Survey: Credit card interest rates remain at 15.01 percent for 7th week

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

None of the cards tracked by advertised new interest rates. Promotional terms, including 0 percent APRs and balance transfers, also remained unchanged.

These days, changes to credit card terms are relatively rare. Interest rates are especially sticky. The national average APR, for example, has changed just twice since Jan. 1.

Credit card issuers are more likely to change promotional terms. But even those changes are rare.

Since Jan. 1, for example, just four issuers have revised promotional terms of their cards. Two issuers shortened the amount of time cardholders could take advantage of an offer. One issuer expanded a promotional offer, and one issuer introduced a temporary offer, then canceled it.

Credit card spending picks up
After years of cautious charging, credit card holders are finally starting to warm back up to using their cards, according to new research from the American Bankers Association (ABA). But they're not letting that debt sit for long.

According to the ABA's latest Credit Card Market Monitor , credit card use rose by 3.4 percent, year-over-year, in the third quarter of 2013. But the average credit card statement showed a significantly smaller balance -- indicating to analysts that many consumers are quickly paying off their charges.

"This suggests that consumers aren't just using their credit cards more -- they are also more likely to pay off or pay down their monthly balance," said the ABA's Kenneth J. Clayton in a press release . "As a result, the amount consumers are paying in interest as a share of their outstanding credit card balance declined for the 13th consecutive quarter."

Consumers are also charging more discretionary purchases to their cards, which indicates that consumers are feeling more relaxed about what they buy.

According to the report, released April 2, consumers spent significantly more on airline tickets, recreation and travel in the third quarter of 2013, compared to the year before.

In addition, consumers also spent slightly more on necessities such as food and education. But the increases in essential purchases were generally much more modest, compared to the growth in nonessential purchases.

"We're seeing a more confident consumer who is willing to spend more money on nonessentials because they're less concerned with the direction of the economy and their ability to keep debt at manageable levels," said Clayton in the release. "Whether this trend will continue remains to be seen," he said.

Credit card lending remains relatively tight
Credit card issuers, meanwhile, are still being choosy about who can have a card - and who gets to have a bigger credit limit, according to the same report.  

Consumers with pristine scores, for example, (known in credit card lending circles as super-prime consumers) are being rewarded with more cards and bigger credit limits, according to the American Bankers Association. But consumers with imperfect scores aren't sharing in the rewards.

 Overall, credit lines rose by 4.6 percent in the third quarter of 2013, compared to the previous year. However, credit lines for consumers with good but imperfect credit scores and damaged credit scores fell in 2013 for the fifth straight year.

Consumers with imperfect credit currently make up a much smaller percentage of consumers who have cards. In the third quarter of 2013, for example, consumers with less-than-perfect credit scores claimed just 32 percent of all credit lines, according to the American Bankers' Association. In 2008, by contrast, approximately 42 percent of all credit lines belonged to consumers with imperfect credit.

"Despite slowly easing credit standards and an improving economy, we continue to see a dramatic shift toward lower-risk accounts," said Clayton. "A more conservative approach by lenders, combined with regulatory constraints that make it more difficult to manage risk, has clearly played a role."

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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