May 12, 2019

How to stop credit card interest rates from rising

The average interest rate on credit cards is higher than 15% for the first time since 2001, according to the Federal Reserve. If you just look at cards carrying a balance, the rate is almost 17%. And the average interest rate on retail cards is more than 25%.

Source: Federal Reserve via FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals 

Driving the news: Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have introduced a bill that would cap credit card interest rates at 15%.

The big picture: Credit cards are a particularly insidious form of credit, often filled with what Elizabeth Warren calls "tricks and traps." By bundling a loan with a very convenient payments device, banks deliberately make it easy to rack up large debts and interest charges. Capping rates at 15% would significantly reduce unintentional consumer indebtedness.

  • Capping credit card interest rates would force banks to start unbundling their lending activities from their payment-card services.

My thought bubble: It's fine for lenders like Affirm to charge simple interest rates higher than 15% when borrowers are deliberately borrowing a specific amount for a specific purpose. Consumer credit is a public good — but loans should be entered into intentionally.

Go deeper

George Zimmerman sues Buttigieg and Warren for $265M

George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, in November 2013. Photo: Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images

George Zimmerman filed a lawsuit in Polk County, Fla. seeking $265 million in damages from Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, accusing them of defaming him to "garner votes in the black community."

Context: Neither the Massachusetts senator nor the former Southbend mayor tweeted his name in the Feb. 5 posts on what would've been the 25th birthday of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen Zimmerman fatally shot in 2012. But Zimmerman alleges they "acted with actual malice" to defame him.

4 takeaways from the Nevada Democratic debate

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The relative civility of the last eight Democratic debates was thrown by the wayside Wednesday night, the first debate to feature the billionaire "boogeyman," Michael Bloomberg, whose massive advertising buys and polling surge have drawn the ire of the entire field.

The big picture: Pete Buttigieg captured the state of the race early on, noting that after Super Tuesday, the "two most polarizing figures on this stage" — Bloomberg and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders — could be the only ones left competing for the nomination. The rest of candidates fought to stop that momentum.

Klobuchar squares off with Buttigieg on immigration

Buttigieg and Klobuchar in Las Vegas on Feb. 19. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg went after Sen. Amy Klobuchar on the debate stage Wednesday for voting to confirm Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and voting in 2007 to make English the national language.

What she's saying: "I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete, but let me tell you what it's like to be in the arena. ... I did not one bit agree with these draconian policies to separate kids from their parents, and in my first 100 days, I would immediately change that."