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The average credit card interest rate by credit score and card

average credit card interest rate
The average interest rate for a credit card depends on the card - and the cardholder.

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The average credit card APR was 15.91% in the first quarter of 2021, according to data from the Federal Reserve. But, your own credit card interest rate is likely to be different.

Credit cards come with a cost of borrowing: an annual percentage rate, or APR. This is the amount you'll pay for credit. With a credit card, you'll only pay interest on an unpaid balance after your billing cycle is over. Pay off your card in full each month, and you won't pay any interest.

However, if you don't pay off your balance in full each month, it can get expensive. It's not unusual for a card to carry an APR in the 20% range, which means a balance can continue to grow and snowball for each month it stays on your card. According to Experian, consumers had a total of $756 billion of credit card debt in 2020, down from $829 billion in 2019.

Outside of paying off your card, there are a few factors that can influence the rate attached to your card, including your credit score and the type of card you have. Here's how these factors influence your interest rate.

Related Product Module: Credit Cards

Interest rates by credit score

Like getting a loan, the interest rate attached to your credit card largely depends on your credit score. Credit scores evaluate your past credit activity on a scale of 300 to 850 based on past borrowing, repayment history, available credit, and your mix of credit accounts.

Lenders use them to evaluate how trustworthy you are as a borrower, and whether they should lend to you, so generally the higher your credit score, the lower your credit card's interest rate. Those with higher credit scores will also be more likely to qualify for cards with 0% introductory interest rates.

Higher credit scores get lower interest rates

According to data from the CFPB's Consumer Credit Card Market Report, the average total interest paid by consumers increases with lower credit scores.

The CFPB measures this with an effective interest rate - calculated as the total amount of interest charged per year divided by the total balance at the end of the cycle - to create a metric of how much interest was actually paid by consumers at each credit level. Data from 2018 showed that consumers with the best credit paid the lowest effective interest rates, and vice versa.

Credit score categoryEffective interest rate
Deep Subprime (579 or lower)21.0%
Subprime (580 - 619)20.5%
Near Prime (620 - 659)19.0%
Prime (660 - 719)16.5%
Super Prime (720 or greater)13.5%
Overall 15.6%

Interest rates by type of credit card

Premium credit cards tend to carry a higher APR.

The type of card you have can affect the amount of interest you could pay if you carry a balance. Data from S&P Global shows that for three main types of credit cards, a higher interest rate comes with bigger perks.

Credit card typeAPR
Classic credit card11.94%
Platinum credit card12.76%
Rewards credit card13.23%

Some of the name-brand rewards cards you may be familiar with may also have higher interest rates. Here are a few favorites, and the interest rates they carry. Remember that credit card companies can change interest rates, and that only people with the best credit scores will qualify for the lowest interest rates.

Interest rates for travel credit cards

Airline and travel credit cards can have higher interest rates than the typical card because they offer valuable rewards if used correctly. These credit cards are good options for anyone who wants to earn perks like miles to book award flights, but doesn't plan to keep a balance on their card.

Credit cardAPR range
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card15.74% to 24.74% variable APR (See Rates)
United℠ Explorer Card16.49% to 23.49% Variable

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card17.24% to 24.49% variable
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Interest rates for cash-back cards

Cash-back cards offer the most flexible reward of all: cash. Generally, these cards earn a percentage back of total purchases, around 2%. The money can then be applied back to your balance, or even cashed out and put toward other goals.

The interest rates for cash back credit cards tend to start a little bit lower than rewards credit cards. Here are the interest rates on some of the top-rated cash-back credit cards on the market today.

Credit cardAPR range
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card13.99% - 23.99% variable
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card13.99% to 25.99% variable
Chase Freedom Unlimited®14.99%-23.74% variable APR
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express12.99% to 23.99% variable APR (See Rates)
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card15.99% - 24.99% variable APR

Interest rates for student credit cards

Created specifically for college students, these cards are best for young adults who haven't built much credit yet and can be secured with a cash deposit up front.

Slightly more forgiving, these student credit cards can be a great way to build credit while still in school, but can have high interest rates. While some borrowers with the best credit scores will see rates around 12.99%, interest rates could be as high as 26%.

Credit cardAPR range
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®26.99% variable APR
Citi Rewards+ Student Card14.49% - 24.49% variable APR based on your creditworthiness

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

18.74% Variable

Interest rates for balance transfer cards

Balance transfer cards allow you to consolidate credit card debt onto one card. They can also be used to finance large purchases for a short amount of time. One popular type of balance transfer card is a 0% interest credit card, which allows borrowers to finance large purchases or consolidate credit card debt with no interest for several months. But, these cards won't be interest-free forever: Rates go up after the introductory period is over.

During the introductory period, interest won't accrue on your balance. If you pay off your card in full by the time the offer is up, it can be a good alternative to a personal loan. After that intro period is over, you'll pay a fairly typical interest rate.

Here are a few examples of how this works with a few popular cards that offer a 0% rate.

Credit cardIntroductory APRPermanent APR
Chase Freedom®0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases14.99%-23.74% variable APR
Citi Simplicity® Card0% APR for the first 18 months for balance transfers made within the first four months14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Citi® Double Cash Card0% APR for the first 18 months for balance transfers made within the first four months

13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)

Remember: Interest rates only apply to unpaid balances

If you pay your credit card in full each month, credit cards can be valuable tools to earn airline miles, get cash back, and build your credit history, with no interest involved.

If you don't pay your credit card bill in full each month, the interest rate will apply, and add to the total amount you owe. It can get out of hand quickly, and the debt your card accumulates negates any of the rewards you could earn.

Paying your credit card in full means you'll never have to worry about paying more for your purchases than you need to, and can help you earn rewards to enjoy as well. While credit card interest rates can seem high, they're non-existent if you pay your account in full each month and use your card responsibly.

Related Content Module: More Credit Card Coverage
Read the original article on Business Insider

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