Rate survey: Credit card rates dip as holiday shopping nears end

As the holiday shopping season draws to a close, interest rates on new credit card offers fell from their record highs this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The average annual percentage rate (APR) dipped to 15.19 percent from last week's record high of 15.22 percent. The drop comes a week after the biggest one-week increase of the year sent the average to unprecedented heights.

Chase prompted the decrease by lowering the APR for its Slate card to 13.99 percent. It's the card's second change in as many weeks. The previous week, it changed to a flat rate of 16.99 percent from a range of 11.99 percent to 21.99 percent.

Steve O'Halloran, Chase's Public Affairs Director, confirmed the latest decrease.

"As you know, Chase offers a number of cards with different rates and benefits, which is why we encourage customers to choose the card that is best for them," O'Halloran said.

This change came just a week after Chase overhauled APRs on many of its consumer and business credit cards last week. In all, nine Chase cards that CreditCards.com tracks -- as well as several others that we don't -- saw notable APR changes last week. This week, there was only one, but it had an impact.

Out of the nine categories CreditCards.com tracks, two fell and the rest remained unchanged. The balance transfer category fell from last week's record high of 13.08 percent to 13 percent, which is still the second-highest rate of 2011 in that category. The low-interest category, meanwhile, dipped to 10.84 percent from 11.17 percent.

Those lower interest rates are good news for holiday shoppers -- many of whom still have buying left to do. The National Retail Federation published a survey this week saying it expects holiday sales to rise 3.8 percent this year to a record $469.1 billion. Additionally, NRF's most recent holiday survey showed the average American has completed far less of their holiday shopping than in previous years, an indicator that shoppers may have bought primarily for themselves in November and have much holiday shopping left to do.

Just how much do Americans spend on holiday shopping? A report from the American Research Group said shoppers around the country are planning to spend about $650 on holiday gifts this year. That's roughly the same as Americans spent in 2010, but far below the $1,004 figure from 2004. Let's say a cardholder spends $650 holiday shopping using a credit card with an APR at today's national average of 15.19 percent. That cardholder would have to repay $59 a month to pay the balance off in 12 months.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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