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Credit Card Interest Rates Hit Near-Record High — Dollars and Sense

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Joe Raedle, Getty Images

If you have a new credit card, chances are good you’re paying more for the privilege now than ever before — interest rates have reached an almost unparallelled high.

Two weeks ago, the average APR was just over 15 percent, with analysts expecting such rates to climb further still. And since credit card companies are increasingly targeting riskier customers to rebuild the market share they’ve lost during the recession, the people least-equipped to handle bigger bills may be the ones getting stuck with them.

Banks blame the rate hikes on 2009′s Credit CARD Act, which limits the circumstances under which APRs can be raised on current cardholders. Instead, it seems they’re simply choosing to gouge new customers with higher rates when the cards are initially issued.

Even if your credit is good enough for one of those low or zero-percent balance transfer offers, read the fine print — you may be dinged with an outrageous interest rate on that debt if you fail to pay it off within the stated “teaser rate” period.

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