The History of Credit and Our Credit Histories

wheeeee credit cards

Today in “fun with interactive charts:” Planet Money has a chart illustrating how credit has changed since the dawn of the new millennium.

(Yes, I could have just written “since 2001.” But how often do you get to literally use “dawn of the new millennium,” especially when it relates to the year 2001 and not 2000?)

You’ll have to click the link to play with the chart yourself, but here’s what I learned:

—You probably got junk mail offering a 0 percent introductory rate credit card around 2004.

—In 2000, the majority of people paid either 8 percent APR (if their credit was good) or 16 percent (if their credit was bad).

—In 2013 (the last date at which data was collected), the majority of people pay an APR rate ranging from 8 percent to 18 percent, and it’s a pretty even distribution.

—But there are two big bumps on either side of the “even distribution between 8 and 18 percent” graph. One of them is at the far left, representing the 6 million people who have a 0 percent introductory rate credit card. Another one is at the far right, representing the people who have credit cards with APRs between 22 and 30 percent.

—These super high interest rate cards really took off in 2010, as—and this is just my educated guess—a bunch of people who took a credit score hit in the recession needed access to credit, and banks responded with high interest rate cards.

Let’s use the comment space as an Open Thread to share credit card stories. When did you get your first 0 percent introductory rate card? Did you pay off the balance before the rate expired? Are you like my friend Colleen, who became a zero interest balance transfer wizard?

Or did you end up getting one of those high-interest cards during the recession, and are you still paying off the interest?


Photo credit: Sean MacEntee



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