In the credit card business, where almost all cards index their rate to Prime + an X factor, you need to keep a watchful eye on the metric because every rate increase is one step closer to delinquency for the stressed cardholder.
A sigh of relief as the Fed announces no more increases this year as CNBC reports.
The good news:
- The Fed indicates that no more rate hikes will be coming this year.
- The announcement comes three months after the central bank said two hikes would be appropriate in 2019.
The bad news:
- The Fed also reduced expectations in GDP growth and inflation and a bump higher in the unemployment rate outlook.
As expected, the WSJ is all over the news on this as are most major media sources.
Federal Reserve officials indicated Wednesday they are unlikely to raise interest rates this year and may be nearly finished with the series of increases they began more than three years ago now that U.S. economic growth is slowing.
Mr. Powell cited mild inflation pressures, a sharp pullback in financial risk-taking and clear threats to U.S. growth in explaining the Fed’s new wait-and-see stance after its meeting in late January.
Back to CNBC, drawing from Bankrate and WalletHub.
Credit card rates are already at a record high of 17.85 percent, on average, citing Bankrate and WalletHub data.
- Most credit cards have a variable rate, which means there’s a direct connection to the Fed’s benchmark rate. As the federal funds rate rises, so does the prime rate, and credit card rates follow suit. Cardholders would see the impact within a billing cycle or two.
- Tacking on a 25-basis-point increase, for example, would cost credit card users roughly $1.6 billion in extra finance charges, according to a separate WalletHub analysis. Because of the previous rate hikes, credit card users paid about $11.26 billion more in 2018 than they would have. Otherwise, WalletHub said.
No increase on the horizon is at least a nine-month breather for credit cardholders. This site by Chase maintains a file of Prime Rate events back until 1983, for your reading pleasure. There you can stroll down memory lane and remember what the 13% prime felt like as the economy cycled through recessions and depressions.
For now, memories of Ben Bernanke and seven years of 3.25% is a fond memory and today’s 5.5% isn’t so bad either.
Here’s a link to a classic reprise from Columbia Business School Follies as a stroll down memory lane on interest rates.
Overview by Brian Riley, Director, Credit Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group