Most lenders employ their own models (credit scorecards) to rank potential and existing customers according to risk, and then apply appropriate strategies. With products such as unsecured personal loans or mortgages, lenders charge a higher price for higher risk customers and vice versa. With revolving products such as credit cards and overdrafts, risk is controlled through careful setting of credit limits. Some products also require security, most commonly in the form of property.
A recent innovation to protect lenders and bond holders from the danger of default are credit derivatives, most commonly in the form of a credit default swap. These financial contracts allow companies to buy protection against defaults from a third party, the protection seller. The protection seller receives a periodic fee (the credit spread) as compensation for the risk it takes, and in return it agrees to buy the debt should a credit event ("default") occur.
Significant resources and sophisticated programs are used to analyze and manage risk. Some companies run a credit risk department whose job is to assess the financial health of their customers, and extend credit (or not) accordingly. They may use in house programs to advise on avoiding, reducing and transferring risk. They also use third party provided intelligence. Companies like Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Dun and Bradstreet provide such information for a fee.
For example, a distributor selling its products to a troubled retailer may attempt to lessen credit risk by tightening payment terms to "net 15", or by actually selling fewer products on credit to the retailer, or even cutting off credit entirely, and demanding payment in advance. Such strategies impact sales volume but reduce exposure to credit risk and subsequent payment defaults.
Credit risk is not really manageable for very small companies (i.e., those with only one or two customers). This makes these companies very vulnerable to defaults, or even payment delays by their customers.
The use of a collection agency is not really a tool to manage credit risk; rather, it is an extreme measure closer to a write down in that the creditor expects a below-agreed return after the collection agency takes its share (if it is able to get anything at all).
In some cases, governments recognize that an individual's capacity to evaluate credit risk may be limited, and the risk may reduce economic efficiency; governments may enact various legal measures or mechanisms with the intention of protecting consumers against some of these risks. Bank deposits, notably, are insured in many countries (to some maximum amount) for individuals, effectively limiting their credit risk to banks and increasing their willingness to use the banking system.
Counterparty risk, otherwise known as default risk, is the risk that an organization does not pay out on a credit derivative, credit default swap, credit insurance contract, or other trade or transaction when it is supposed to. Even organizations who think that they have hedged their bets by buying credit insurance of some sort still face the risk that the insurer will be unable to pay, either due to temporary liquidity issues or longer term systemic issues.
Large insurers are counterparties to many transactions, and thus this is the kind of risk that prompts financial regulators to act, e.g. the bailout of insurer AIG.