Average Credit Card Interest Rate

05.08.2021
Milena

Scoring a good APR is essential, especially if you often make late payments. The average credit card interest rate in the US has been moving between 12% and 17% over the past several years. This average changes every quarter depending on the latest card deals banks and credit unions release. Americans with better FICO scores meanwhile always get lower credit card interest rates. Knowing the average, however, helps you set your expectations straight and recognize reasonable offers.

Credit Card Interest Rate – What It Is and How It Is Calculated

The annual percentage rate (APR) is the fee you pay for borrowing money from lenders. So, when you use your card and carry unpaid balances, the card issuer will charge an interest rate on them. The average credit card interest in early 2021 was 16.28% on all accounts.

Interest rates on credit card deals vary and depend on the card issuer, card type, and the customer. Every credit card has its APR, fees, and terms. That’s why it’s essential to carefully read all the fine print before applying for a card under your name. Below, learn how banks calculate card APR and what affects it:

  • Type of credit card – Whether you get a low-interest card, balance transfer card, student card, or a rewards card plays an essential role. The average APR on credit cards is higher on deals for bad credit, instant approval, and student cards. Low interest and business cards, by contrast, come with a more reasonable credit card interest rate.
  • Card issuer – Different card companies have different offers. Meaning, one issuer might have better interest rates for students, while other banks focus on pleasing travelers or business owners. If you have a poor FICO score, for instance, you want one of the best credit cards for bad credit.
  • Customer credit history – The average credit card APR for different types of customers differs, as well. Americans that maintain a good credit score have access to more favorable terms. Those with poor credit, in contrast, get approved for cards with high interest rates. The reasons are apparent. People with a strong credit history have better creditworthiness. Meaning, they are more likely to make timely payments rather than generate debt. The situation is quite the opposite for those who have a low FICO rating. So, the likelihood of Americans with bad financial history getting typical credit card APR is low.

Latest Interest Rates on Credit Cards

According to the latest data, the average interest rate on commercial bank credit cards has been moving between 14% and 15%. The Federal Reserve reports show that in the second quarter of 2019, the average interest on all accounts was 15.13%. By Q1 of 2020, it had dropped insignificantly to 15.09%. The APR kept decreasing, reaching 14.52% in Q2 2020.

The accounts assessed interest meanwhile reached a high of 17.14% in Q2 2019 and had been falling, to resume its upward trend. The assessed average APR dropped in Q2 2020 but has since climbed higher. In the table below, you can compare how the interest rates on credit card deals changed between 2020 and 2021.

PeriodCommercial Bank Interest Rates – All AccountsCommercial Bank Interest Rates – Accounts Assessed Interest
2020 Q1 15.09%16.61%
2020 Q2 14.52%15.78%
2020 Q3 14.58%16.43%
2020 Q4 14.65%16.28%
2021 Q114.75%15.91%

Historical Changes in Credit Card Interest Rates

If we look back, Americans these days deal with a high credit card APR. The last time the average interest rates for credit cards moved over the 15% mark was back in the 1990s. In 1995, it hit a high of 16.14%. The trend of a high credit card interest rate average continued between 1995 and 2000. During that period, the commercial bank interest rate on credit card plans never dropped under 15%.

Some good credit card interest rate averages were seen in mid-2008, late 2013, and 2014. These years, the APR was under 12%, with the all-time low of 11.82% being recorded in August 2014. The national average APR has been on the rise ever since. The upwards trend reached a peak of 15.13% in May 2019. Then, there was a downwards movement, and the interest rate settled at 14.52% in May 2020, before starting a steady climb to reach 14.75 in the first quarter of 2021.

In the following table, you can see the changes in the interest rates between 2015 and 2019. 

Interest Rates for Different Types of Credit Cards

The average credit card interest rate depends on the type of card you hope to get. The difference between the cards with the lowest APR and those with the highest APR is nearly 12%. Meaning, users of some cards pay significantly lower fees on owed balances than the rest.

If you carry balances of $1,000 on your card with an APR of 13%, you’ll pay $130 in fees. Those with a credit card whose APR is 24%, by contrast, will pay $240. This difference is considerable and quickly adds up, especially for people who often miss payments.

Cards With Best and Worst APR

In the table below, we have listed the average credit card interest rates from best to worst for different types of cards. Sometimes, you may not have a choice of what card you qualify for. When you have a good credit score and regular income, however, you have more freedom to make smarter choices.

Credit Card TypeAverage Interest RateAverage Interest Rate – 6 Months Ago
National average16.15%15.97%
Low interest12.91%12.77%
Cash back16.03%15.85%
Balance transfer14.03%13.85%
Business14.22%13.91%
Student15.98%16.12%
Airline15.51%15.50%
Rewards15.85%15.75%
Instant approval18.47%18.38%

Credit Cards With the Best APRs

As you can see in the table above, low-interest cards come with the lowest standard credit card interest rate. The APR for such cards is 12.96% and by 1.12% lower than the one for balance transfer cards. Their typical interest rate is 14.03%. Please note that the best balance transfer cards often come with 0% APR during the first year. Afterward, they tend to have a high credit card APR. Business cards round up the list of top three types of credit cards with low-interest rates. Their current APR is 14.22%, down from 13.91% six months ago.

Credit Cards With Worst APRs

All the other types of cards have a standard credit card APR of over 15%. Some of the worst interest rates on credit card deals are for cash back, instant approval, and bad credit cards. Their average APRs are 16.03%, 18.47%, and 25.30%, respectively. Low credit cards had an even higher interest rate average of 24.43% six months ago.

Even the best credit cards for bad credit have higher than average interest rates. They also lack perks, rewards, and have lower spending limits. Still, for Americans with low FICO ratings, they are sometimes the only choice and a way to improve their FICO score.

Instant approval cards have a normal credit card APR of 18.47%, which used to be 18.38% half a year ago. Student cards also have a high credit card interest rate – 16.78% – as this category of consumers doesn’t boast high creditworthiness.

Typical APR by Credit Score

Banks and other institutions that issue credit cards always check the applicant’s FICO score before offering them a deal. Those with an excellent rating have higher creditworthiness than Americans with bad ratings. The normal credit card interest rate for the first one, consequently, is always lower than for the latter.

In the table below, we will analyze the typical APR on cards offered to people in different credit score categories. We will also see how these averages have changed in the past six months.

Credit ScoreCredit Card Interest RateCredit Card Interest Rate – 6 Months Ago
Excellent13.04%12.99%
Good19.30%19.24%
Fair23.13%22.84%
Bad25.30%24.43%

Americans with an excellent credit score get a 13.04% average interest rate for credit cards. Only six months ago, however, this average was lower at 12.99%. Still, it’s much better than the current interest rate average imposed on those with bad credit. They deal with a high credit card interest rate of 24.43%. This average is 11.39% higher than the average consumers with excellent FICO ratings pay. Six months ago, Americans with a poor financial history dealt with a soaring APR average of over 25%.

Consumers with excellent and fair credit ratings also pay interest rates above the national average. The average credit card interest rate for Americans with a fair score is 23.13%. For those with a good score, the typical interest rate on credit cards is 19.30%.

Tips to Avoid Soaring Credit Card Interest Rates

The climbing card APRs shouldn’t discourage you from getting a card. A credit card is one of the best ways to improve your credit score. It directly affects several vital credit score factors like credit history and credit utilization ratio. So, we have some tips on how to avoid paying a high average interest rate on a credit card. These tips won’t get you a better APR, but they will teach you how to avoid being affected by it.

  • Understand how interest rates work – You only pay interest rates on balances you carry on your card. If you pay them in time, you won’t have to bother with APR charges. The standard grace period between a statement date and the due date is about 21 days. Meaning, you have 21 days to pay owed balances before the bank applies interest rate fees.
  • Make timely payments – Paying due balances in time is the best way to avoid the soaring average APR for credit card deals. That’s also a great way to avoid late payments that significantly lower your credit score. It’s smart to set up automatic payments or pay them as soon as you receive your statement. People often forget to make payments, and then they can’t escape the interest rate nor the credit card damage.
  • Don’t overspend – Another tip is to avoid spending more than you can afford. That way, you won’t risk being unable to make timely payments. If you have late and missed payments in your credit history, you can forget about average APR credit cards. All following offers will come with higher interest rates.
  • Make a budget – This step is a way to control your overspending habits. By creating and sticking to a budget, you’re less likely to spend money you don’t have. A budget has many other benefits, too. It helps you to track where your money is going and to meet your saving goals.

FAQs

What is a good interest rate on a credit card?

In early 2021, APR was 14.58% on average. Any offers around this figure fall under good APR credit cards. It’s also essential to consider the type of card you’re applying to get. Not all cards have the same average interest rate. 

Cards for Americans with bad credit, for example, come with an average credit card APR of 24.43%. Low-interest cards come with an average interest of 12.91%. So, to know whether the APR offered to you is right, you should check the rate for the specific month. Plus, you need to know the average interest rates for the particular type of card.

What is a credit card interest rate?

This is the price you pay to banks and other financial institutions for the money you borrow from them. In 2021, the rates moved between 14% and 15%. Meaning, you pay between 14% and 15% on any unpaid balances you carry on your card. 

What is the average APR for a credit card?

The national average interest rate on cards was 14.58% in early 2021. This figure continually changes as new offers hit the market. Also, different card deals come with varying APRs. 

Low-interest cards have typical credit card interest rates of 12.91%, while bad credit cards have an APR of 25.30%. Finally, the applicant’s FICO score also affects the interest rates on card deals. So, those with an excellent score get rates of about 13.04%, while those with poor history get APRs of 25.30%.

Final Words

In the past several years, the average credit card interest rate has been on the rise. In early 2019, it reached a high of 15.13% and has been moving between 14% and 15% ever since. Still, this national average doesn’t mean that you will get this APR when applying for a credit card. The interest rate on credit card deals depends on several factors, including card type and the applicant’s financial history. So, make sure to maintain a good credit score and focus on low-interest credit cards whenever possible. You will end up paying substantial interest rates otherwise.

References: Federal Reserve, Experian, FRED, CreditCards, WalletHub

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