Credit Card Rates Creeping Higher

Photo (cc) by B Rosen

Editor’s Note: This post comes from partner site LowCards.com.

The CARD Act is now in place and providing important protections for credit cardholders. Consumers are saving millions of dollars through some of these provisions, such as the elimination of over the limit fees and the restrictions on interest rate hikes during the first year of an account.

Credit card companies have had to find ways to make up for this lost revenue. Many issuers have increased balance transfer fees, cash advance rates and foreign transaction fees. There are now more cards with annual fees and most every fixed rate card has been changed to a variable rate card.

But the change that affects the most consumers is the steady rise in interest rates.

Based on the 1000+ cards found in the LowCards.com Complete Credit Card Index, the average APR the week before the CARD Act was signed into law (May 2009) was 11.64%. As of last week, that average interest rate had increased over two percentage points to 13.70%.

A new study from Synovate confirms that issuers have increased rates on existing cards. According to their statistics, the average APR in the second quarter of 2010 increased to 14.7% from 13.1% a year ago. Synovate reports the average interest rate is at the highest level since 2001 despite the prime rate being at an historic low. There is now an 11.45 percentage point gap between the two rates, the largest in at least 22 years.

“Higher interest payments are hard on consumers, but it will get even worse if the Federal Reserve starts to make changes that increase the prime rate. Nearly every credit card now has a variable rate and many of those cards have the prime rate as their base. Once the prime rate rises from its historic low, consumers will see a corresponding increase in the APR of those variable rate credit cards,” says Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com and author of The Credit Card Guidebook.

There seems to be some confusion among consumers on how the CARD Act can affect your credit card interest rates. Here is some information:

  • The CARD Act does not cap interest rates. Issuers can still increase your interest rates. However, competition provides its own regulatory-type influence to help anchor down rates and keep them from soaring.
  • Issuers have to give a 45-day notice for rate increases unless it is a variable rate card and the card’s index (usually the prime rate or LIBOR rate) increases.
  • If your credit card company does raise your interest rate, the new rate will apply only to new charges you make. If you have a balance, your old interest rate will apply to that balance.
  • If your credit card’s rate has been increased since January 1, 2009, the new rules require issuers to evaluate whether the reasons for the increase have changed and, if appropriate, to reduce the rate. Since the beginning of last year, millions of cardholders have seen their interest rates increase. Some issuers raised rates to as high as 29.99% for cardholders with good credit. Issuers must also perform a review every six months on accounts that receive a rate increase.The review should determine if changes in key factors (such as cardholder credit risk, payment history, and market conditions) give reasons to reduce the rate.
  • If your payment is 60 days past due, the issuer can raise your APR to the penalty rate (30% for some cards). If you immediately make at least your minimum payment on-time for six straight months, then your issuer needs to reevaluate your account. However, if you make another late payment during that six month period, the higher rate could apply indefinitely to new transactions.
  • Issuers can still apply your minimum payment to the balance with the lowest interest rate. Due to the CARD Act provisions that went into effect this past February, the remainder of the payment has to be applied to the balance with the highest interest rate.
  • Issuers can’t raise your rate during the first year of an account unless your payment is more than 60 days late, or unless it is a variable rate card and the card’s index (usually the prime rate or LIBOR rate) increases.

Here are some tips for consumers regarding their card’s interest rates:

  • Shop around for a card with a low rate. Direct mail offers are increasing again. Don’t necessarily apply for the first offer you receive. Compare your offer with others found on the Internet.
  • Consider transferring your balance to a card with an 0% intro rate for twelve months and a lower ongoing rate. This could be beneficial if the amount of interest you save significantly outweighs the upfront balance transfer fee you will be charged. You need to do the mathematical calculations to determine if this is a financially prudent move for you.
  • Pay down as much you can on the balance with the highest rate. Any amount above the minimum payment will be applied to the highest rate.

“Paying off your credit card debt is the only way to be unaffected by rate increases. Higher interest rates drain away money that could be used to pay off your debt, extending the time it takes to eliminate the balance. If you have a few extra dollars, make smaller payments more often. Micropayments save on the interest you pay and will help you eliminate your debt more quickly,” says Hardekopf.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
10 Expenses You Should Not Put on a Credit Card
10 Expenses You Should Not Put on a Credit Card

Sometimes it’s simply safer to keep the plastic tucked away.

10 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Spending More
10 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Spending More

Think you’re a savvy shopper? Find out how retailers persuade you to dig more deeply into your wallet.

5 Ways to Put an End to Junk Mail
5 Ways to Put an End to Junk Mail

Here’s how to keep unwanted mail from clogging your mailbox and trash can.

Marooned at Home? Earn Some Cash Playing on Your Computer
Marooned at Home? Earn Some Cash Playing on Your Computer

Earn cash by reading emails, taking surveys, playing games, shopping and signing up for offers through this website.

7 Deadly Health Mistakes People Make After Age 50
7 Deadly Health Mistakes People Make After Age 50

Simply avoiding these actions, or lack thereof, can improve the odds of a longer, more healthful life.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years
10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider
Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

A new study has bad news for the millions of Americans who spend money on multivitamins.

21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss
21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss

Start off the new year by implementing these small-but-smart savings strategies. They’ll soon add up.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021
Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021

More than 700 prescription medications have seen price hikes so far this year. Here’s a look at the worst.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car
9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car

Thinking of leaving these possessions in a car? Prepare for unexpected consequences.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

5 States Lowering Taxes This Year and 2 Raising Them
5 States Lowering Taxes This Year and 2 Raising Them

State personal income tax rates, brackets and deductions just changed in these places.

7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster
7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster

These tips can get your bathroom sparkling with little time and no elbow grease.

11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked
11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked

Does your retirement budget account for all of these costs?

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.