With car loans, he says, the underlying cost of funds represents perhaps 80 percent of a lender's expenses; with home loans, 90 percent. "For credit cards, it's more like 30 to 40 percent," he tells ABC News. Moreover, credit card accounts are expensive for banks to run, what with customer service costs and so many small transactions needing to be processed. Charge-offs and defaults are higher than for other kinds of loans.
What can card holders expect average rates to do for the rest of 2012? Come down, says Ben Woolsey. "I'd guess they will start to trend downward as the economy improves. By December, I'd expect to see them in the range of 13 to 14 percent. That's my gut feeling."
Consumers can fight back over high interest rates on their cards, though it may be more difficult for those with damaged credit or high balances. Bankrate.com has a free tool that lets you sort card offers by rate and perks. Many people have been able to negotiate lower rates with their existing cards simply by calling the customer service number.