Subprime lending is making a comeback.
TransUnion’s Q2 2016 Industry Insights Report, released on Tuesday August 16, found that 10 million new consumers have entered the credit card marketplace in the last year, bringing the overall total number of consumers with a balance on at least one credit card to 133 million.
Subprime borrowers, which TransUnion defines as those with credit scores below 660, have helped drive this increase, with subprime balances making up 11% of the total, up from 10.3% a year ago.
Given total general purpose card balances stand at $662 billion, that means subprime borrowers have around $72.8 billion in credit card balances, up from $64.2 billion a year ago.
Consumers with lower credit scores have also been building up their balances the most, according to the report, with balances in the subprime space rising nearly 14% in the last year. Those with better scores have actually been more actively deleveraging credit card balances and paying off debt.
It is still early days in the subprime comeback, and a part of this rebound is a result of subprime accounts closing during the Great Recession.
Nearly half of all credit card closures in 2010 and 2011 belonged to those with credit scores of 660 or less, and those consumers are reapplying for cards in the current market, according to a Liberty Street Economics blog at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
In addition, the subprime delinquency rate, at 11.65%, is relatively stable.
“While more subprime consumers are receiving loans and their balances are rising, we do not see alarming delinquency levels,” said Nidhi Verma, senior director of research and consulting in TransUnion’s financial services business unit.
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