Consumer Payment Card News

Non Event

Today’s Fed interest rate cut, which will drive the prime rate down to 4.75% over the next 24 hours, will essentially be a non-event for credit cardholders. While a few credit cards may decline in January as a result of today’s rate cut, the vast majority of credit cards will be unaffected. The primary reason is floor rates or minimum interest rates. The secondary reason is fixed interest rates. Most of the popular credit cards in the U.S. have already reached their minimum level or have not budged. Furthermore, some issuers offering variable rate cards are now setting very high spreads for new cardholders. For example, Citibank’s new smart MasterCard carries a prime +12.99% interest rate structure, a significantly higher spread than offered on previous Citibank cards. The nation’s second largest issuer, MBNA, which uses fixed interest rates for nearly 90% of its cards, has lowered its rate on new cards to a fixed 12.99%, while the vast majority of its cardholders pay higher fixed rates, which have not changed since late last year. Bank One/First USA, the nation’s third largest issuer, recently launched a Cash Rewards Platinum VISA offering a prime +6.99% APR with a 13.24% floor rate. Even small issuers in Arkansas offering some of the lowest rates in the nation have been adjusting rates upward. Simmons Bank recently raised its APR from 7.00% to 8.95% after a recent federal court decision removed the Arkansas bank usury law.

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