The average consumer credit card rate is 16.75% as of January 6, 2012 according to IndexCreditCards.com. With the US Bank Prime Rate at 3.25%, credit card companies are charging 13.5% over Prime. In other words, credit card companies are making big bucks off you!
The US Bank Prime Rate or “lending rate” has averaged 3% above the Federal Funds rate, which is currently at 0.25% thanks to BenGenie. The Prime Rate is used to adjust the interest rates for HELOCs, credit cards, and student loans. The Prime Rate is considered the rate at which banks lend to the most creditworthy borrowers.
With a 13.5% spread over Prime, credit card companies are essentially saying they require a 13.5% return over Prime in order to be in the business of lending credit with a card to the average consumer. If all consumers paid their credit card debts in full and never welched on a payment, the spread over Prime rate would probably be close to zero. The other way to lower credit card rates is if consumers reduce demand for credit card usage and the government either regulates more tightly and/or encourages more competition.
AVERAGE CREDIT CARD RATES
My one and only personal credit card has a interest rate of 10.25%, or a full 7% points over prime. I’ve had the card for 10 years and have never missed a payment in 120+ billing cycles. Sure my rate is still 6.5% below the average, however, compared to mortgage rates below 4% and student loan rates below 3%, 10.25% is ridiculously high.
I gave my credit card company a ring to see if they can lower the rate, even though I never plan to give them the satisfaction of making 10.25% off me, and they politely declined. Since I only have one personal credit card, I don’t easily have a backup to switch to, leading me not wanting to spend the time to apply a new.
High interest rates should discourage you from using your credit card and at the very least, never carry a balance. We know in practice, this is not the case as credit card companies earn billions a year from consumer’s lack of spending discipline. I hope as a Financial Samurai reader, you know better than to ever spend more than you earn and carry a balance.
CREDIT CARD RECOMMENDATION
If you are an avid traveler and looking for a travel rewards credit card, you can sign up for the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard with a $89 annual fee for double the points on all purchases and 40,000 signup miles ($400 value) or the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard with no annual fee with double the points on travel and dining and 20,000 signup miles ($200 value). I’m going with the version with the annual fee because the first year’s fee is waived. You can read a more detailed review I wrote of the Barclaycard Arrival here.