Credit card rates at record highs near 15%
By Blake Ellis, staff reporterJanuary 28, 2011: 5:00 AM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Interest rates are now hovering near record highs, at an average rate of 14.72%. And if your credit is bad enough, you could even end up with a rate as high as 59.9% APR.
That's because while the CARD Act helped crack down on certain fees and requires more disclosures, it didn't cap every credit card holder's worst enemy: interest rates.
Sure, the new rules prevent banks from raising most interest rates retroactively, but there's no limit on the rates they can charge new customers.
"Rates are going up because card issuers know that once you get a card they can't raise the rates, so they're raising rates on the front end to ensure they get the revenue from that interest," said Beverly Harzog, credit card expert at Credit.com.
APRs have climbed more than 20% over the past two years and hit an all-time high of an average 14.78% in mid-November, based on weekly data CreditCards.com collects from 100 of the nation's top credit card issuers.
And there's no end in sight. While interest rate caps have been proposed -- including a proposal earlier this month from New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey that would limit rates at 15% -- none have been passed into law so far.
The end of credit cards is coming
So what do record high interest rates mean for you? If you have a terrible credit score, opening a credit card is going to be painful. Though rates vary depending on the card you apply for, with a score below 599 you'll likely be stuck facing an APR of 24% or higher, said Harzog. If you can get a card at all.
In fact, First Premier Bank offers a Gold MasterCard with a whopping 59.9% rate for those people with "less than perfect credit", according to its website. And that rate is actually down from the 79.9% rate it originally charged.
Even with a credit score between 600 to 649 -- still considered poor, but not terrible -- you're probably looking at rates around 20%.
Harzog recommends staying away from interest rates above 20% and instead getting a secured card from a lender like Orchard Bank as a way to build up credit so that you can eventually get a card with a decent rate.