An effort to impose a federal limit on credit card interest rates is likely to turn an otherwise routine House vote, scheduled for this morning, into a lively debate.

For the past week Rep. Frank Annunzio (D-Ill.), chairman of the banking subcommittee on consumer affairs and coinage, has been bombarding colleagues with daily letters telling them that a vote against rate caps is a vote in favor of high interest rates.

"If you support my amendment {to the Fair Credit and Charge Card Disclosure Act of 1987}, you will not have to answer hundreds of letters from irate constituents explaining why you voted for higher interest rates," Annunzio wrote.

Annunzio's amendment would prohibit credit grantors such as banks and retailers from charging interest on outstanding balances at a rate more than 8 percentage points above the yield on one-year Treasury securities. If such a limit were in effect today, the highest permissible rate would be 15.03 percent.

The average interest rate on bank credit card balances is 18.3 percent, according to BankCard Holders of America, a consumer group based in Washington. However, it is possible to obtain a card carrying a rate as low as 10.25 percent -- or as high as 21 percent -- depending on the issuing bank.

A federal ceiling was first proposed several years ago by Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) as a way of coaxing credit grantors to lower their rates. Many did. Eventually, Schumer abandoned his effort as unworkable and called instead for advance disclosure of information about rates, annual fees and grace periods to card applicants. The House will be voting on that bill today.

Annunzio withdrew his cap amendment in committee, when it became apparent he did not have the votes, in exchange for a chance to present it on the floor. Banks, retailers and others in the credit industry lobbied hard but unsuccessfully to prevent Annunzio from bringing up his amendment, which is supported by consumer organizations.

Yesterday the House rules committee, at the urging of Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.), voted to allow Annunzio to introduce his amendment without challenge.