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Lenders may make subprime loans to borrowers who would not ordinarily qualify for credit if customary underwriting standards were applied. To offset the increased risk that these borrowers might default, lenders charge higher interest rates than they offer to creditworthy borrowers and assess additional fees.
While subprime rates vary from lender to lender, the Federal Reserve defines a subprime loan as one that carries an interest rate at least three percentage points higher than the rate on a US Treasury bond that has the same term as the loan.
Subprime loans may provide credit to responsible people who may not have a strong credit history. However, subprime lending practices can be abusive or predatory, trapping unsophisticated borrowers in a cycle of debt while providing initially large profits for the lender.
Lenders with large portfolios of these loans are vulnerable to major losses in market downturns.
Subprime loans can be securitized and sold to investors as pass-through securities or in more complex packages such as collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Individual and institutional buyers purchase these products for the promise of higher than average returns despite the greater risk of default.
A loan at higher interest rates because the borrower does not qualify,for credit or income reasons,for the best rates.