Card interest rates remain locked at 15.01 percent

By Kelly Dilworth,

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Average rates on new credit card offers held steady this week, according to the Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The national average annual percentage rate (APR) lingered at 15.01 percent Wednesday for the sixth consecutive week.

None of the issuers tracked by altered interest rates this week. However, that's nothing new.

Card issuers rarely change interest rates these days. As a result, the national average has remained just above 14.9 percent for the past two years.

In the rare instances that issuers have altered interest rates, they have increased rates more times than decreased them, according to data.

As a result, the national average has slowly ticked up in recent years. The last time average rates on new card offers fell below 14 percent was in January 2010.

Credit card mailings up, year-over-year
Despite leaving credit card terms, such as card APRs, largely unchanged, issuers are sending out more offers these days, according to new data from the market research firm Mintel Comperedia. In some cases, issuers are also sweetening the offers they send. 

According to data released March 21, issuers mailed approximately 10 percent more offers in February than the previous year.

Card issuers also courted new cardholders more aggressively by sending out a larger number of offers with some type of interest-free promotion. Among the 301 million card offers mailed in February, 232 million featured a 0 percent APR on purchases -- up from 226 million offers in 2013.

Meanwhile, 225 million offers touted a 0 percent balance transfer deal. That's up from 191 million card offers the year before. 

Analysts at the financial services firm Credit Suisse say competition between credit card issuers is increasing and could get fiercer as the year goes on. As a result, analysts predict substantially more offers will be mailed in 2014 than in 2012 and 2013.

In 2013, issuers mailed approximately 3.9 billion offers -- up from 3 billion offers in 2012. Analysts at Credit Suisse forecast that number will rise to 4.9 billion offers in 2014 -- 1 billion more than last year.

If Credit Suisse's prediction holds true, card issuers will send out more offers this year than they have since 2008. Despite the measurable increase, consumers still won't see nearly as many offers as they did before the recession. In 2006, for example, card issuers mailed 8.1 billion offers -- more than twice the number of offers they sent last year.

See related: Fed holds course toward higher interest rates

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in: Personal Finance Credit and Debt
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