credit card interest rate

Credit Card Interest Rates: What is it & How it Works

Credit cards are a common tool in modern financial dealings, offering convenience and various advantages. But they also bring along a cost – interest rates. Understanding these rates is vital for responsible financial management.

This blog takes a closer look at the interest rates levied on credit cards, the factors which influence them and some practical tips to manage them efficiently!

Credit card interest rates- an overview

Simply put, a credit card interest rate is the cost you bear borrowing money, typically stated as the yearly rate . It is usually expressed as an Annual Percentage Rate (APR). This APR encompasses not only the interest but also any extra charges or fees linked to your credit card activity.

Types of credit card interest rates

There are different types of interest rates that are associated with a credit card. Each of these has its own features and works on a distinctive mechanism as below:

Credit cards are a common financial tool used for everyday transactions and emergency expenses. When you get a credit card, you're often introduced to various interest rate options, including variable, fixed, and promotional rates. These rates can impact the cost of carrying a balance on your card, so it's essential to understand how they work.

1. Variable interest rates

Variable interest rates are like chameleons; they change based on specific financial indicators. Credit card companies typically tie their variable rates to benchmarks such as the prime interest rate, U.S. Treasury Bill interest, or the Federal Reserve Discount Rate. They add a little extra, known as a "margin," to these benchmarks to determine your card's interest rate. Here's what you need to know about variable rates:


  • When general interest rates are low, like they have been recently, variable rates can be advantageous. You might get a lower rate compared to fixed-rate options.
  • Some variable rate cards have caps that limit how high or low the rate can go, providing a bit of rate stability.


  • Variable rates can change at any time, increasing or decreasing based on the underlying index. Card companies aren't required to notify you in advance.
  • Late payments, whether on your credit card, mortgage, or other debts, can lead to a higher APR (Annual Percentage Rate) on your card.

Must Read: How To Manage & Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast

2. Fixed interest rates

Fixed-rate cards offer stability because the interest rate remains constant unless your card issuer provides a 45-day notice of a change. Here's what you need to know about fixed rates:


  • You have rate predictability and stability, making it easier to budget for payments.
  • Card issuers must specify how long the rate will remain fixed and give you notice when they intend to change it.


  • Fixed rates are often higher than variable rates. You pay a premium for the predictability they offer.
  • Card issuers can still change fixed rates if you make late payments, complete a debt management program, or if a promotional fixed rate ends.

3. Promotional interest rates

Promotional interest rates are like limited-time offers. They are designed to attract customers with special terms and benefits for a specified period. Here's what you need to know about promotional rates:


  • Promotional rates can provide significant savings, like zero-dollar balance transfer fees or zero-percent interest on purchases for a set period.
  • Some cards offer cash bonuses or discounts on specific purchases when you meet certain spending requirements.


  • Promotional offers come with conditions, so read the fine print carefully. Failing to meet terms can result in penalties and interest charges.
  • If you don't pay off the balance within the promotional period, interest rates may skyrocket.
  • Applying for new credit cards for promotional offers can negatively impact your credit score due to increased lender risk.

Choosing the right type of credit card interest rate is crucial for managing your finances effectively. While each rate has its pros and cons, it's essential to consider your financial goals and spending habits before making a decision. Variable rates can offer flexibility, fixed rates provide stability, and promotional rates offer short-term benefits. However, remember to read the terms and conditions carefully and set reminders for important deadlines to make the most of these offers. Understanding these interest rate options empowers you to make informed choices when it comes to managing your credit card balances.

Factors influencing credit card interest rates

Several factors can affect the interest rate you're offered on a credit card:

1. Credit score:

The interest rate you're eligible for heavily hinges on your credit score. Having a higher credit score often translates to lower interest rates, whereas a lower score can result in higher rates or potential challenges when seeking approval for particular credit cards.

2. Credit history:

Lenders also consider your credit history when setting interest rates. A strong credit history with a track record of on-time payments and responsible credit usage can help you secure better rates.

3. Market conditions:

Broader economic conditions, including fluctuations in the prime rate set by the Federal Reserve, can impact a credit card interest rate. When the prime rate rises, credit card rates tend to follow suit.

4. Issuer's policies:

Each credit card issuer may have its policies and criteria for setting interest rates. These policies can vary from one issuer to another.

Tips for managing credit card interest rates

Once the basics of the interest rates levied on credit cards have been explored, it is now time to take a closer look at the tips for managing them effectively:

1. Choose low-interest cards:

While you are selecting a credit card, make sure to opt for the ones that come with fairly lower interest rates. This becomes even more important when you tend to carry forward a due balance. Look for cards with competitive APRs and favourable terms.

2. Understand introductory rates:

Be aware of introductory APR offers. While they can be enticing, remember that they are temporary. Understand when the introductory period ends and what the regular APR will be.

3. Avoid cash advances:

Cash advances come with high interest rates and additional fees. Strive to go with other payment methods that help you save such additional charges.

3. Enhance your credit score:

You can improve your interest rates by enhancing your overall credit score. You can easily achieve this by paying your due bills on time and clearing debts, if any. 

Must Read: Difference Between RuPay & Visa Credit Cards

Wrapping up

Credit card interest rates, while an essential aspect of card usage, can be managed effectively with the right knowledge and financial discipline. By following these tips and understanding how credit card interest works, you can make the most of your credit cards while keeping your finances in check.

Head to Kotak 811 and get a free credit card by applying online to enjoy a plethora of benefits. From low-interest rates to seamless support, our team is here to help you navigate through all the initial set of challenges.

This Article is for information purposes only. The views expressed in this Article do not necessarily constitute the views of Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. (“Bank”) or its employees. Bank makes no warranty of any kind with respect to the completeness or accuracy of the material and articles contained in this Newsletter. The information contained in this Article is sourced from empanelled external experts for the benefit of the customers and it does not constitute legal advice from Kotak. Kotak, its directors, employees, and contributors shall not be responsible or liable for any damage or loss resulting from or arising due to reliance on or use of any information contained herein.