NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Credit card interest rates are climbing high again. According to CreditCards.com, which tracks rates on 100 of the most popular offerings, the nation’s average annual percentage rate is currently at 15.14%, a sharp uptick from the 14.71% it was a year ago and a far cry from the 12.87% issuers were offering this time in 2010.
But consumers shouldn’t necessarily settle for whatever rate their issuers offer them. Here are three ways to score a lower APR in 2012 and beyond.
Call your issuer and negotiate
Don’t be shy about telling your issuer that you’re unhappy with the annual percentage you’re currently paying, especially if you’ve established a strong payment history with them. New cardholders also shouldn’t refrain from asking for a lower rate if they feel their credit score justifies a lower rate than the one they were offered, because neither is set in stone. A good tactic is to use credit card solicitations you’ve received in the mail as a bargaining chip.
“The fear of losing your business will usually make them match the offer,” Derrick Kinney, a financial adviser who specializes in helping families, told MainStreet in September.
Boost your credit score
Premium interest rates are usually reserved for the credit elite, so try giving your credit score a boost before applying for a new piece of plastic. The quickest surefire way to net some credit points is to pay down existing credit card debt, which will improve your credit utilization ratio. You can also review your credit report for errors that may cost you and, of course, get current on any outstanding payments.
Switch to a low-interest credit card
January is the time when many issuers offer low- to zero-percent introductory interest rates on both balance transfers and purchases as they look to entice those with debt left over after the holidays. Those unhappy with their current APR can seek out some of these better offerings (just make sure your go-to rate following the teaser’s expiration is also competitive). You can find some of your better options in MainStreet’s roundup of the best balance transfer cards.
Consumers should also seek out a card that carries a low interest rate in general. These offerings typically carry less attractive rewards, but may be a great fit for someone who expects to carry an unpaid balance on the card.
Need help navigating new credit card offers? Check out MainStreet’s look at seven terms that will kill a credit card deal!