Rate survey: Credit card interest rates hold at 14.94 percent

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Interest 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) held steady at 14.94 percent Wednesday, after increasing by just 1 basis point the previous week.

Last week marked the first time in three months that average rates increased.

Average interest rates have remained exceptionally stable through much of 2013. Since Jan. 1, the national average has remained the same 15 weeks out of 20. Rates increased just twice since the beginning of the year and have fallen three times -- each time by just a small amount. 

As a result, the national average is currently just 0.02 percent below where it was at the beginning of 2013.

Consumers boost spending
Credit card holders, meanwhile, are continuing to clamp down on the amount of debt they take on and are taking care of the debt they already owe.

Credit card balances fell to a record low in the first quarter of 2013, according to research from the Fedederal Reserve Bank of New York. Late payments also fell to their lowest levels since 2008.  

Despite remaining cautious about credit, however, consumers aren't slamming their wallets completely shut.

Retail and restaurant spending rose 3.7 percent in April, compared to the same time last year, according to estimates released Monday by the Census Bureau.

After sales fell significantly in March, a number of economists predicted that retail sales would drop further in April as consumers shied away from spending.  

Instead, consumers ate out and shopped more in April, and also committed to big-ticket purchases.

Auto sales, especially, (including sales for auto parts) jumped last month, increasing by 1 percent between March and April.

Sales were especially strong compared to the same time last year. Auto-related purchases climbed by 7.7 percent from April 2012 to April 2013, according to the Census Bureau.

Consumers also spent more on building materials and gardening supplies in April, as well as on clothing, appliances and entertainment-related retail purchases.   

Experts say that a rise in big commitment purchases, such as auto sales, and discretionary purchases, such as sporting goods or books, is often a good sign that consumers are feeling more confident about their finances.

Fewer consumers hunkering down
Fewer consumers are also reporting that they tamped down spending in response to lingering economic woes.

According to a Gallup poll released Monday, the percentage of people who say they've curbed their spending in recent months has fallen since 2012.

However, despite fewer people cutting back, a significant percentage still say they're being careful with how much they spend. 

For example, 41 percent of Americans say they're more frugal than they used to be -- and just 10 percent of those respondents expect to spend more in the future. (Thirty-one percent, meanwhile, say that their new, more-disciplined spending habits are likely to be permanent.) About one in four consumers say that they're spending more than they did before, underscoring the fact that consumers' appetite for heavier spending is still relatively low.

"The finding that 73 percent of Americans are either maintaining or decreasing the amount they spend is a potentially troubling sign, given that consumer spending contributes to about 70 percent of the economy," wrote Andrew Dugan in a news release announcing the findings.

That said, "The decreasing percentage of Americans who report they are spending less money is a notable trend," wrote Dugan. "This suggests the possibility that an increasing percentage of adults have seen their personal financial situations stabilize or improve, providing the impetus for even more Americans to ease their recession-induced budget slashing in the future."

See related: Infographic: Young adults most optimistic about finances

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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