Belfast Telegraph

Credit card rates hit 12-year high

Credit card interest rates have hit a 12-year high despite historically low Bank of England base rates, new research has revealed.

The average APR on plastic now stands at 18.8%, up four percentage points since the recent low of 14.8% in February 06, according to figures from personal finance website Moneyfacts.

It comes as another report indicated the reliance placed on credit cards by British consumers - a survey by price comparison firm suggested that one in five adults have three or more cards.

Furthermore, around 14 million people use credit cards to pay for day-to-day expenses, a survey of more than 2,000 Britons indicated. It means that borrowers could be hit by heavy interest repayments over the coming year - a time when many are already suffering as a result of the economic conditions.

Moneyfacts' research found that credit card rates have steadily crept up despite the Bank of England slashing its interest rate since the onset of the downturn.

In February 2008, the average APR charged on cards stood at 16.8%, at a time when the base rate was set at 5.50%.

This jumped to 17.7% a year later, with providers adding a further percentage point on average rates in the following 12 months. The current rate - the highest since February 1998, comes at a time when the base rate is recorded at 0.50%.

Commenting on the figures, Michelle Slade, spokeswoman for, said: "The UK continues to suffer from a high level of unemployment and providers are worried about the increased risk of customers not repaying their debts. The increased risk continues to be passed on to both new and existing credit card customers through higher rates."

She said that borrowers with £5,000 debt on their cards who repay the minimum each month, will have to fork out an additional £2,289 over the life of the debt when compared to February 2006.

"Other charges such as balance transfer, cash withdrawal and foreign transfer fees also continue to go up, leaving customers paying more across the board," Ms Slade added.