Credit card interest rates remain at 15.01 percent

By Kelly Dilworth,

Shutterstock photo

Average rates on new credit card offers remained stuck at 15.01 percent Wednesday for the fifth straight week, according to the Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

Most card issuers left credit card terms unchanged this week.

Capital One boosted the maximum possible APR on the Quicksilver Cash Rewards credit card by 2 percentage points. However, the rate hike didn't affect the national average because only considers a card's lowest possible rate when calculating average interest rates.

Cardholders who apply online for the Quicksilver Cash Rewards card are now offered a wider range of possible APRs. Applicants with the best credit may qualify for an APR as low as 12.9 percent. Applicants with lower scores could receive an APR as high as 22.9 percent, up from 20.9 percent.

This higher APR exceeds the national average for cards geared toward consumers with bad credit, but despite the higher rate, the Quicksilver Cash Rewards is marketed toward consumers with excellent credit.

Borrowers reprioritize debt payments
For the first time since the recession, cash-strapped borrowers are placing a higher priority on their mortgage payments than credit card bills, according to new research from the credit reporting agency TransUnion. That could signal that U.S. consumers are feeling more comfortable about their job prospects.

The research, released March 19, reveals the credit card delinquency rate (measured by payments at least 30 days late) for consumers who carry three types of loans -- mortgages, credit cards and auto loans -- was higher in September 2013 than the mortgage delinquency rate for the same group of borrowers.

Previously, the mortgage delinquency rate was typically higher because recession-scarred consumers were choosing to let their mortgages go and pay their credit card bills first.

The same study also reported the credit card delinquency rate was higher than the mortgage delinquency rate in December 2013 as well -- indicating to analysts that consumers' payment habits are finally starting to shift for the first time in nearly five years. "This reverses a trend that began in September 2008 when the mortgage crisis drove consumer payment preferences toward paying credit cards ahead of mortgages," said TransUnion in a press release .

Before the 2008 financial crisis, consumers who didn't have enough cash to pay their bills on time typically chose to pay their mortgages first and let their credit card bills slide. But soon after the economy crashed and credit became extremely difficult to get, many consumers began placing a higher priority on credit card payments -- often at the expense of their mortgages.

"One of the biggest impacts of the Great Recession to the credit system was its influence on consumer payment patterns," said TransUnion's Ezra Becker in the press release. "As unemployment rose and home prices cratered, increasingly more consumers were faced with financial constraints and had to make difficult choices."

Since credit cards allowed consumers to continue making purchases long after they ran out of cash, many chose to place a higher priority on maintaining good relationships with their card issuers, said Becker in the release. That way, they could continue making purchases even if they lost their job or had trouble finding a new one.

"This was a measurable result of the economic environment, wherein many consumers were underwater on their mortgages and at the same time needed the liquidity afforded by credit cards to make ends meet," he said.

Now that the job market and the housing market have both improved significantly and consumers have more buying power, many consumers appear to be less afraid of losing that liquidity. And, as a result, are choosing their homes over their credit cards -- just like they did before the Great Recession.   

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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