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Almost all credit cards these days come with variable interest rates. If you’re looking for a fixed rate credit card, you’ve probably noticed that most card issuers don’t offer fixed rate cards. Because they don’t want to be locked in if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates.
But you should know that a credit card with a variable APR won’t leave you at the mercy of fluctuating interest rates. In fact, in many cases you can get the stability you’re looking for with a variable rate card and a lower interest rate than you might expect, depending on your credit.
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Let’s take a closer look at why fixed-rate cards are so hard to find and how you might be better off with a variable APR card.
Most of today’s top credit cards follow a variable rate structure, meaning their APR is tied to an underlying index such as the prime rate. A variable rate card’s APR typically follows as the index rate rises and falls. In contrast, as the name suggests, a fixed rate is not automatically affected by fluctuations in the prime rate.
Fixed rate credit card offers are rare. While there are some nationwide options, such as UNIFY Financial Credit Union, you’ll usually find them at your local bank or credit union.
It’s important to understand that a fixed rate credit card doesn’t mean you’ll have the same interest rate forever. Card issuers can – and do – raise your interest rate even with a fixed-rate card.
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A fixed-rate card won’t fluctuate with the prime rate, but changes in your circumstances, such as a drop in your credit score or missing or late payments, can cause your issuer to raise your interest rate.
The virtual demise of fixed-rate cards can be more or less traced to the Credit Card Act of 2009. The act introduced several consumer protections, including protection against random interest rate hikes on their credit cards without notice.
By law, card issuers must lock in the APR for the first year of the account, but after that they have the right to change interest rates and other card terms, provided they give cardholders 45 days’ advance written notice. As long as the notice period is followed, an issuer may decide to change your interest rate to a fixed rate card.
According to Ted Rossman, its senior industry analyst, “[The Credit Card Act] basically made it so the easiest way for card issuers to raise interest rates on existing balances was to tie them to an underlying index like the prime rate,” Rossman said. “So we’re seeing many cards today — in fact, almost all credit cards — switch to this variable rate structure.”
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Variable interest rates are not necessarily as volatile as they may appear. “Even if and when the Fed raises rates, what we’ve seen recently is that they’ve been reluctant to do so,” Rossman said. “Even when they do, it goes up a quarter of a point at a time.”
Are you looking for a fixed rate credit card because you need to pay off a large purchase over time and don’t want to be derailed by rising interest rates while you carry a balance? Maybe you’re consolidating high-interest debt and want a card with a guaranteed low interest rate to avoid surprises as you work to pay it off.
While a fixed-rate credit card may seem attractive in this case, you’re probably better off with a 0 percent intro APR card that offers no interest at all for a long time. Unless you’re able to pay off that new frozen balance or take that much-needed vacation during the initial APR period, you’ll be out ahead of a card that charges interest, whether it’s a fixed or variable rate.
Here are some of the best 0 percent intro APR offers currently available that offer promotional periods for both purchases and balance transfers:
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If you don’t think you’ll be able to pay off the balance during the promotional period, or if you regularly expect to carry a small balance from time to time and need a long-term option, you can also consider low-interest credit cards. These cards charge interest from day one. , but may offer lower variable interest rates than other card options depending on your creditworthiness. Some maps are noteworthy
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