Average credit card interest rates: Week of May 19, 2021

The average credit card interest rate is 16.15%.

Interest rates on brand-new credit cards remained unchanged this week, according to CreditCards.com’s weekly evaluation of online credit card offers.

None of the 100 cards included in the analysis advertised new interest rates. As a result, the national average credit card APR remained fixed at 16.15% for the seventh straight week.

Card APRs remain near three-year low

Interest rates on brand-new credit cards are slightly higher now than they’ve been through most of the pandemic.

A year ago, for example, the average credit card APR stood at 16%. At that time, most card offers tracked by CreditCards.com were just settling in at a new, pandemic-era normal. By fall 2020, the national average had slipped to 15.97% – a more-than-three-year-low – before ticking up again this winter.

But compared to the APRs that lenders advertised before the coronavirus pandemic reached American shores, the average new card APR continues to be exceptionally low – especially for rewards cards and for cards designed for borrowers with good to excellent credit.

Among the 100 cards tracked weekly by CreditCards.com, for example:

  • A quarter of new credit cards advertise rates starting at 12.99% or lower.
  • A handful of cards start rates as low as 10% to 11% or even less. For example, the starting APR on the Apple Credit Card is 10.99% variable. The lowest possible APR on the USAA Rewards Visa Signature Card* is 9.90% (to 25.90% variable), while Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Credit Card users can get an APR as low as 5.99% (to 18.00% variable).
  • More than half of all cards offer starting rates below 15%, including some of the popular rewards credit cards. For example, the Discover it® Cash Back and Discover it® Miles cards each offer a variable APR of 11.99% to 22.99%. Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card starts at 13.99% variable APR (to 23.99% variable). Chase’s line of cash back cards, including the Chase Freedom Flex℠ card, start at 14.99% (to 23.74% variable), while the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express start as low as 13.99% (to 23.99% variable).

Travel cards have also become much less expensive this year. Among the airline and hotel rewards cards tracked by CreditCards.com, for example, many premium travel rewards cards offer rates as low as 15.99%.

Just over a year ago, by contrast, many of these cards advertised much higher rates. Before the Federal Reserve cut benchmark interest rates by one and a half percentage points in March 2020 – which prompted the majority of lenders to cut rates on new offers by the same amount – rewards cards with APRs below 14% to 15% were unusual. Instead:

  • Premium travel cards with APRs starting at 17% to 18% were particularly common. In February 2020, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card* charged a minimum APR of 17.49%, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve card charged a minimum APR of 18.49%. Now, the APR on the Sapphire Preferred card offers a variable APR of 15.99% to 22.99%, while the Reserve card’s variable APR range is 16.99% to 23.99%.
  • Co-branded airline and hotel cards with APRs above 17% were also common. For example, several airline and hotel cards, including the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard from Barclays and the World of Hyatt Credit Card charged a minimum APR of 17.49%. Meanwhile, other co-branded cards, such as the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card, started APRs at 17.24%. Now, many co-branded airline and hotel cards advertise minimum APRs of around 15% to 16%.
  • Before the pandemic, many cash back cards started APRs at 14% to 16% and capped maximum APRs at 25% or more. Now, it’s more common to see cash back card APRs starting below 14% to 15% and maxing out well below 25%.

Interest rates on new credit card offers are likely to remain low for some time. The Federal Reserve has made clear that it has no plans to increase rates any time soon. Meanwhile, most lenders have refrained from increasing interest rates for more than a year now. As a result, borrowers who can qualify for them may be able to secure cheaper cards now than they’ve been able to get in years.

*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the USAA Rewards Visa Signature card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. These cards are no longer available on our site.

CreditCards.com’s Weekly Rate Report

Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.15% 16.15% 16.04%
Low interest 12.91% 12.91% 12.77%
Cash back 16.03% 16.03% 15.85%
Balance transfer 14.03% 14.03% 13.85%
Business 14.22% 14.22% 13.91%
Student 15.98% 15.98% 16.12%
Airline 15.51% 15.51% 15.50%
Rewards 15.85% 15.85% 15.75%
Instant approval 18.47% 18.47% 18.38%
Bad credit 25.30% 25.30% 25.3%
Methodology: The national average credit card APR is comprised of 100 of the most popular credit cards in the country, including cards from dozens of leading U.S. issuers and representing every card category listed above. (Introductory, or teaser, rates are not included in the calculation.)
Source: CreditCards.com
Updated: May 19, 2021

Historic interest rates by card type

Some credit cards charge even higher rates, on average. The type of rate you get will depend in part on the category of credit card you own. For example, even the best travel credit cards often charge higher rates than basic, low interest credit cards. CreditCards.com has been calculating average rates for a wide variety of credit card categories, including student cards, balance transfer cards, cash back cards and more, since 2007.

How to get a low credit card interest rate

Your odds of getting approved for a card’s lowest rate will increase the more you improve your credit score. Some factors that influence your credit card APR will be out of your control, such as the length of time you’ve been handling credit. However, even if you’re new to credit or are rebuilding your score, there are steps you can take to ensure a lower APR. For example:

  • Pay your bills on time. The single most important factor influencing your credit score – and your ability to win a lower rate – is your track record of making on-time payments. Lenders are more likely to trust you with a competitive APR – and other positive terms, such as a big credit limit – if you have a lengthy history of paying your bills on time.
  • Keep your balances low. Lenders also want to see that you are responsible with your credit and don’t overcharge. As a result, credit scores take into account the amount of credit you’re using, compared to how much credit you’ve been given. This is known as your credit utilization ratio. Typically, the lower your ratio, the better. For example, personal finance experts often recommend that you keep your balances well below 30% of your total credit limit.
  • Build a lengthy and diverse credit history. Lenders also like to see that you’ve been successfully using credit for a long time and have experience with different types of credit, including revolving credit and installment loans. As a result, credit scores, such as the FICO score and VantageScore, factor in the average length of your credit history and the types of loans you’ve handled (which is known as your credit mix). To keep your credit history as long as possible, continue to use your oldest credit card so your lender doesn’t close it.
  • Call your lender. If you’ve successfully owned a credit card for a long time, you may be able to convince your lender to lower your interest rate – especially if you have excellent credit. Reach out to your lender and ask if they’d be willing to negotiate a lower APR.
  • Monitor your credit report. Check your credit reports regularly to make sure you’re being accurately scored. The last thing you want is for a mistake or unauthorized account to drag down your credit score. You have the right to check your credit reports from each major credit bureau (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once per year for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Source: creditcards.com