Personal Finance

Rates remain at 15.01 percent for 6th week

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

The national average annual percentage rate (APR) remained stuck at 15.01 percent Wednesday for the sixth consecutive week.

None of cards tracked by CreditCards.com advertised new interest rates. Issuers left promotional APRs and balance transfers unchanged this week as well.

Most credit card issuers have left interest rates unchanged throughout 2014 and show few signs of changing course. Rates have fallen just twice since Jan. 1 -- each time by an incremental amount.

Meanwhile, interest rates have increased three times since the beginning of the year. But each increase has been tiny. As a result, the national average hasn't risen above 15.02 percent since Jan. 29. The average APR for the year is currently 15.01 percent.

Credit card spending picks up

Credit card holders are using their cards more often this summer after pulling back earlier this spring. According to new research from First Data Corporation, credit card spending grew by 4.9 percent last month after increasing by 4.3 percent in April and just 2.9 percent in March.

However, spending on credit still isn't growing nearly as fast it did last year.

In the first five months of 2013, for example, credit card spending grew by an average of 7.98 percent per month over the previous year. In the first five months of 2014, by contrast, monthly credit card spending grew much more slowly -- by an average of just 4.04 percent.

Analysts at First Data Corporation say that even if they pale in comparison to 2013, current credit card spending levels are still relatively strong.

Last month's growth in credit card spending was partially due to the fact that people were spending substantially more money on furniture and home supplies, which people typically like to pay for with credit cards, according to First Data Corporation's Krish Mantripragada,.

Easier access to credit also helped fuel last month's uptick in credit card use, said Mantripragada. So, too, did the fact that more people had jobs. "A number of factors, including normalized weather, pent-up demand, falling unemployment and rising home prices supported consumers' willingness to spend," said Mantripragada in a June 11 press release .

Overall, spending on plastic payment cards, including credit cards, debit cards and prepaid cards, grew by 4.2 percent in May. Consumers spent more on food and eating out. In addition, they spent substantially more on travel, compared to the previous year. Spending on travel increased 7.1 percent, year-over-year, while spending on hotels jumped 9.3 percent.

Economic growth heats up

This year's unusually harsh winter brought economic growth to a near standstill in early 2014, causing the nation's GDP to drop 1 percent in the first quarter. But new research released earlier this month suggests that the economic recovery is once again gaining steam , thanks to a substantially improved job market and growing optimism that the economy is finally headed in the right direction.

According to research released last week, for example, employers added 217,000 jobs to the U.S. economy last month, pushing the total number of jobs above pre-recession levels for the first time in more than five years.

Consumers and small businesses are feeling substantially more optimistic about the future. According to a survey released June 11 by the National Federation of Independent Business, for example, small business leaders reported feeling significantly more upbeat about their own financial prospects and their ability to expand.

As a result, the group's Small Business Optimism Index climbed last month to its highest point in nearly seven years.

Last week's report:Rates still stuck at 15.01 percent

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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