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Banks are loosening standards to qualify for credit cards and personal loans — and it’s not because they’re feeling generous.

After tightening credit during the onset of the pandemic, a deluge of defaults that banks had been bracing for never materialized. Instead, consumers hunkered down at home and used a tide of stimulus checks and generous unemployment benefits to pay down their credit card debt.

With loan demand waning, banks are looking to jumpstart business again, offering more attractive credit card and loan options. Banks also are allowing clients to transfer credit card debt at zero percent interest and are even eliminating the need for a credit score.

According to data from the Federal Reserve, 27 percent of banks eased lending standards for customers to get credit cards in the first quarter and 17 percent of banks eased the requirements for auto loans.

“The fact that consumers today are stronger than they were on average pre-COVID, as well as the expectation that the economy is going to improve, is very supportive of lenders beginning to loosen,” Warren Kornfeld, an analyst at Moody’s Investors, told the Wall Street Journal.

Mortgages are a notable exception. Some banks told the Fed they recently had lowered standards for government-backed mortgages, according to the Journal. But mortgages are still hard to get for many home buyers. In a hot housing market, many banks have been lending only to buyers with pristine credit and big down payments.

Overall, lending standards remain tighter than they were pre-pandemic, according to the paper, and most lenders said they didn’t change their underwriting standards during the first quarter.

The expansion of access to credit comes a day after reports that JPMorgan and nine other banks were working to expand loans to those in disadvantaged communities.

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