Credit Card APRs Unchanged as Holidays Near

Interest rates on new credit card offers remained unchanged this week as banks took their traditional Thanksgiving break from changing rates, according to the Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The average annual percentage rate (APR) stayed put at 14.99%. That's just 0.01% shy of the record high -- 15% -- set in October. And while rates remain high, they appear to be stabilizing. The national APR average has stood at 14.99% for five of the past six weeks. That is a big change from August to mid-October when rates steadily inclined and records were consistently broken.

Interest rate stability at this time of year is nothing new, though. Since 2007, when began tracking APRs, rates have typically remained stable around Thanksgiving. It may not last, though: For the past two years, interest rates made a significant jump just before Christmas.

For example:

  • In 2009, the national APR average was fixed at 12.71% the week before and after Thanksgiving. Then, the week before Christmas, it jumped to 12.99% -- the third-highest rate for that year.
  • In 2010, the national APR average stayed put at 14.74% in the weeks before and after Thanksgiving. It dropped in subsequent weeks, falling to 14.63%, but then climbed back to 14.68% the week before Christmas.

Creditors know people spend more during the holidays and may want to apply for more credit to supplement their spending. This may be especially true as consumers are expected to be buying but and sticking to their holiday budgets less this year, reports a recent USAA survey.

This year, slightly more people are expected to buy gifts compared to last year -- up 96% from 90%. The report also indicates that the number of those planning to create a holiday gift budget has declined over the past three years, and of people who do plan to create a budget, slightly fewer plan to stick to it this year than did last year. In addition, a large number of respondents aren't saving in advance at all to pay for holiday purchases -- 36%.

All of that could mean more credit card debt to wrestle with in the new year. With that in mind, make a budget and stick to it this holiday season. And if you do intend to get that new card, be aware of high interest rates when you apply.