Federal Reserve Raises Interest Rates: Consumer Impact


As expected, the Federal Reserve raised the benchmark interest rate a quarter point, marking the eighth increase since December 2015 and third this year.  The federal funds rate, which serves as the baseline for multiple forms of consumer debt, now stands at 2.25%, up from 2% previously.  In addition, the Federal Open Market Committee projects one more rate hike before the end of the year, and three more in 2019.  This quarter point hike, along with indication of future rate hikes, reflects a booming economy, highlighted by a strong labor market.


Consumer Impact Areas

Credit Card Rates:  When the federal funds rate changes, the prime rate does as well, and credit card rates follow suit.  If possible, apply for a 0% APR transfer credit card to allow you to pay down debt interest-free.

Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC):  HELOC’s are tied directly to the prime rate.  As the federal funds rate increases, the prime rate follows.  Since HELOC’s are a variable rate, it will increase with each rate hike.  If possible, speak with your lender to see if a fixed rate option on the remaining balance is available.

Mortgage Rates: Mortgage rates are tied more directly to market forces specifically to the needs of bond investors.  In past rate hikes, mortgage rates have at times moved up and at other times they have moved down.  Mortgage rates, however, have been on a steady climb since the beginning of 2018.

Consumer Prices: Prices you pay at retail stores, gas stations, and the supermarket are directly impacted by a raise in the federal funds rate.  As the federal funds rate increases, the cost and availability of money decreases.  This will lessen the demand for goods and services, resulting in lower prices.