Despite placing the economic collapse and Great Recession in the rearview, consumers still haven't shied away from subprime credit offerings.
By nearly all measures, consumer credit in the United States doesn't look great. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, mortgage debt ($8.63 trillion, up $258 billion, student loan debt ($1.34 trillion, up $83 billion) and auto loan debt ($1.17 billion, up $96 billion) have ballooned within the last year. It also doesn't help that credit card debt has also soared ($764 billion, up $52 billion).
Roughly 11% of all student loan payments are past due, as are 7.5% of credit card bills. Despite this, and despite the fact that more than a quarter of Americans (26%) check their credit scores monthly or more often, nearly one in eight (12%) have never checked their scores. An online survey by finance site NerdWallet and Harris Poll conducted in April found that 23% of consumers think they have one credit score (you have several calculated based on what you're buying) and (41%) think carrying a balance on a credit card improves your credit score (nope, quite the opposite).
Part of the issue is the overall size of the subprime credit market. According to the 2012 Census, an estimated 48 million Americans, including more than 43% of Millennials (or 30 million people ages 18 to 34), have credit scores below 600. That's roughly 20% of U.S. adults, the lowest such percentage in roughly a decade, but still a huge number. All told, NerdWallet says 16 million Americans with subprime credit are carrying credit cards in an attempt to improve their credit.