Credit card interest rates remain stuck at 14.99 percent

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

The national average annual percentage rate (APR) remained stuck at 14.99 percent Wednesday.

None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com announced new rates this week. Issuers left promotional offers -- including 0 percent APRs and interest-free balance transfers -- alone as well.

This is the third week that the national average APR has hovered just below 15 percent. Average rates rose to 14.99 percent Sept. 4, after CreditCards.com removed several cards that were no longer being promoted online and replaced them with similar offers.

Currently, the average APR for the year is 14.96 percent -- the same as it was last year. In 2012, average rates for the year settled at 14.96 percent, after rising to 14.85 percent the year before.

Over the past year, credit card issuers have experimented with new rates on a select number of cards. However, issuers have left the majority of card APRs alone. As a result, the national average hasn't moved by more than 0.01 percent in any week, all year.

Issuers have changed promotional terms more often over the past six months as they try to attract more cardholders.

However, fresh data from the Census Bureau shows that many cardholders still aren't in a position to spend as heavily as issuers would like.

Household incomes remain stagnant
Over the past two years, the U.S. economy has gradually improved, according to multiple economic indicators. Since 2011, for example, the unemployment rate has fallen by more than a full percentage point -- from 8.5 percent in December 2011 to 7.3 percent in July 2013 -- as employers slowly increase the number of new jobs available to workers.

Home prices, meanwhile, have risen significantly over the past year, while total consumer borrowing -- not including mortgages -- has steadily increased.

Consumers' incomes, however, have remained stubbornly in place, according to new Census research , despite significant gains in the U.S. economy. That's made it made it hard for many families to increase the total amount they spend -- particularly on discretionary purchases, such as entertainment or eating out.

As a result, the U.S. economic recovery has struggled to gain momentum throughout 2013, making it tough for many employers to justify adding new jobs.

According to a Census report, released Sept. 17, the median household income in the United States hardly budged last year, falling from $51,100 in 2011 to $51,017 in 2012. 

Households living in the Western region of the United States did better than households living in other parts of the country, according to the report. Median household income rose 3.2 percent in the West, for example, while incomes in the Midwest, South and the Northeast, remained largely the same. 

However, despite some groups doing better than others, many Americans still haven't recovered the income they lost during the recession. According to the Census Bureau, the median household income in the United States is still more than 8 percent below where it was in 2007 and is 9 percent below where it was in 1999, when median household income hit an all-time high of $56,080.

The cost of living in the United States, meanwhile, has continued to increase, crowding out the amount of money consumers have to spend on nonessential purchases.  

Consumer prices inch up
Prices on consumer goods and services rose slightly in August, according to research released Sept. 17 by the Labor Department, continuing an ongoing trend over the past four months of gradual upward movement.

Americans paid slightly more for food and clothing last month and significantly more for housing and medical services. They paid slightly less for gas and utilities, however, which helped keep the overall price index from rising more substantially.

Over the past 12 months, the price index on all items has risen 1.5 percent. As a result, Americans across all income levels are now paying considerably more for basic expenses.

See related: Fed maintains support for low interest rates , Fed: Revolving debt fell in July



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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