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Rising Rejection Rates: More Americans Face Loan Application Denials

The increase in the rejection rate for loan applications reached its highest in five years.
Cover Image Source: istockphoto | Photo by YinYang
Cover Image Source: istockphoto | Photo by YinYang

As interest rates rise, more Americans are facing challenges when applying for loans. Data from the Federal Reserve reveals an increase in the rejection rate for loan applications, reaching its highest in five years. What are the reasons behind this trend? Which are the types of loans experiencing the most rejections? What are the actions taken by consumers? Let's explore.


According to the survey, the rejection rate for credit applications surged to 21.8% in 2023, up from 17.3% in 2022. This increase has been observed across different age groups but is particularly prominent among individuals with credit scores below 680. The cautious approach of financial institutions can be attributed to the current economic climate characterized by an aggressive Federal Reserve rate hiking cycle and the looming possibility of a recession.

Furthermore, leading financial institutions such as JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and recently, Bank of America, have disclosed their plans to allocate additional funds to offset potential losses from escalating consumer loan defaults amidst a surge in credit card balances. According to Citigroup's Chief Financial Officer, Mark Mason, delinquency rates in credit cards and other retail lines are on the rise, with projections indicating a further increase before stabilizing to "normal levels."

"It’s risk aversion mode for banks. Consumers are already under pressure, and even worse off now because banks are reducing their lending," believes Alex Liegl, chief executive at Tenet.

Cover Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Pixabay

Auto loans, in particular, have seen a significant rise in rejection rates, jumping to 14.2% in 2023 from 9.1% in 2013. Banks, to mitigate risks, have become more risk-averse and have reduced or exited the auto lending sector. This shift has further compounded the financial pressures consumers face, who are already struggling due to the reduction in lending options.

The rejection rate for credit card applications stood at 21.5% last year, whereas credit card limit increase requests encountered a rejection rate of 30.7%. Mortgage applications experienced a rejection rate of 13.2%, while mortgage refinances faced a rejection rate of 20.8%.

Credit and debit cards | Getty Images | Photo by Matt Cardy
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Matt Cardy

As interest rates have risen, the overall number of credit applications has declined. Over the past 12 months, the credit application rate dropped to 40.3%, the lowest since October 2020. However, despite the challenging lending environment, a survey by the Federal Reserve indicates that 26.4% of respondents are likely to apply for credit in the next twelve months. This suggests that despite the increasing rejection rates, consumers remain hopeful and still require credit for their financial needs.

Image Source: istockphoto/KLH49
Image Source: istockphoto | Photo by KLH49

The survey further reveals a significant rise in the probability of loan application rejections across various types of loans. For auto loans, the reported probability of rejection is 30.7%. Similarly, credit card applications have a 32.8% probability of rejection. On the other hand, mortgage applications and refinances will also increase, reaching 46.1% and 29.6%, respectively.

Pexels | Mikhail Nilov
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Mikhail Nilov

These figures suggest that obtaining credit is becoming increasingly difficult for borrowers, with higher chances of loan application rejections across the board. As financial institutions exercise caution and tighten lending standards, potential borrowers will face greater challenges accessing credit for various purposes.