Credit card interest rates have reached their highest in at least 13 years, putting shoppers preparing to splash out for Christmas at risk of higher bills.
The average annual percentage rate (APR) reached 24.7% in September, according to personal finance data provider Moneyfacts – the highest figure since its records started in June 2006.
It said credit cards had seen a significant increase in APR charges generally in recent months.
Rachel Springall, a finance expert at Moneyfacts, said some providers had scrapped low rate deals altogether, while others had increased their rates.
“During the third quarter of 2019, Tesco Bank pulled its Clubcard Credit Card with Low APR Mastercard charging 5.9%, which was the lowest rate card on the market,” said Ms Springall.
“Over the same quarter, Bank of Scotland, Halifax and Lloyds Bank increased the purchase rate on their credit cards, rising from 6.4% to 9.9% APR.”
Ms Springall pointed to figures from trade association UK Finance that suggested consumers may be making efforts to shift credit card debts to interest-free alternatives, or clear their credit balances entirely.
She said: “Data from UK Finance shows a decline in the proportion of credit card balances that bear interest, now 53.4% (June 2019) down from 54.6% a year prior.
“In addition, the annual growth rate of outstanding balances has now fallen to 3.6%, down from its peak of 8.3% at the start of 2018.”
Ms Springall said credit card customers should take “every opportunity” to pay more than the minimum monthly repayment on their card to clear the debt and cut down on the interest.
Moneyfacts says the average APR reached 24.7% in September
She said a borrower who makes a purchase of £3,000 on a typical credit card and repays just £100 per month could see their debt persist for over three years, and end up paying £970 in interest.
This time last year, UK Finance, which represents the major high street banks, said it had seen a surge in credit card spending of almost 8% compared with 2017.
It said outstanding levels of card borrowing grew by 5.8% in August 2018 compared to the previous year, although overdraft borrowing was 7.2% lower.
Spending over the period was boosted by good weather that followed on from the “Beast from the East” cold snaps during the first quarter of the year.
December 2018 saw consumer credit increase by 6.6%, slowing from a 7.2% annual increase in November and marking the lowest annual growth since December 2014, according to the Bank of England.