Rate survey: Credit card APRs unchanged for 3rd straight week

Interest rates on new credit card offers remained unchanged this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

The average annual percentage rate (APR) on new credit card offers held at 14.88 percent, where it has been for four weeks straight. We found no APR changes in our database this week. However, stability in credit card APRs is typical for August, our data shows.

Dating back to 2008, weve seen at least brief slowdowns in credit card APR movement in the late summer. For example:

  • In 2010, the national average APR was unchanged once in August and twice in early September.
  • In 2009, rates were unchanged for three weeks in August -- the most stability the national average saw all year.
  • In 2008, rates were unchanged twice in August.

Credit supply, demand growing, albeit slowlyThough we saw no interest rate movement, banks aren't sitting idly. Two Federal Reserve reports came out Monday indicating that creditors are willing to dispense more credit while cardholders are cautiously open to borrowing more.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York's quarterly report on household debt and credit showed increasing consumer demand for credit. Among the reports highlights:

  • Consumer credit card limits increased for the second consecutive quarter, jumping by $60 billion.
  • The number of open credit card accounts jumped by 10 million from quarter to quarter. However, the total of 389 million is more than 20 percent below its pre-recession peak.
  • Credit inquiries within the last six months -- which includes applications for new credit as well as requests for higher credit limits and other such changes in terms on existing accounts -- grew in the second quarter, after falling slightly in the first.

The Fed's quarterly senior loan officer survey -- in which the Fed asks executives at dozens of U.S. banks about their lending for the previous three months -- indicated that banks were eager to welcome those new borrowers. The report said that 9 percent of banks reported making it easier for consumers to borrow over the second quarter of 2011, while none made it tougher.

Research firm Mintel Comperemedia echoed some of these sentiments, reporting a 47 percent increase in credit card offers in the second quarter of 2011, compared to the same quarter in 2010.

Meanwhile, the national credit card delinquency rate -- the rate of borrowers 90 or more days past due paying their balance -- decreased for the sixth consecutive quarter, according to credit bureau TransUnion. The 0.6 percent rate at the end of the second quarter in 2011 is the lowest mark in 17 years.

Trouble ahead?The credit forecast may stay sunny much longer. Some economists predict an imminent increase in interest rates.

"Even though the July senior loan officer survey shows a loosening in the credit standards for approving credit cards, a lot changed in markets since that was published," said David Nice, associate economist at Mesirow Financial. That includes recent stock volatility, the to-the-brink decision to raise the national debt ceiling, weaker-than-expected economic figures and continued economic turmoil in Europe. All of this has "cut confidence while adding risk to the markets," he said. "Because of the added risk, I see lenders tightening their standards and saddling the less creditworthy applicants with higher rates."

Nice added that he thinks lenders will continue to extend credit to individuals with excellent credit ratings, either by increasing their current lines of credit or by issuing new credit cards.

"Demand should stay strong," he said, "but a greater disparity in rates paid and overall credit availability between those in the upper tier and lower tiers of credit rating will ensue."

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