Average Credit Card Interest Rate Was 20.14% in May 2020

APRs stabilized after rate cuts, but balance transfer offers dwindled

Stack of multicolored credit cards close-up view with selective focus.
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This post is for historical reference. Specific product rates may have changed since publication. Please see banks' sites for current rates. For current rates and analysis, see Average Credit Card Interest Rates.

The average credit card interest rate was 20.14% in May 2020, according to data collected by The Balance. That was nearly unchanged from April’s average rate of 20.15%.

In July 2020 we updated our data collection and analysis to better reflect how and where consumers use their credit cards. These changes affected how we calculate average credit card rates and may not be reflected in the average rates published prior to August, 2020.

The Balance watched more annual percentage rate (APR) cuts roll in throughout April as credit card issuers caught up with emergency rate changes issued by the Federal Reserve in March. But in May, rate changes slowed down dramatically. Average APRs were fairly stable, and issuers instead tweaked card offers while consumer spending was way down. 

Key Takeaways

  • The average APR on credit card purchases was 20.14%, down 1.07 percentage points from February 2020.
  • Store credit cards had the highest average interest rate.
  • Business credit cards had the lowest average interest rate.
  • Student credit cards had the lowest average interest rate among consumer cards.

Average Credit Card Interest Rates (APR) on Purchases by Card Category

Card type is just one factor that determines a credit card interest rate. To learn how The Balance categorizes cards based on type for this report, check out the methodology at the bottom of this page. Other deciding factors include your credit standing and the type of transaction you use the card for (more on that later in the “Average Interest Rates by Credit Card Transaction Type” section below).

Average Credit Card Interest Rates Based on Card Type
  May 2020 Average APR April 2020 Average APR Nov. 2019 Average APR
All Credit Cards 20.14% 20.15% 21.25%
Business Credit Cards 17.99% 17.99% 19.23%
Student Credit Cards 18.78% 18.87% 20.58%
Cash-Back Credit Cards 19.08% 19.21% 20.08%
Travel Rewards Credit Cards 20.06% 20.10% 21.08%
Secured Credit Cards 20.28% 20.03% 20.80%
Other 20.58% 20.62% 21.60%
Store Credit Cards 24.20% 24.23% 25.36%

What Happened: Card Issuers Changed Offers in Response to COVID-19 

The major interest rate news in March and April was centered around two emergency federal funds rate cuts and the APR drops that followed. In May, credit card APRs were much more stable, despite a number of interesting card offer changes as the pandemic pushed waves of uncertainty throughout the economy and the credit card market: 

Only a Few Rate Changes Related to Fed Actions

In March and April, The Balance watched more than two dozen major card issuers cut rates in response to the federal funds rate adjustments, which drives the prime rate most credit card APRs are based on. In May, only two issuers—Credit One Bank and First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO)—cut interest rates to catch up with those Fed rate changes, according to the offers tracked by The Balance. 

More Balance Transfer Offers Disappeared

Several card issuers amended 0% balance transfer APR deals and made promotional balance transfer offers less prominent on their websites. In April there were 94 cards in our database advertising promotional balance transfer rate offers for new cardholders, and in May there were 82.

U.S. Bank officially removed it’s offer from it’s U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card terms after first removing mentions of the deal from marketing materials in April. The ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard also cut its 0% balance transfer APR offer. 

Cards that cut their balance transfer rate offer back in April have not re-added them, either. Both the Capital One SavorOne Rewards Card and the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card still didn't offer 0% balance transfer APR deals. The Chase Slate card, which was known for having a generous balance transfer offer, was still closed to new online applications. 

Average Interest Rates by Credit Card Transaction Type

APRs often vary depending on which of those transactions you make, and some issuers give new cardholders a break by offering low or 0% interest rates on some of those transactions for a period of time.  

Purchase APR Deals

One-quarter (25%) of the cards tracked for this report offered new cardholders introductory purchase APRs in May 2020, which was down slightly from April and March, when about 26% of cards included such offers. 

  • On average, these offers lasted about 12 months.
  • The longest introductory 0% purchase rate offer was 20 months, as offered by two cards in our database in May 2020: U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card and U.S. Bank Business Platinum Card. 
  • Cards with promotional purchase APRs charged an average ongoing rate of 18.19%.

Balance Transfer APR Deals

Promotional balance transfer rates were only slightly more common than purchase APR deals in May 2020, based on the offer changes observed by The Balance. Just over a quarter (about 26%) of all our tracked cards boasted balance transfer rate offers that month.

  • The average length of these balance transfer rate promotions was about 14 months.
  • The longest offer, touted by the SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card, gave new applicants 36 months to pay off transferred debt at a reduced interest rate of 3.25%. The best 0% balance transfer APR offer was 18 months long, offered by the Citi Simplicity card and Citi Diamond Preferred Credit Card.
  • When promotional rate offers ended, we found the average APR of balance transfer transactions was 18.19%.

Cash Advance Rates

About 88% of the cards we tracked allowed cash advances in May 2020.

  • The average APR on cash advances was 25.36%, unchanged from the previous month.
  • The highest cash advance APR we found was 36%. That steep cash advance APR was charged by both the Fortiva Credit Card and First PREMIER Bank Gold Mastercard.

Penalty Interest Rates

While not all credit cards charge penalty rates, many did in May 2020, including 103 of the cards surveyed (about 33%). The average penalty APR in our card sample was a steep 28.85%—8.71 percentage points higher than the average purchase APR in May. 

The Balance found that despite rate cuts made in March and April, penalty rates were still as high as 30.90%, which was charged by five Capital One business cards in May 2020: Capital One Spark Cash for Business, Capital One Spark Classic for Business, Capital One Spark Miles for Business, Capital One Spark Cash Select for Business, and Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business. The highest consumer card penalty rate was 30.74%, as charged by the BMW Credit Card. 

Methodology

This monthly report is based on credit card offer data collected and monitored on a rolling basis by The Balance for 308 U.S. credit cards in May 2020. Our data pool included offers from 42 issuers, including the largest national banks. We tracked average interest rates on both a weekly and monthly basis for each card category, plus the overall average rate for all cards.

How We Calculate APR Averages

We gather purchase and transaction APR information from current credit card terms and conditions. If a credit card APR is posted as a range, we first determine the average of that range, then use that number in our overall average rate calculations, so the statistics are true averages, not skewed toward the low or high end of a spectrum.

The overall average APR in this report is an average of the average APR in each category we track: travel, cash back, secured, business, student, and store cards.

How We Categorize Cards

We assign a category to each credit card in our database, and a card can go in only one category. Here's how we define them:

  • Business credit cards: Cards small business owners can apply for and use to make purchases for their companies. 
  • Cash-back credit cards: Cards that offer you a little rebate on most purchases you make with the card.
  • Travel rewards credit cards: Cards that allow you to earn extra points or miles on travel purchases, either with specific travel brands or on a variety of travel-related expenses. Cards that offer high-value travel redemption options are also part of this group.
  • Student credit cards: Cards for college or graduate students who are at least 18 years old.
  • Secured credit cards: Cards that require a security deposit that’s usually the same amount as the credit limit you’ll be given. These cards are aimed at helping people with poor credit or no credit history to build credit.
  • Store credit cards: Cards you can use at particular retail stores, and sometimes other places as well. They often offer discounts or rewards for purchases made at the associated store (or chain of stores).
  • Other: Cards that do not fit any of the following categories: business, cash back, student, travel, secured, and store. This includes cards that offer very few—if any—features.