Average APR Inches Up, Card Debt Gains Weight, and Old Apple Cards Fall From Tree

Credit card news you may have missed this week

Weekly Credit Card News Lowdown

The financial product information on this page is accurate as of the time of posting; some of the offers mentioned may have expired since that time.

The start of April showered us with a sprinkling of credit card news, including a rising average card interest rate, beefed up card balances, and a new life for some old Barclays Apple card accounts. 

This weekly credit card news roundup contains what you should know about the cards in your wallet, other available offers, and new product releases or reports that reminded us there’s more to April than busted March Madness brackets and clearance Easter candy. 

What’s the Lowdown?

Here’s what has caught our attention since April 2, 2021. 

Chase Lands Another New United Airlines Card 

It’s official: The United Quest Card is open for applications. Chase quietly launched the new airline rewards card late Thursday, but little about the card is quiet. The $250-per-year card is advertising a colossal bonus worth about $2,190 for cardholders who earn all 100,000 miles, generous travel perks, and a slew of rewards categories for earning miles on everyday purchases. 

The airline loyalty perks with the new United Quest Card are first-class, too. For example, cardholders can earn two 5,000-mile credits each year for United flights paid for with the card. Two free checked bags per flight (and two more for your travel buddy), and TSA Precheck or Global Entry fee credits are also part of the package.

This middle-tier airline card seems to complete United’s card fleet following the launch of the United Gateway Card earlier this year. Like the Delta Airlines credit card lineup, there are now four United-branded cards with annual fees ranging from $0 to $450 and with varying levels of rewards. We knew United and Chase were up to something when they teased this card as a replacement for the United Platinum Class Visa in March, but we’ll admit, we were almost caught napping by the suddenness of the launch late Thursday.

Average Credit Card Interest Rate Tip-Toed Up in March

This year has been a lot sleepier than last in terms of credit card interest rate changes, but March ‘21 wasn’t a complete snooze. A few online card offer updates and the addition of two new AARP cards to our data pool nudged the average credit card APR up a fraction of a percentage point to 20.29%.

Synchrony Bank updated the advertised purchase APR for its Sam’s Club Credit Card and Sam’s Club Mastercard (nearly a full percentage point, too), and we are now tracking the interest rates of the AARP Essential Rewards Mastercard and the AARP Travel Rewards Mastercard from Barclays. The APR ranges of both new cards are slightly higher than what similar cards charge, so the data pool update was enough to bump up the average cash-back and travel rewards card rates, as well as the general average.

All in all, the average credit card APR is still lower than it was before our world, and interest rates, were turned upside down by the pandemic. 

U.S. Revolving Debt Balance Has Put On Some Pounds

After slimming down for several months, the U.S. revolving debt balance (which largely represents credit card debt) has beefed up again. According to the latest Federal Reserve consumer credit report, the national revolving debt balance rose $8.1 billion to $974.4 billion in February, which is pretty much where it was all the way back in December.

The latest figures indicate card spending has picked back up after consumers used stimulus checks to pay down debt at the beginning of this year. Economists think spending will increase as the economy continues to bounce back from the pandemic, too. 

Two Apple Rewards Cards Will Fall From the Tree in May

When the Apple Card debuted a couple of years ago, Goldman Sachs, its issuer, was a newcomer to the credit card market, and the card competed with several others that offered Apple Rewards and special financing on Apple products. But it’s come to dominate the competition. Now, the last two legacy cards—the Barclaycard with Apple Rewards Visa and the Barclaycard Financing Visa—are about to exit. 

We confirmed with Barclays that cardholders who have one of those old cards will be transitioned to either the Barclays View Mastercard or the Barclays Financing Mastercard in May. Cardholders were notified about the change in March, but in case you missed that memo, here’s the scoop. 

Gone are Apple-specific perks. Instead, the Barclays View Mastercard will offer some cash-back rewards on everyday spending categories (3 points per $1 spent at restaurants, and 2 points per $1 spent at grocery stores, and on TV, phone, internet, and streaming services) and special financing offers, but not for Apple products specifically. The Barclays Financing Mastercard will be pretty bare-bones, but will also offer limited-time financing offers.

Before you get excited, these two cards will not be open for new applications. Barclays told us they were created specifically for those old Apple accounts, and they’ll let cardholders know which new card they will get (it’s not an apples-to-apples transition, apparently).

Given how beneficial open credit card accounts can be for your credit utilization ratio and average account history—two of the most important FICO credit score factors—it’s nice that Barclays isn’t  closing these stale Apple  cards altogether. 

What Else Is Happening?

  • Amex Platinum Biz Card Boasts Six-Figure Welcome Offer: Open the Business Platinum Card from American Express and spend $15,000 within three months and you’ll get a mighty 100,000 Membership Rewards-point bonus. That offer is worth about $1,400, based on our valuation of Membership Rewards points, and is one of the best business card offers available now. 
  • Endgame in Sight for Marvel Mastercard: Don’t Hulk out, but Marvel and Synchrony Bank have decided to close the Marvel Mastercard credit card program. The card hasn’t been open for new applications for a while, and existing cardholders now have until May 27 to make purchases and earn cash-back rewards. For now, keep making payments on your account and reach out to Synchrony customer service (not Tony Stark) with any questions.
  • OppFi Fintech Opens Waitlist for Credit Builder Card: The latest fintech card announcement comes from Opportunity Financial (“OppFi”) and its partnership with Mastercard and Deserve. Later this year, the trio will roll out a new card—the OppFi Card—for consumers who don’t have easy access to credit products because of low credit scores. Rather than relying on traditional credit scores, the issuing bank will lean on customer banking, income, and employment data to approve applications. It will report account history to the three major credit bureaus, however, which is critical to building credit. If you’re interested, there’s a waitlist to join, but one word of caution: The card will charge an above-average (astronomical, even) 35.99% interest rate if you carry a balance. 
  • U.S. Bank Went Hog Wild With Harley-Davidson Card Updates: The Balance keeps tabs on the pricing and terms of more than 300 credit cards, the U.S. Bank Harley-Davidson Secured Visa Card among them. And this week we noticed the issuer had revved up card costs for new applicants. The limited rewards program is the same as before, but the card’s purchase and cash advance APRs have been tweaked upward, along with a couple of fees. At one time there were just two Harley-branded credit cards, but now there are four, plenty for fans of the big, loud bikes to choose from. Somehow the excess sounds just about right for Harley-Davidson.