Credit unions offer the lowest interest rates for rewards-based or platinum credit cards, according to a new analysis by SNL Financial.

SNL ranked institutions by average credit card rates for the most creditworthy borrowers, listing the top 15 banks and thrifts and the top 15 credit unions with the lowest rates for the specialty cards.

"[T]he most competitive credit union rates easily outpace their bank and thrift brethren for lowest average credit card rates to the tune of almost 200 basis points," SNL reports.

The analysis comes at a time when competition among lenders for the wealthiest, least-risky borrowers is heating up, a situation one industry observer recently characterized as a "knife fight."

The national average interest rate is 10.86% for rewards cards and 9.85% for platinum cards, according to SNL.

Advantage Federal Credit Union in Rochester, N.Y., posted the lowest rate, 5.25%, for its rewards cards.

The banks with the lowest rates were Synovus Bank (SNV) of Columbus, Ga.; Northwest Savings Bank, a unit of Northwest Bancshares (NWBI) in Warren, Pa.; and Eclipse Bank of Louisville, Ky. Their average rate was 7.24%, according to the SNL report.

BMO Harris in Chicago and TD Bank of Portland, Maine, both owned by Canadian holding companies, were the largest banks on the list, each of which had an average rate of 9.24%.

Educational Systems Federal Credit Union, of Greenbelt, Md., has the lowest platinum card rate of 3.25%.

First Tennessee Bank of Memphis topped the bank list for platinum cards with a rate of 5.15%. Synovus also made the list with a rate of 7.24%.

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