News quiz: There's a great future in plastics?

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Shed a tear for Citibank. Send an e-card to MBNA. A front-page story in today's Wall Street Journal suggests that the major credit issuers are feeling the pain of lower profits. The American consumer--better known as the American debtor--has begun to pay off a greater chunk of her balance each month.

In fact, repayment rates, according to some measures, are at their highest level in 10 years. Home-equity loans and monthly balance-shifting have helped the plastic warrior to hold down payments. (It would be unpatriotic to just stop spending.)

The interest payments of "revolvers"--customers who fail to pay off their balances each month--have long represented the most profitable part of the credit card industry. To maintain profit levels, your friends in consumer banking have considerately boosted the rates they charge to their most indebted customers and jacked up late fees, which now routinely run to $39.

Here's where the quiz comes in. Though card-issuers continue to bait the mailboxes of Americans with introductory rate offers, the average monthly rate has climbed steeply in recent years.

What, according to the Nilson Report, a credit-tracking firm, is the average monthly interest rate on an American credit card?

And for entry in the plastic hall of fame: What was the average rate five years ago?

(If you don't submit a guess by tomorrow, you'll owe us five answers on Monday.)

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