The average credit card interest rate is 16.12%

The national average credit card APR held steady this week after inching up two weeks in a row. This is the second consecutive week that the average APR for brand-new credit cards has registered 12 basis points above 16%, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

Meanwhile, this is the 46th consecutive week that the average new card APR has remained within rounding distance of 16%.

The average APR is still historically expensive

CreditCards.com has tracked the standard APRs of a representative sample of 100 online card offers every week since mid-2007. 

Currently, APRs on brand-new credit cards are down considerably compared to recent years. For example:

  • The average yearly APR in 2019 was 17.57%.
  • In 2018, it was 16.8%.
  • In 2020, it was 16.32%.

But historically, interest rates on brand new offers are still quite high. For example:

  • In 2017, for example, the average yearly APR stood at 15.89%.
  • In 2016, it was 15.18%.
  • And between 2011 and 2015, it remained stubbornly within rounding distance of 15% every year.

When CreditCards.com first began checking interest rates, by contrast, new card APRs were even lower – in part because lenders had more freedom then to quickly hike cardholders’ APRs once a brand-new card was opened.

For example, the average lender advertised an 11.54% APR in 2008, according to CreditCards.com data. In 2009, the average credit card APR started at 12.34%. But at the time, a cardholder who opened a card with such a low rate was at higher risk than they are today to watch their credit card APRs go up quickly.

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 sought to protect cardholders from surprise rate hikes by requiring lenders to give anyone with an open credit card account at least 45 days’ advance notice before hiking their APR. As a result, lenders appeared to become significantly more cautious about the starting rates they advertised. For example, in 2010, the average card APR climbed from 12.87% in January to 14.68% in December. Average rates then remained near 15% for several consecutive years.

Lenders clearly became more comfortable with revising new card APRs after 2016, though.  When the Federal Reserve revises its benchmark interest rate, most new card APRs change by the same amount.

Lenders also began independently revising card offers more often, particularly between 2017 and early 2020. But the economy soured last spring, prompting the Federal Reserve to slash federal interest rates to near zero. As a result, lenders have become much more reluctant to significantly revise offers.

Majority of lenders appear to be avoiding major changes

None of the lenders tracked by CreditCards.com shook up credit card terms this week. But these days, that’s nothing new. Most credit card issuers have become much slower than they were in recent years to dramatically alter credit card pricing. As a result, many of the most popular credit cards have appeared frozen in time for much of the past year.

Among the 100 cards checked weekly by CreditCards.com, for example, more than 90% of cards currently advertise the exact same APR that they advertised months ago. Meanwhile, a majority of cards included in the weekly rate report haven’t advertised a new credit card APR since last spring.

U.S. Bank has remained the one exception: it has made a number of dramatic rate changes in recent months and has been responsible for most of the rate changes CreditCards.com has recorded since November 2020.

See related: How do credit card APRs work?

CreditCards.com’s Weekly Rate Report

Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.12% 16.12% 16.03%
Low interest 12.90% 12.90% 12.83%
Cash back 15.94% 15.94% 16.09%
Balance transfer 13.93% 13.93% 13.93%
Business 14.22% 14.22% 13.91%
Student 16.12% 16.12% 16.12%
Airline 15.56% 15.56% 15.48%
Rewards 15.81% 15.81% 15.82%
Instant approval 18.47% 18.47% 18.65%
Bad credit 25.30% 25.30% 24.43%
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: February 10, 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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