Credit card interest rates stay put at 15.03 percent

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Interest rates on new card offers held steady this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The national average annual percentage rate (APR) stayed put at 15.03 percent Wednesday after increasing incrementally for two consecutive weeks.

None of the cards tracked by CreditCards.com introduced new terms this week. Issuers left promotional balance transfer offers and introductory APRs alone as well.

Most card issuers have left interest rates alone throughout 2014. Over the past few months, Chase has gradually increased APRs on a handful of travel rewards cards, including the United MileagePlus Explorer card, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus card, the IHG Rewards Club Select card and the Marriott Rewards Visa Signature card.

The few times that APRs have changed, they've usually gone up. Since Jan. 1, for example, the national average has increased five times and declined twice.

Credit card spending picks up
Credit card holders are using their cards more often this summer. According to First Data Corporation, credit card transaction growth -- which measures the number of times people swiped their cards -- jumped 5.3 percent last month. 

The total amount of money people spent on their cards also picked up by 3.9 percent. However, the rate of growth was slower in June than it was the previous month, when card spending grew by 4.9 percent compared to the previous year.

Despite last month's slower rate of growth, credit card spending is still growing faster than debit card spending, according to First Data's latest SpendTrend report.

Spending on signature debit, for example, grew by just 2 percent last month. Spending on PIN debit grew by 3.3 percent.

The total number of transactions people are making using their debit cards also grew more slowly this summer -- especially compared to credit.

The number of times that debit card holders punched in a PIN, for example, grew by just 2.8 percent last month. Meanwhile, the number of times that people used signature debit was roughly equal to June 2013.

Analysts say that part of the reason why more people are turning to their credit cards this summer rather than their debit cards or other forms of payment is because many people are using credit to finance their summer vacations. People typically prefer to pay for hotels and airfare with credit cards, rather than cash.

According to First Data's Krish Mantripragada, consumers are also feeling much more comfortable with using credit now that the economy has significantly improved. In addition, credit is somewhat easier to get.

"An increase in credit usage reflects steady growth in credit lending, improved consumer credit quality and a growing consumer confidence in their personal finances," said Mantripragada in a press release .

Consumer spending remains relatively strong
Total consumer spending was also more sluggish in June, according to First Data's SpendTrend report. For example, spending on all types of plastic payment cards, including credit, debit and prepaid cards, grew by just 3 percent last month -- down from 4.2 percent in May.

However, analysts say that consumer spending is still much stronger than it used to be, especially compared to 2013. "This month's trends showed some slowing in spending growth but overall, spending remains healthy, reflecting the recovering economy and consumer willingness to spend," said First Data's Mantripragada in the release.

Consumers spent slightly more on travel this summer than they did in 2013. They also dined out more often and spent more to upgrade their homes with new furniture and garden supplies.

Retail spending didn't grow nearly as quickly in June as it did in May; but analysts at First Data Corporation say that could be due to a temporary spike in gas prices, rather than a substantial pullback in spending.

See related: Collectors see less credit card debt



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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