If you have paid credit card bills lately, particularly if you’ve had any late payments, you are probably feeling the financial pain of doing so. Interest rates are high, foreign transaction fees are widespread, and credit cards are not very consumer friendly in general these days. Let’s explore the credit card fee trends thus far in 2011.
2010 was a rough year for those who paid credit card interest. Interest rates were high last year, as the average interest rate was 13.78 percent. There was even a card issuer who landed 9,000 applications for a card with a 79.99 percent interest rate. At that rate, a $1,000 television could double, triple, and so on in cost very quickly. Needless to say, credit card interest rates were not very consumer friendly during 2010.
If you thought last years interest rates were high, 2011 has fared worse. According to creditcards.com, the current average interest rate (taken weekly) is 14.88 percent, which is higher than last year’s average. Although it has fallen since last week, this is the third highest interest rate since they began recording this information in 2007.
Since the signing of the CARD Act, which regulates certain fees in the credit card industry, late fees have dropped. Before the signing, the median late fee was $39. Now, late fees average $25 to $35. The Federal Reserve has capped late fees at $25 for first-time offenders and at $35 for others within the first 6 months that a payment is past due.
Since the CARD Act took effect last year, the percentage of credit cards that come with annual fees has risen from 14 percent to 21 percent. Although the percentage of credit cards with annual fees has risen, the cost of those fees to each card holder has not. The average annual fee remains at $59.
Over 90 percent of bank credit cards and approximately 60 percent of credit union credit cards still charge foreign transaction fees. Foreign transaction fees were once commonly called currency conversion fees and apply to purchases made in foreign countries. It is important to note that the purchaser does not necessarily have to be in a foreign country at the time of purchase. As long as the purchase is handled by a foreign bank at some point, you may be charged a foreign transaction fee.
Although this isn‘t the best time to go wild with a credit card, a savvy consumer can still find a decent deal. Some cards do not carry foreign transaction fees at all and interest rates vary from issuer to issuer. Examine your credit card agreement thoroughly before using your card and contact the issuer with any issues or concerns. As always, you could also find a different card, spend cash, or use a debit card if you are not getting a fair deal.