The word “loan,” which was not too long ago a four-letter one among Recession-riddled consumers, carries much less baggage these days. There is an appetite for credit in nearly every corner of the U.S. lending marketplace: Credit card debt is projected to total $900 billion by the end of the year, auto loan balances have reached $1 trillion for the first time ever and mortgage debt is currently sitting at more than $8 trillion.

What’s more, Americans are more creditworthy than they have been for some time. The national average FICO score, now at 695 according to Fair Isaac Corp., is the highest it’s been for at least 10 years. But ask yourself: What kind of a credit line would that score earn at my credit union?

If you’re like many, the answer isn’t terribly exciting, particularly when you consider the growing number of non-traditional lenders virtually begging to extend credit to a borrower with that kind of score. The ferocity of that competition is only getting stronger, as online lenders raised a record $542.2 million in equity in the first quarter of this year alone.

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