Who are America’s credit invisible consumers, and how can credit unions help?

It has never been said the journey through a given member’s financial life is guaranteed to be a walk in the park.

There’s no doubt your days may occasionally include member stories of credit mismanagement, or working with members to guide them back from the brink of long-term financial distress. After all, an Intuit study in early 2020 found that 65 percent of Americans said they didn’t know how much they spent the prior month. According to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) report, 11 percent of adults, or about 26 million Americans, are credit invisible. “Credit invisible” consumers, as defined by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), represent those whose documented credit history is so limited they don’t have credit scores, or credit scores that are not based on a complete history of debt repayment.

Credit invisible consumers are also more likely to be unbanked, having no official affiliation with a financial institution. Often, many younger Americans who don’t have credit scores simply haven’t gone out of their way to establish a credit history. On the other end of the spectrum, older Americans who haven’t used credit often had poor experiences with banks in the past, or have trouble maintaining a bank account. What’s worse, these older consumers often choose check cashers or other alternatives over traditional banking relationships.

In a more detailed 2015 profile report by the CFPB, findings identified:

 

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