Interest rate forecast
Credit card interest rates should rise in 2013, though they'll remain close to current levels, says Robert Hammer, owner and CEO of R.K. Hammer, a bankcard advisory firm in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
A key factor that determines credit card rates is the prime rate, which is tied to the benchmark federal funds rate. The Federal Reserve predicts that it will keep that rate near zero percent until mid-2015, which will limit any increases in the prime rate.
Rate movement in 2012
The annual percentage rate for variable-rate credit cards -- the most popular type -- averaged 14.52 percent in 2012. The variable rate was 14.56 percent the first week of January versus 14.59 percent the last week of December. The average APR for fixed-rate cards in 2012 was 13.84 percent. The fixed rate started 2012 at 13.71 percent and ended the year at 14.02 percent.
What's a consumer to do?
The interest rate environment is only one part of the APR equation. The other part is the applicant's credit. Consumers with good credit will get a rate that's on the lower end of a card's APR range.
"Pay all your bills on time. Don't apply for lots of new credit. Use cash advances rarely. And keep outstanding balances to credit line low," Hammer says. "I wish it was more complicated than that, but it isn't."