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We examined about 200 credit cards from more than 50 issuers to get a sense of average credit card interest rates, or average credit card APRs, among card types. You can use this as a guide to see how your existing or potential APRs compare. If you're carrying a credit card balance, consider our data to help figure out how you might lower your interest payments.
Average credit card interest rates by card type
The average credit card APR varies significantly depending on the type of card. For example, rewards credit cards can generally have higher average APRs to make up for additional benefits. Most credit cards have an APR range that will depend on your creditworthiness, so we also focused on low and high figures.
Lower APRs are generally for those consumers with excellent credit scores.
Credit card interest rates: 10-year history
The Federal Reserve collects information on the APRs of credit cards issued to American consumers by commercial banks — this includes data from non-reward and retail credit card accounts. These numbers are reported in two segments: Interest rates across all credit card accounts, and those specifically for interest-bearing accounts.
Over the past decade, credit card APRs have been relatively stable, though small fluctuations of a few percentage points have occurred since 2010.
Credit card APRs over past decade
Average interest rate on all credit card accounts
Average interest rate on interest-bearing accounts
And here’s a fuller look dating back to 1994:
Average penalty APRs on credit cards
The penalty rate, also called the default rate, is the APR you might be charged going forward if you fail to make on-time payments. This penalty rate is often significantly higher than the APR initially offered on your credit card.
Companies — via the CARD Act — are allowed to raise APRs only after you’re 60 days late on your payments during the first year of your account. Depending on your credit card company, a number of other factors may cause you to incur the penalty rates as well, including exceeding your credit limit or defaulting on another account with the same issuer. However, issuers can increase your rate for any reason if your account is older than a year.
In our survey of credit cards, the penalty APR was generally dependent upon the card issuer. There is no federal limit on maximum allowable APRs.
Sample of penalty APRs
Penalty interest rate (%)
|Citi||Up to 29.99%|
|Chase||Up to 29.99%|
|American Express||Prime rate + 25.99%|
The penalty, or default, interest rates are at least five percentage points higher than the worst APRs you’d normally see on credit cards.
If you have an excellent credit profile, penalty APRs can be more than 15 percentage points higher than what you were originally offered on your card. It’s great advice to always pay your credit card bills on time.