Credit card interest rates hold steady at 15.03 percent

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Average rates on new card offers remained unchanged this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The national average annual percentage rate (APR) remained at 15.03 percent Wednesday. 

Most issuers left interest rates alone this week. Barclays introduced a slightly higher APR to the Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature card. However, the change didn't affect the national average because Barclays still offers the card's lower APR to some applicants.


For the fifth time in three months, Barclays also revised the promotional offer on the US Airways Premier World MasterCard. This week, Barclays trimmed the airline card's 0 percent balance transfer offer from 15 months to 12 months. In addition, Barclays introduced a 12-month, interest-free offer on purchases.

Discover card was also active. The issuer eliminated the introductory APR on the "it" card for students. Previously, students had six months to make interest-free purchases.

Holiday shopping forecasts remain mixed
After a sluggish summer, retailers and credit card issuers are now gearing up for the holiday season. However, uncertainty created by this month's government shutdown has made it hard for retailers to predict just how successful they'll be in luring holiday shoppers to spend.

A fresh report from Deloitte, released Oct. 22, shows that before the government shutdown, consumers planned to spend an average of $35 more this holiday season than they planned to spend last year.

According to the survey, conducted in September, consumers said they planned to spend, on average, about $421 on holiday gifts this year -- up from $386 the year before.

Consumers also indicated that they were going to spend slightly more this holiday season on personal purchases. For example, according to the survey, consumers said they wanted to spend about 14 percent more this year on something extra for themselves or for their family members. Respondents also said they were going to spend about 25 percent more on sprucing up their homes with new holiday decorations or furnishings.

Analysts at Deloitte say they are encouraged by consumers' optimism. Before the fiscal crisis threatened to derail the economic recovery, 54 percent of consumers also told researchers that they believed the economy was on the upswing.

"The survey reveals a brighter consumer spending outlook that we've seen in several years," said Deloitte's Alison Paul in a statement . "Consumers are feeling more generous about gift spending, and we are encouraged by their plans to spend more on going out for celebrations, decorating their homes and treating themselves and their families to 'early gifts' while holiday shopping this year."  

That said, a separate report from Gallup showed that consumer confidence took a sharp nosedive directly after the government shutdown, leading some analysts to speculate that the two-and-a-half week crisis could negatively impact consumers' willingness to spend.

According to Paul, the last-minute resolution to the crisis may soothe consumers' worries for now. "The government shutdown and debt crisis had the potential to dampen consumer sentiment. However, the settlement likely averted any significant impact on the holiday season," said Paul. "The timely resolution of those issues may also give consumers an extra confidence boost just as promotions start hitting the stores and the shopping season gets underway."

Other analysts, however, are less optimistic. According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation after the government shutdown began, consumers told researchers that they actually planned to spend slightly less this holiday season than the year before.

"Though the foundation for solid holiday season growth exists, Americans are questioning the stability of our economy, our government and their own finances," said the National Retail Foundation's Matthew Shay in an Oct. 16 statement . "We expect consumers to set a modest budget for gifts and other holiday-related purchases as they wait and see what will become of the U.S. economy in the coming months."

In an Oct. 3 report, the National Retail Federation forecast that holiday spending should grow modestly this year as long as uncertainty from the fiscal crisis doesn't significantly derail consumers' spending plans. 

Delayed jobs report shows lackluster growth
Consumer confidence may also be impacted this holiday season by disappointing jobs growth. According to the Commerce Department's delayed jobs report , released Oct. 22, the economy added 148,000 jobs in September -- well below economists' expectations.

According to a survey of 93 economists by Bloomberg News, many predicted that employers would add at least 180,000 jobs or more to the U.S. economy.

Jobs growth was relatively slow throughout the third quarter. In August, the economy added 193,000 jobs (revised upward from 169,000). In July, the economy added just 89,000 new jobs.

See related: Card debt fell in August , 7 ways to prep for a lean holiday



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



This article appears in: Personal Finance , Credit and Debt

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