all-time high.

Rates haven’t stayed this high for this long since CreditCards.com began tracking rates in mid-2007. Rates on new and current card offers are expected to rise again after the Federal Reserve raises its benchmark interest rate, the federal funds rate.

Credit card issuers mail out more offers
In an effort to reach more cardholders, credit card issuers are sending significantly more offers this year than they sent in 2015.

According to research released September 20 by Credit Suisse, credit card issuers mailed 353 million new credit card offers last month -- up from close to 250 million offers in August 2015.  

By the end of 2016, Credit Suisse predicts issuers will have mailed roughly 4.3 million offers – up from just 3.9 million offers last year. The last time issuers sent so many mailings was in 2011 when card issuers sent 4.8 million offers to consumers’ homes.

Consumers still don’t receive nearly as many credit card offers as they did before the 2008 financial crisis, however. In 2007, for example, issuers mailed 7.2 million credit card offers. In 2006, 8.1 million were mailed. However, analysts at Credit Suisse say cardholders can expect to receive significantly more offers over the next several months as issuers put more resources into marketing. “We believe that competitiveness remains high and will continue to ramp up in late 2016 as the major issuers seek to grow accounts,” wrote Moshe Orenbuch and Serena Hong in a research note.

The uptick in offers is a good sign for cardholders since it could mean that issuers are feeling more confident about lending and are eager to win over new customers. As they compete more aggressively for new customers, some cardholders could see substantially better offers, with longer promotional periods and more generous rewards.

Already, issuers have sweetened some promotional balance transfer offers and sent out slightly more offers advertising a 0 percent teaser rate on purchases.

Among the 353 million card offers consumers received, for example, 73 percent advertised a promotional 0 percent APR on purchases – up from 72 percent in August 2015. Sixty-six percent advertised a 0 percent teaser APR on balance transfers – up from 61 percent in 2015.  

Meanwhile, the average balance transfer period rose to 14.4 months in August – up from an average of 14.2 months the previous year.  Average balance transfer periods have remained relatively flat since 2014 and have mostly stayed near 14 months. However, some card issuers are rewarding select cardholders with balance transfer promotions that last as long as 18 months.  

See related: Study: Rising rates will impact 92 million US consumers