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Rate survey: Credit card interest rates hold at 14.95 percent for seventh week

Kelly Dilworth

Interest rates on new credit card offers lingered at 14.95 percent for the seventh straight week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

This is the 11th week this year that the national average percentage rate (APR) has remained the same.

Since Jan. 1, only two issuers tracked by CreditCards.com, Wells Fargo and Chase, have made changes to a card's lowest available interest rate.

Two other credit card issuers did make changes to their promotional offers this week, however. The clothing goods store L.L. Bean eliminated its 12-month, 0 percent balance transfer offer on the L.L. Bean Visa credit card.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, meanwhile, swapped out its 0 percent balance transfer offer on the PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa card for a low-rate offer that lasts indefinitely. New cardholders are now eligible for a 4.99 percent introductory rate that lasts until the transferred balance is paid off. 

The credit union's low-rate, long-term balance transfer offer is unusual among credit card offers. Most promotional balance transfer offers have a specific deadline -- often 12 to 15 months after the balance is transferred over. However, the credit union's offer isn't new. 

Pentagon Federal Credit Union first introduced its unconventional balance transfer offer in April 2012. The credit union tested the unconventional offer by introducing it to just a select number of cards, including the PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa card and the PenFed Promise Visa card. 

In January 2013, the credit union briefly replaced the 4.99 percent balance transfer rate on the Platinum Cash Rewards card with a more traditional 0 percent offer that lasts for 18 months.

Now, three months later, the credit union appears to have changed its mind. All credit cards offered online by Pentagon Federal Credit Union -- including the Cash Rewards card -- now feature the credit union's unique promotional balance transfer rate of 4.99 percent for the life of the balance, according to a survey of the issuer's site. 

Credit card delinquencies again fall to record lows
Since the recession, issuers have remained strikingly conservative about the credit card offers they are willing to extend to new cardholders. Current cardholders, however, have proven to be far better customers than they were in the past.

The number of late payments that cardholders made to their credit card companies, for example, fell again in the final quarter of 2012, according to the American Bankers Association's most recent Consumer Credit Delinquency Bulletin.

In the fourth quarter of 2012, fewer than 3 percent of all credit card accounts (2.47 percent, according to the bulletin) were found to be late by 30 days or more. 

That's the lowest level of late payments in 18 years, according to the report.  

Experts say that the most recent delinquency figures underscore a positive long-term trend for U.S. households that could bode well for the economy -- and lenders -- in the future. 

"Consumers continue to carefully manage their finances in an effort to get debt levels under control and build up a secure financial base," said the American Bankers Association's chief economist James Chessen in a news release . "While this conservative approach to credit may slow economic growth in the short-term, it portends stronger, more consistent growth in the future. The sharp decline in delinquencies reinforces the notion that the economic recovery has become more self-sustaining and is on a path to increased growth."

That said, despite the positive trend, consumers are still facing an extraordinary amount of economic uncertainty going forward, said Chessen. If the slow-moving economy sours, consumers' ability to make timely payments could be derailed by financial circumstances outside of their control. 

"Make no mistake, a great deal of uncertainty still lingers over this economy," said Chessen in the release. "Furloughs from sequestration, falling disposable income and increased healthcare and regulatory costs for businesses could lead to challenges in the year ahead."

See related: Card balances rose in January , Fed stays the course on interest rates