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If you’ve been denied credit in the past two years, you’re not alone.

About half of Americans applying for a loan or financial product have been denied since the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates in March 2022, a new survey from personal finance website Bankrate found.

Bankrate used YouGov to conduct a survey of 2,483 adults in the United States from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, including 1,046 people who applied for a loan or financial product. Of those, 515 had their applications denied.

About 14% of people applying for credit cards were rejected, while 10% of applicants seeking personal loans and 6% of those seeking balance transfer cards were turned down.

Only 41% of applicants were approved for what they applied for. That’s about two applicants out of every five.

About 9% of people surveyed didn’t know if they’d been rejected or preferred not to say.

“Banks and other lenders are constantly mindful of the potential downsides of both the changing economic environment, as well as the risks that people get behind on payments — or worse,” Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate said in the report published Monday. “One way they account for that is for financial service firms to hold on to more of their money.”

It’s getting harder — and more expensive — to borrow

The Federal Reserve has been trying to curb inflation, which peaked at 9.1% in June 2022.

As of January, the Consumer Price Index was at 3.1% annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To do that, the Fed raised the federal funds rate, which is how much banks charge each other to borrow or lend money, according to Investopedia.

When the Fed raises interest rates, borrowing gets more expensive.

Half of Americans with poor credit scores — meaning in the 300 to 579 range, based on FICO’s ratings — said it’s been harder to get credit since the Fed began hiking interest rates, according to the Bankrate survey. And 38% of those with fair credit scores — meaning in the 580 to 669 range — agreed.

Overall, 21% of Americans said getting credit has gotten harder, the survey found.

At the same time, credit card balances have skyrocketed as consumers use credit cards to try to cope with prices and student loan payments.

“The continued rise in credit card delinquency rates is broad based across area income and region, but particularly pronounced among millennials and those with auto loans or student loans,” Donghoon Lee, economic research advisor at the New York Federal Reserve Bank, said in a November news release.

Total household debt increased by $228 billion in the third quarter of 2023 to $17.3 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data.

Credit card balances alone increased $48 billion to $1.08 trillion.

Who’s getting rejected for loans?

The Bankrate survey found that Gen Z and millennials had the highest rejection rates with 58% of Gen Z applicants and 60% of millennials denied at least one loan. Gen X applicants had a 49% rejection rate and baby boomers were at 33%.

Lower-income applicants were also most likely to be rejected with 56% of those earning under $40,000 being turned down.

Also losing out on loans were 49% of applicants earning between $40,000 and $79,999, and 48% of those earning $80,000 or more.

“Tighter lending requirements demand higher credit scores, potentially larger down payments or more documentation,” Hamrick said in the report. “Those with lower incomes or less robust credit histories find it more challenging to qualify for loans.”

Those rejections negatively affected 82% of Americans’ finances, the Bankrate report said.

Many rejected applicants ended up more stressed about finances, borrowing from family or friends, looking for alternative financing, not being able to access needed credit, delaying milestones and seeking out financial help.

What is The Sum?

The Sum is your friendly guide to personal finance and economic news.

We’re a team of McClatchy journalists cutting through the financial jargon so you know how these issues impact your life. We verify information from diverse sources and keep the facts front-and-center, making finance and economic news add up for you.

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