DEFINITION of 'Subprime Borrower'

A person who is considered a higher-than-normal credit risk. Subprime borrowers typically have a below-average credit history and are penalized for their poor credit with higher interest rates. Subprime borrowers may qualify only for higher-interest mortgages and higher APR credit cards. Subprime borrowers may have an extensive history of late or missed payments, default debt, excessive debt or no property assets that could be used as security. In the United States, subprime borrowers are often identified by having a FICO credit score below 640.

BREAKING DOWN 'Subprime Borrower'

Although subprime lending extends credit to people who may not otherwise qualify, the practice contributed to the subprime mortgage crisis in the U.S. in 2008. Roughly 80% of subprime borrowers were given adjustable-rate mortgages, and when the mortgages went to their higher interest rates, refinancing was difficult due to declining home values. This resulted in widespread mortgage default, foreclosures and the declining values of mortgage-backed securities.

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