Many consumers are still getting help with debt

At the end of December 2020, around 2.87% of accounts in the auto, credit card, mortgage or unsecured personal loan accounts were still in some form of financial hardship status.

But the percentage of accounts in that status continue to fall from a high of 4.77% in May 2020, according to TransUnion’s Financial Services Monthly Industry Snapshot Report.

TransUnion data includes all of the accounts with accommodations at the end of December plus those that had accommodations pre-pandemic.

The percentage of credit card accounts in financial hardship status fell from a high of 3.73% in May 2020 to 2.42% in December 2020. 

Repayment preferences vary

Among those consumers with loan accommodations, plans to repay the money were diverse, according to TransUnion.

The research showed that around 25% of them want to return to making regular payments and negotiate with lenders to increase the length of the loan, while 19% would like to continue the accommodation and 17% want to catch up by making bigger payments.

See related: Credit card spending rebounds from pandemic plunge

Delinquencies and hardship program situation surprisingly positive

Ted Rossman, industry analyst for CreditCards.com, said that in general, the outlook for delinquencies and hardship programs is surprisingly positive.

“Delinquencies have actually fallen during the pandemic and fewer customers than we initially expected have enrolled in hardship programs, plus many have already gotten back on track,” Rossman said.

For example, Chase reported that more than 90% of customers who exited their assistance program have remained current on their payments.

And, according to the ABA Banking Journal, “Bank card delinquencies fell 109 basis points to 1.52% of all accounts in the second quarter, declining to the lowest level on record. In the third quarter they were essentially flat.”

Rossman noted that government stimulus programs deserve a lot of credit, along with many consumers spending less and making debt payoff a priority.

“It seemed like the stimulus impact was starting to wane late in 2020, but Congress and the Trump Administration agreed on another round of stimulus right before New Year’s and the Biden Administration is intent on implementing an even larger program soon,” Rossman said.

Rossman said we’re not out of the woods yet, but there’s growing optimism that the worst has passed and we will not see nearly as many delinquencies and defaults as we did during the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

See related: What to do if your credit card is closed due to delinquency

Source: creditcards.com

Credit card statements: How to read and understand them

Your monthly credit card bill got a makeover in 2009 thanks to lawmakers and federal banking regulators.

The monthly statement makeover is part of a much larger series of credit card regulation reforms approved by the Federal Reserve Board in December 2008.

Whether you get your credit card statements in the mail or online, the documents have taken on a new look since the Credit Card Act of 2009 took effect.

The Act was implemented in three phases, with the first phase (which went into effect August 2009) requiring card issuers to provide customers a 45-day notice period before implementing any changes to the card’s terms.

And new design and disclosure requirements mandated by the Credit Card Act took effect in February 2010.

The third phase, which involved an amendment to Regulation Z of the Truth in Lending Act, became effective in August 2010 and addressed unreasonable penalty and late payment fees.

Statements are now more user-friendly.

Statement designs have become more reader-friendly since then to help credit cardholders easily find important information on their monthly statements — namely, when payments are due, the amount owed, the consequences of making late payments and how much they are paying in fees and interest on different types of accounts.

Another feature warns consumers about the cost of making only minimum payments each month.

Each credit card bill also has a box that states how long (in months or years) it will take to pay off the entire balance if the cardholder makes the minimum payment compared to how long it might take to pay it off when making higher payments.

The box also states the total dollar amount cardholders would pay when both interest and principal is factored in — and this information has certainly been eye-opening for some borrowers.

The previous standard for credit card disclosure was the Schumer Box, which required key terms to be listed in a table and included in credit card offers, applications and monthly statements.

The current standard is like the Schumer Box on steroids, with much more details about terms and what they mean — and more tables.

See related: What’s the difference between statement balance and current balance?

Consumer feedback influenced implementation

The Fed conducted consumer tests of credit card statements to determine what worked best when providing key information.

Users complained that wording on the old statements was confusing, the type was too small and key information was missing.

Testers said they liked information presented in boxes that they could clearly read.

Capital One had also conducted consumer tests before redesigning its statements.

“We wanted to maintain some consistency with statement usability to ensure our customers didn’t get lost in the new statement,” said Pam Girardo, former spokeswoman for Capital One.

“We showed a variety of statement designs to understand what resonated and what didn’t and to make sure consumers understood the information.”

Here’s an explanation of some of the updated statements’ features, based on the Federal Reserve Board’s samples.

Your statement may not look exactly like this because each credit card issuer uses its own.

XXX Bank Credit Card Account Statement
Account Number XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX
February 21, 2021, to March 22, 2021

Summary of account activity
Previous balance
Payments
Other credits
Purchases
Balance transfers
Cash advances
Past due amount
Fees charged
Interest charged

New balance
Credit limit
Available credit
Statement closing date
Days in billing cycle
535.07
-$450.00
-$13.45
+$529.57
+$785.00
+$318.00
+$0.0+
$69.45
+$10.89

$1,784.53
$2,000.00
$215.47
3/22/2021
30
Payment information
New balance $1,784.53
Minimum payment due $53.00
Payment due date 4/20/21
Late payment warning:  If we do not receive your minimum payment by the date listed above, you may have to pay a late fee of up to XX and your APRs may be increased up to the Penalty APR of 28.99%.
Minimum payment warning:  If you make only the minimum payment each period, you will pay more in interest and it will take you longer to pay off your balance. For example, if you had a balance of $1,000 at an interest rate of 17% and always paid only the minimum required, it would take over 7 years to repay this balance. If you would like information about credit counseling services, call 1-800-xxx-xxxx.

 

QUESTIONS?    Please send billing inquiries to:
Call customer service
1-XXX-XXX-XXXX
 PO Box XXXX, Anytown,

Anystate XXXXX

Lost or stolen credit card
1-XXX-XXX-XXXX

 

Important changes to your account terms
The following is a summary of changes that are being made to your account terms. Changes to the APRs described below are due to changes in market conditions. For more detailed information, please refer to the booklet enclosed with this statement.

These changes will impact your account as follows:

Transactions made on or after 4/9/21: As of 5/10/21, changes to APRs described below will apply to these transactions.

Transactions made before 4/9/21: Current APRs will continue to apply to these transactions.

If you are already being charged a higher Penalty APR for purchases: In this case, any changes to APRs described below will not go into effect at this time. These changes will go into effect when the Penalty APR no longer applies to your account.

Revised terms, as of 5/10/19
APR for purchases 16.99%
Late payment fee $32 if your balance is less than or equal to $1,000;
$39 if your balance is more than $1,000

 

Transactions
Reference number Trans date Post date Description of transaction or credit  

Amount

 

5884186PS0388W6YM
0544400060ZLV72VL
55541860705RDYD0X 554328608008W90M0
054830709LYMRPT4L
854338203FS8OO0Z5
564891561545KOSHD
841517877845AKOJIO
895848561561894KOH
1871556189456SAMKL
1542202074TWWZV48
2564894185189LKDFID
4545754784KOHUIOS
14547847586KDDL564 2564561023184102315
55542818705RASD0X
289189194ASDS8744
178105417841045784
045148714518979874
8456152156181SDSA
31289105205648AWD
04518478415615ASD
0547810544898718AF
056489413216848OP
054894561564ASDW
5648974891AD98156
2/22
2/24
2/24
2/24
2/24
2/25
2/25
2/25
2/26
2/26
2/26
2/27
2/27
2/28
2/28
3/1
3/2
3/3
3/6
3/5
3/11
3/11
3/15
3/16
3/17
3/19
2/23
2/25
2/25
2/25
2/25
2/25
2/26
2/26
2/27
2/27
2/26
2/28
3/1
2/28
3/1
3/2
3/3
3/6
3/5
3/12
3/12
3/16
3/17
3/17
3/18
3/20
Store #1
Store #2
Store #3
Store #4
Store #5
Pymt-Thank you
Store #6
Store #7
Store #8
Store #9
Cash advance
Store #10
Balance transfer
Cash advance
Store #11
Store #12
Store #13
Store #14
Store #13
Store #15
Store #16
Store #17
Store #18
Store #19
Store #20
Store #21
$2.05
$12.11
$4.63
$114.95
$7.35
$450.00-
$14.35
$40.35
$27.68
$124.76
$121.50
$32.87
$785.00
$196.50
$14.76
$3.76
$13.45
$2.35
$13.45
$25.00
$7.34
$10.56
$24.50
$8.76
$14.23
$23.76
Fees 
9525156489SFD4545Q
56415615647OJSNDS
84151564SADS8745H
256489156189451516L
2/23
2/26
2/27
2/28
2/23
2/26
2/27
2/28
Late fee
Cash advance fee
Balance transfer fee
Cash advance fee
TOTAL FEES
$35.00
$5.00
$23.55
$5.90
$69.45
Interest charged 
Interest on purchases
Interest on cash advances
TOTAL INTEREST
$6.31
$4.58
$10.89
2021 Totals Year-to-Date 
Total fees charged in 2021
Total interest charged in 2021
$90.14
$18.27

 

Interest charge calculation 
Your Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the annual interest rate on your account
Type of balance Annual Percentage Rate (APR) Balance Subject to
Interest Rate
Interest charge
Purchases
Cash advances
Balance transfers(v) = Variable rate
14.99% (v)
21.99% (v)
0.00%
$512.14
$253.50
$637.50
$6.31
$4.58
$0.00

 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Please detach this portion and return with your payment to ensure credit. Retain upper portion for your records.

Please indicate address change and additional
cardholder requests on the reverse side.
XXX Bank
P.O. Box XXXX
Anytown, Anystate XXXXX
Account number:
New balance:
Minimum payment due
Payment due date
AMOUNT ENCLOSED:
XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX
$1,784.53
$53.00
4/20/21

Source: Federal Reserve Board

Source: creditcards.com

Average credit card interest rates: Week of January 6, 2021

The average credit card interest rate is 16.05%.

After a historic 2020 caused credit card rates to plunge by more than one and a quarter percentage points between December 2019 and December 2020, the national average credit card APR began 2021 near a three-year-low. For the sixth consecutive week, average rates on brand-new credit cards remained at 16.05%, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

None of the cards included in the weekly rate report revised new APRs this week. As a result, consumers shopping for a new card continued to enjoy some of the lowest average rates available to borrowers since 2017.

Slow start to 2021 may signal stable year for credit card rates

Changes to new credit card offers have become relatively rare in recent months as most lenders tracked by CreditCards.com leave card APRs untouched.

Last spring, nearly all major lenders except for Capital One, cut APRs on all brand-new cards by 1.5 percentage points – in tandem with the Federal Reserve’s emergency rate cuts. The Fed chopped its benchmark interest to near zero in March in response to economic weakening from the coronavirus pandemic. When the Federal Reserve revises its benchmark interest rate, most lenders revise APRs on new and current offers by the same amount.

Since March, few lenders have independently revised APRs. With federal interest rates as low as they can go, widespread rate changes have also stopped completely and are unlikely to return any time soon.

As a result, the national average card APR has stubbornly remained within rounding distance of 16% since spring, budging by less than a tenth of a percentage point between April and December.

Over the past seven months, in particular, card APRs have been especially stable. Among the 100 card offers tracked weekly by CreditCards.com, for example, only a handful of card offers have changed since early summer.

A small number of credit card lenders hiked APRs on select cards in the last few quarters of 2020 after briefly matching the Fed’s emergency rate cuts.

For example, Wells Fargo, Citi and American Express all matched the Fed’s rate cuts. But they each later bumped up the APRs on some of their most popular cash back and balance transfer cards within months of cutting rates. In most cases, though, the lenders only hiked rates on one or a few cards.

Meanwhile, an even smaller number of lenders tracked by CreditCards.com pushed up APRs on select subprime and retail credit cards. For example, U.S. Bank substantially increased the APR on its primary secured credit card, while the retailers Nordstrom and Cabela’s hiked APRs on their namesake store cards.

The changes to new credit card offers were too few and far between, though, to significantly dent the national average.

See related: Best credit cards

Borrowers are likely to enjoy low rates for some time

The relative stability in rates echoes previous post-recession years when federal interest rates were at rock bottom. Between 2010 and 2015, for example, lenders rarely revised the lowest available APR on brand-new cards. As a result, the national average card APR – which is based on cards’ lowest available rates – remained within rounding distance of 15% for more than six years.

The Federal Reserve has signaled that it will likely leave its benchmark interest rate near rock bottom for at least another year. So new cardholders likely have some time to pay off their debt before higher interest rates kick in.

See related: How do credit card APRs work?

CreditCards.com’s Weekly Rate Report

Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.05% 16.05% 16.03%
Low interest 12.77% 12.77% 12.83%
Cash back 15.85% 15.85% 16.09%
Balance transfer 13.85% 13.85% 13.93%
Business 13.91% 13.91% 13.91%
Student 16.12% 16.12% 16.12%
Airline 15.53% 15.53% 15.48%
Rewards 15.76% 15.76% 15.82%
Instant approval 18.38% 18.38% 18.65%
Bad credit 25.30% 25.30% 24.43%
Methodology: The national average credit card APR is comprised of 100 of the most popular credit cards in the country, including cards from dozens of leading U.S. issuers and representing every card category listed above. (Introductory, or teaser, rates are not included in the calculation.)
Source: CreditCards.com
Updated: January 6, 2021

Historic interest rates by card type

Some credit cards charge even higher rates, on average. The type of rate you get will depend in part on the category of credit card you own. For example, even the best travel credit cards often charge higher rates than basic, low interest credit cards.

CreditCards.com has been calculating average rates for a wide variety of credit card categories, including student cards, balance transfer cards, cash back cards and more, since 2007.

How to get a low credit card interest rate

Your odds of getting approved for a card’s lowest rate will increase the more you improve your credit score. Some factors that influence your credit card APR will be out of your control, such as the length of time you’ve been handling credit.

However, even if you’re new to credit or are rebuilding your score, there are steps you can take to ensure a lower APR. For example:

  1. Pay your bills on time. The single most important factor influencing your credit score – and your ability to win a lower rate – is your track record of making on-time payments. Lenders are more likely to trust you with a competitive APR – and other positive terms, such as a big credit limit – if you have a lengthy history of paying your bills on time.
  2. Keep your balances low. Lenders also want to see that you are responsible with your credit and don’t overcharge. As a result, credit scores take into account the amount of credit you’re using, compared to how much credit you’ve been given. This is known as your credit utilization ratio. Typically, the lower your ratio, the better. For example, personal finance experts often recommend that you keep your balances well below 30% of your total credit limit.
  3. Build a lengthy and diverse credit history. Lenders also like to see that you’ve been successfully using credit for a long time and have experience with different types of credit, including revolving credit and installment loans. As a result, credit scores, such as the FICO score and VantageScore, factor in the average length of your credit history and the types of loans you’ve handled (which is known as your credit mix). To keep your credit history as long as possible, continue to use your oldest credit card so your lender doesn’t close it.
  4. Call your lender. If you’ve successfully owned a credit card for a long time, you may be able to convince your lender to lower your interest rate – especially if you have excellent credit. Reach out to your lender and ask if they’d be willing to negotiate a lower APR.
  5. Monitor your credit report. Check your credit reports regularly to make sure you’re being accurately scored. The last thing you want is for a mistake or unauthorized account to drag down your credit score. You have the right to check your credit reports from each major credit bureau (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once per year for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Source: creditcards.com