Credit Card Costs Climbing as Fed Hikes Interest Rates

Another Rate Hike Could be More Bad News for Credit Card Users, Who Now Hold a Record Amount of Debt

An over-the-shoulder angle of a woman using a credit card to buy something online.

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If the Federal Reserve raises interest rates again this week as expected, data show that credit card holders are one group of consumers that will be hit the hardest. 

It's been a year since the Fed began incrementally raising its fed funds rate, and credit card interest rates have mirrored the trajectory, according to Investopedia’s research. The Fed’s rates have climbed to 4.5% from near zero, and in that time, credit card interest rates have moved up more than 13%, to 23.18% in February from 20.55% in March 2022.

Banks like Chase (JPM), and Citi (C) use the Fed’s interest rates as a foundation for their own prime rates, which are used to set rates for credit cards, mortgages, car loans, and other credit offerings.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve may send rates higher again, most likely by 25 basis points, according to CME’s FedWatch tool, which forecasts Fed rate hikes based on bond trading activity. It would be the ninth such rate hike since last year.

The Fed began pushing up interest rates a year ago, when it announced its first rate hike since December 2018. The Fed had lowered rates to zero during the Covid pandemic as it sought to stave off economic calamity.

But prices spiked as businesses resumed operations, followed by higher energy prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both of which prompted the Fed to begin raising rates in March 2022 in hopes of slowing price growth.

Since the Fed began its rate hikes, Americans’ credit card debt has reached an all-time high, peaking at more than $930 billion in 2022, according to a report from credit rating agency TransUnion. Interest rates on that debt reached the highest levels recorded by the Federal Reserve in 2022.

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  1. Federal Reserve. “Federal Reserve issues FOMC statement.”

  2. TransUnion. “Amidst Stubbornly High Inflation, Consumers Continue to Turn to Credit Cards, Home Equity to Maintain Stability.”

  3. FRED. “Commercial Bank Interest Rate on Credit Card Plans, All Accounts.”

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