American Express is to increase the interest rates it charges UK consumers’ credit cards from February.
The company said the increase in the rate by 2.3 percentage points – from 22.2% to 24.5% – was because of the rising costs of providing loyalty programmes, rewards and benefits to its customers.
Commentators said other providers could follow suit, particularly if the Bank of England announces an increase in interest rates next month.
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American Express cardholders will be written to over the next two months to give them notice of the change. In a statement, the company said: “American Express regularly reviews its cards to ensure that we continue to offer our cardmembers competitive credit cards that represent good value and provide a range of benefits.
“Following a recent review, we are making changes to the interest rates on our personal credit cards, to reflect the cost of providing rewards, product benefits and loyalty programmes, which have increased in recent years.”
The changes just apply to personal cards, and business cards will be unaffected. In August, American Express cut the amount of cashback that Platinum Everyday and Platinum Cashback cardholders could earn.
Under the new plans the interest rate for purchases on cards will increase from 22.2% to 24.5%. The rate for withdrawing money on a card will rise from 27.2% to 31.5%.
Rachel Springall from the financial information site Moneyfacts said card providers who offer benefits usually increase the rate they charge on a card to sustain the offers. “This move by American Express does appear to be for this very reason,” she said.
“Typically the attitude to risk among credit card providers and sustainability of perks has much more influence on pricing that a base rate change. Indeed back in 2018 when base rate rose by 0.25%, there was no sudden mass of credit card rates rising in the aftermath.”
She said cardholders who are unhappy with the increase should consider switching if they can find a better deal. “However, whether switching is the right choice depends on any perks a customer may get from using the card and whether they are able to pay off their balance in full each month.”
Expectations in the city that the Bank of England will raise rates next month jumped this week after the governor said it would have to act to curb rising inflation and the chief economist, Huw Pill, said the question of whether to raise interest rates was a “live” one.
Andrew Hagger of the consultancy Moneycomms said American Express could be the first of many providers to increase their rates in the coming months.
“Some lenders such as MBNA and Halifax link your rate automatically to base rate changes whereas others will make ad hoc changes,” he said. “It looks as if borrowers will be forced to pay more, however anyone who is carrying a balance over every month should consider switching to a 0% balance transfer card to slash their interest costs.”