Consumers with below-average credit scores have had an easier time getting credit cards in the last few years, compared to the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis when credit availability was very limited. Still, credit availability remains below pre-recession and recession levels, according to a report from the American Bankers Association: There were 330 million outstanding credit card accounts in the first quarter this year, compared with 380 million at the same time in 2009, 427 million in 2008 and 374 million in 2007.
As the credit industry opens up after several years of limited access, borrowers with subprime credit (i.e. the borrowers with low credit scores) have seemingly benefited the most: New subprime credit card accounts increased by 62% from the first quarter 2013 to first quarter 2014, according to the ABA’s quarterly Credit Card Market Monitor. Still, they make up only 17% of new and 15% of outstanding credit card accounts.
Of course, borrowers with low credit scores have always dealt with limited access to credit — they are by definition risky customers for creditors to do business with, because based on past behaviors, they’re less likely to repay their debts than borrowers with good credit. Even when credit is available to subprime borrowers, loans and credit cards tend to come with higher interest rates and fewer perks (think rewards credit cards).
Even so, it’s good to see the credit card market opening up, because without access to credit cards, subprime borrowers may find it difficult to make large purchases now or down the road. There are credit cards for people with bad credit, and consumers should take advantage of the tools they can access as a way to improve their credit scores and ultimately attain bigger purchases down the road (like a home or a car) with more affordable interest rates.
To see where your credit score stands and the sorts of credit cards you might qualify for with it, you can get two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com, along with updates on your credit-building progress every 30 days. Credit cards, when used responsibly, can be great, easy-to-use products for people trying to boost their credit scores, but it’s important to keep track of how credit card use affects your overall credit standing, as well.
More on Credit Cards:
- 6 Smart Credit Card Strategies
- How Secured Cards Can Help Build Credit
- Tips for Paying Off Credit Card Debt