Financial Terms Glossary

Amortization
Amortization is the process of paying off debt with a fixed repayment schedule. Each amortized payment counts toward both the loan and the interest on the loan. Read more about Amortization.
APR (Annual Percentage Rate)
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the measure of how much a loan will cost a borrower over the course of one year. It includes the loan’s simple interest rate, as well as any additional fees or charges. Read more about APR (Annual Percentage Rate).
Auto Lease
An auto lease is a financial arrangement that enables an individual to obtain a vehicle for use without paying for it entirely. They get access to the vehicle for a certain term (usually two to five years) and then return the vehicle at the end of that period, sometimes with an option to buy it outright. Read more about Auto Lease.
Auto Loan
An auto loan is a loan that person takes out in order to purchase a motor vehicle. Auto loans are typically structured as installment loans and are secured by the value of vehicle being purchased. Read more about Auto Loan.
Bad Credit
“Bad credit” means a borrower has a low credit score. Any score between 300 and 630 is generally considered bad. Late payments, bankruptcy, and maxing out a credit card can all contribute to a lower credit score, and bad credit. Read more about Bad Credit.
Bad Debt
Bad debt refers to debt that is used to finance spending on non-appreciating items. This includes credit cards, auto loans and some personal loans. While these kinds of loans and financial products can be used responsibly to the benefit of the consumer, these debts still do not increase the borrower’s overall net-worth. Read more about Bad Debt.
Balance
A balance is the amount of money available for withdrawal through a bank account, or an amount of money owed to a financial institution. It can also be used to describe the process of budgeting and tracking your finances, as in "balancing a checkbook." Read more about Balance.
Bank
A bank is a financial institution that accepts deposits, securely holds funds, and makes loans. Read more about Bank.
Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a legal procedure available to businesses and individuals who are unable to repay their debts. When a person enters bankruptcy, their assets may be evaluated and sold in order to pay off as much of their debt as possible. Read more about Bankruptcy.
Budget
A budget is a plan for your money, within a certain amount of time. Making a budget means figuring out how much money you’ll have, what you need to pay for, and how much you’ll have left over. Read more about Budget.
Cash Advance
A cash advance is a short-term loan provided through your credit card company. Cash advances come with much higher interest rates than normal credit card transactions. Read more about Cash Advance.
Charge Off
A charge-off occurs when a lender removes a debt from their accounting books because it’s extremely past due. The lender absorbs the cost of the outstanding debt and doesn’t pursue payment, but the borrower is still legally responsible for the amount that’s owed. Read more about Charge Off.
Checking Account
A checking account is a bank account that allows customers to deposit and withdraw money by using paper checks, ATMs, and debit cards. Read more about Checking Account.
Collateral
Collateral refers to an asset or property that a borrower gives a lender in order to secure a loan. If the borrower cannot repay the loan, the lender can then seize the asset or property to recoup their losses. Loans that involve collateral are called ‘secured loans.’ Read more about Collateral.
Collection Agency
A collection agency is a business that is hired by a lender to recover overdue funds. The will either earn a fee on what they collect or will purchase the debt from the lender at a discount. They are known for being persistent and sometimes aggressive in their methods. They will sometimes sue a debtor and take them a court in order to legally seize their funds or assets. Read more about Collection Agency.
Compound Interest
Compound interest is interest that adds to a loan’s principal as it accumulates. Read more about Compound Interest.
Credit
Credit is a way of borrowing. It basically means buying something now, and paying for it later. For example, if you make a purchase with a credit card or take out a loan, you’re required to pay it back in the future. Read more about Credit.
Credit Bureau
Credit bureaus are businesses that compile your credit history and calculate your credit score. They provide this information to lenders—among others—who use it to decide whether to grant you a loan. Read more about Credit Bureau.
Credit Cards
A credit card is a plastic card issued by banks, businesses, and other financial institutions that enables a borrower to make purchases "on credit" and pay for them at a later date. Read more about Credit Cards.
Credit Check
A credit check is a review of your credit history to find out if you’re reliable. Any time you apply for a loan, financing, or a credit card, your credit report and personal information will be reviewed to see how likely you are to make payments. Read more about Credit Check.
Credit Counseling
Credit counseling is a service that provides support for borrowers facing problems with debt. It may consist of financial education, a debt management plan, or assistance navigating bankruptcy. Read more about Credit Counseling.
Credit History
Credit history is a complete record of an individual’s creditworthiness. This information includes outstanding debts, repayment behavior, and credit information. Credit history is collected and organized in a credit report. Read more about Credit History.
Credit Limit
Credit limit is the maximum amount that a financial institution allows a client to borrow. Read more about Credit Limit.
Credit Report
A report that has information about your credit and payment history. It shows how often you make payments on time, how much you’ve borrowed, and how much you currently owe. Lenders use this report to decide whether to give you a loan, and what your interest rate will be. Read more about Credit Report.
Credit Score
A three digit number that shows how trustworthy you are when you borrow. A credit score can range from 300 to 850, with a higher score being better. Your individual score is based on several things, like how much debt you have and whether you make payments on time. Read more about Credit Score.
Credit Union
Credit unions are like banks, but they don’t make money from their members. They’re known for helping people save money, and offering better options for borrowing. Unlike banks, which anyone can join, credit unions have requirements to become a member. Usually people are eligible to join based on where they work, where they live, their church, or their college. Read more about Credit Union.
Creditor
A creditor is a person or institution that lends money to another. The creditor is then owed that money, usually with interest. Read more about Creditor.
Creditworthiness
Creditworthiness is a description of an individual's credit health and history. Read more about Creditworthiness.
Debit
A debit is any transaction that reduces the money in your bank account. The term is commonly used in reference to debit cards, which draw funds directly from your account. Read more about Debit.
Debt
Debt is money an individual owes to a lender. There are many types of debt, including personal debt, credit card debt, student loan debt, and more. Taking on debt can also mean incurring interest fees, meaning you'll be charged money for the privelege of borrowing money. Read more about Debt.
Debt Avalanche
The “Debt Avalanche” is a debt repayment method. You make the minimum payment on all of your accounts, but you target the debt with the highest interest rate to pay off first. Read more about Debt Avalanche.
Debt Consolidation
Debt Consolidation is a method for paying down debt. It involves combining many smaller debts into one larger debt—oftentimes by taking out a new loan or opening a new credit card. The new debt usually comes with more favorable terms than the old debts, and can save people money over time. It is most commonly used with consumer debt, but other forms of debt—such as student debt—can be consolidated as well. Read more about Debt Consolidation.
Debt Settlement
Debt settlement occurs when a lender or collections agency agrees to settle a debt for less than the amount that the borrower owes. Read more about Debt Settlement.
Debt Snowball
The Debt Snowball is a strategy for debt repayment. It involves paying off all a person’s debts beginning with the debt that carries the lowest principal balance and then working up to the debt with the highest balance. Read more about Debt Snowball.
Debt Trap
A debt trap is a situation in which a borrower is led into a cycle of re-borrowing, or rolling over, their loan payments because they are unable to afford the scheduled payments on the principal of a loan. These traps are usually caused by high-interest rates and short terms. Read more about Debt Trap.
Debtor
A debtor is any individual or institution that owes money to another individual or institution. Read more about Debtor.
Default
To default means to fail to repay a loan or line of credit. A borrower can default on their loan if they fail to pay back either the principal loan amount or the interest. Read more about Default.
Deficit
A deficit occurs when an individual or company doesn’t have enough money to cover their expenses and debt—it is the difference between cash inflow and cash outflow. Read more about Deficit.
Direct Deposit
Direct deposit is a payment method in which funds are transferred electronically to a recipient’s account. Read more about Direct Deposit.
Direct Loan
A direct loan is a loan made directly from a lender to a borrower, rather than through a third party. Read more about Direct Loan.
Dividend
A dividend is a portion of a company’s earnings that is paid out to its shareholders. These payments can be made through cash, shares of stock, or other property. Dividends can also be issued by investment funds. Read more about Dividend.
Down Payment
A down payment is an initial payment made on a large purchase, often expressed as a percentage of the total cost. The down payment is paid in full up front while the remaining cost is paid in installments, often through a loan. Read more about Down Payment.
Down Payment
A down payment is an initial payment on an expensive good or service, such as a house or car. The down payment is only a percentage of the full purchase price while the remaining cost is usually paid in monthly installments. Read more about Down Payment.
FICO Score
A FICO score is a credit score developed by the FICO company. These scores are created using information from a person’s credit report about their history of using credit and managing debt. Read more about FICO Score.
Finance Charges
A finance charge is any charge related to a loan. Read more about Finance Charges.
Fixed Rate
A fixed rate is an interest rate on a loan that will remain the same over the course of the loan, so the amount the borrower pays in interest never changes. Read more about Fixed Rate.
Foreclosure
Foreclosure occurs when you fail to pay the mortgage on your home. The lender seizes your property, evicts you, and sells the home. Read more about Foreclosure.
Good Credit
Good credit means having a high credit score. This means you’re more trustworthy when you borrow. If you make payments on time, and only borrow or spend as much as you need, you’ll have better credit. This helps when applying for a loan or credit card because you’re more likely to be approved, and get better interest rates. A credit score between 680 and 850 is considered good. Read more about Good Credit.
Grace Period
A Grace Period is the amount of time before interest or late fees start building up. There’s usually a grace period for credit card purchases, but not for cash advances. If you can pay on the due date, or during the grace period, you’ll save money by avoiding interest and additional fees. Read more about Grace Period.
Grant
A grant is a type of financial aid commonly provided by governments and philanthropic foundations. Unlike a loan, you don’t have to pay it back. Read more about Grant.
Hard Credit Check
A hard credit check—also known as a “hard credit inquiry” or “hard pull”—is a type of credit check used to determine creditworthiness. Unlike soft credit checks, hard credit checks can lower your credit score. Read more about Hard Credit Check.
Home Equity Loan
Home equity loans allow you to borrow against the equity in your home. They can provide money for a major purchase, but come with the risk that you’ll lose your home if you can’t pay them back. Read more about Home Equity Loan.
Installment Loan
An Installment Loan is a loan that is designed to be over time in a series of equal, regular payments. Read more about Installment Loan.
Interest
Interest is the cost of borrowing money. When you take out a loan or use a credit card, you'll be required to pay back a specified amount in addition to what you borrowed. That amount is the interest. When you lend money or save money in certain bank accounts, you gain interest. Read more about Interest.
Interest Rate
An interest rate is the percent of a principal loan amount that is charged to the borrower. For instance, if you borrow $100 at an interest rate of 20%, then you will pay back $100 plus another $20 of interest. Having a good credit score will make it easier to find lower interest rates. Read more about Interest Rate.
Investment
An investment means spending money on something now, with the hopes that it will make you money in the future. Getting a college degree, buying stock, and buying a home are all considered investments. Read more about Investment.
IRS
The Internal Revenue Service, better known as ‘The IRS’, is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury charged with collecting taxes, enforcing the nation’s tax laws and administering the Internal Revenue Code. Read more about IRS.
Lender
Any person or company that offers money to people with the expectation that it will be paid back. Banks, credit unions, and loan companies are all lenders. Read more about Lender.
Line of Credit
A line of credit is a flexible loan that grants a borrower access to money (up to a specified maximum amount determined by the bank or lender). Interest is only charged on the money that the borrower chooses to use. Read more about Line of Credit.
Loan Fee
A loan fee is any fee associated with a loan or credit card that does not include the interest rate. Read more about Loan Fee.
Loan Forgiveness
Loan forgiveness means you are no longer expected to repay your loan. Certain circumstances might lead to forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge of your outstanding federal student loan balance. Read more about Loan Forgiveness.
Microloan
A microloan is a loan for small businesses. Read more about Microloan.
Mortgage
A mortgage is a loan to finance the purchase of your home or property—it’s likely the largest debt you will ever take on. In exchange for the money received by the homebuyer to purchase the property, the bank or mortgage lender will get the promise that you will slowly pay the money back, with interest, over a designated period. Read more about Mortgage.
No Credit Check Loan
A no credit check loan is a type of loan in which a lender determines a potential borrower’s creditworthiness without conducting "hard" credit check that could potentially lower an applicant’s credit score. Read more about No Credit Check Loan.
NSF Fees
NSF stands for “Non-Sufficient Funds.” An NSF Fee is charged when a bank account does not have enough money in it to honor a check drawn on that account. Read more about NSF Fees.
Origination Fee
An origination fee is a fee charged by a lender to the borrower at the time a loan is provided to cover the costs of processing the loan. Read more about Origination Fee.
Overdraft Fees
An overdraft fee is a penalty banks charge an individual for making purchases that cannot be covered by the funds in their account. Read more about Overdraft Fees.
Overdraft Protection
Overdraft Protection is a service offered by banking institutions on their checking accounts that covers an account holder's transaction even if their account lacks sufficient funds. Overdraft protection can be a line of credit or a link to an additional account or credit card. They come with additional fees and/or interest. Read more about Overdraft Protection.
Pawn Shops
A pawn shop is an online or storefront business that offers small-dollar loans. Borrowers pledge personal property as collateral that the pawn shop holds and sells if the loan isn’t repaid. Pawn shops are often associated with predatory lending practices. Read more about Pawn Shops.
Payday Loans
A payday loan is a type of unsecured, small-dollar, predatory personal loan that comes with short repayment terms and very high interest rates. Read more about Payday Loans.
Peer to Peer Lending
Peer-to-peer lending is a type of lending in which you get a loan from an individual—not a bank or financial institution. It is also known as P2P lending, person-to-person lending, or social lending. Peer-to-peer lending is most commonly done online. Read more about Peer to Peer Lending.
Personal Debt
Personal Debt (which is sometimes referred to "Consumer Debt") is any financial obligation that is owed by an individual or a household, as opposed to by a business or government. Read more about Personal Debt.
Personal Loan Agreement
A personal loan agreement is a written contract between two private parties, usually friends or relatives, that details the personal loan arrangement between the two. This usually includes the date of a loan transaction, the projected repayment date, the amount of money borrowed, and any interest rate or other stipulations. Read more about Personal Loan Agreement.
Predatory Lenders
Predatory lenders are financial institutions that use deceptive practices and unreasonable terms to profit off of borrowers in desperate need of funds. Read more about Predatory Lenders.
Prepayment Penalties
A prepayment penalty is a fee charged by lenders when borrowers pay off their loan before the end of the term. Read more about Prepayment Penalties.
Prime Rate
The prime rate is the interest rate that banks charge borrowers who are the most trustworthy, or creditworthy, based on their borrowing history. Read more about Prime Rate.
Principal
The principal is the amount of money that is borrowed through a loan. The term also refers to the amount of money that is left on the loan after payments have been made. Read more about Principal.
Private Loans
A private loan is a loan made by a non-federal institution such as a bank, school or state agency. The distinction most commonly applies to student loans. Private loans are often more expensive than federal loans and come with less-flexible payment terms. Read more about Private Loans.
Refinance
To refinance a loan means to take out a new loan with better interest rates to replace an old loan. It is most common used in reference to home mortgage loans but can apply to any kind of loan. Read more about Refinance.
Refinance
To refinance means to take out a new loan to pay off an existing one, usually in order to get better interest rates or repayment terms. Read more about Refinance.
Refinancing
To refinance a loan is to take out a new loan with more favorable terms to replace your old loan. This can result in lower monthly payments, lower interest rates and free up additional cash. However, it can also significantly extend the repayment period. Read more about Refinancing.
Repossession
Repossession occurs when you fail to make loan payments and your collateral is seized. Your lender can then sell your collateral to recoup the money you owe. Read more about Repossession.
Reverse Mortgage
A reverse mortgage is a type of loan available to homeowners 62 years of age or older to convert part of the equity in your home into cash. The equity you have built up over the years of paying your mortgage payments can be paid to you and does not require selling your home or paying additional monthly bills. Read more about Reverse Mortgage.
Rollover
To "rollover" a loan means to extend the loan's due date by paying an additional fee. Loan rollover is most common with short-term payday and title loans, and is the way that some borrowers become trapped in a cycle of debt. Read more about Rollover.
Savings Account
A savings account is a deposit account held with a financial institution that bears interest. Savings accounts offer less access to the account holder's funds than a checking account would, but they offer much easier access to those same funds than most other investment products. Read more about Savings Account.
Second Mortgage
A second mortgage occurs when a borrower with an existing mortgage loan takes out a second one. As with the first mortgage, the borrower’s home is used as collateral. Read more about Second Mortgage.
Secured and Unsecured Loans
Secured and Unsecured Loans are the two basic kinds of loans. Secured Loans are loans backed by collateral pledged by the borrower. Unsecured Loans are loans with no collateral. They are issued solely on the creditworthiness of the borrower. Read more about Secured and Unsecured Loans.
Soft Credit Check
A soft credit check—also known a soft inquiry or soft pull – is a way to obtain information from a person's credit report without impacting their credit score. Unlike hard inquiries, which are recorded on your credit report and can negatively affect your score, soft inquiries do not require an individual’s authorization before they can be run. Read more about Soft Credit Check.
Student Loans
Student Loans are loans taken out to finance an individual's education. Student Loans can be obtained from both the federal government and private lenders. Read more about Student Loans.
Subprime Lending
Subprime lending refers to loans that have a higher interest rate than standard loans. They are generally offered to borrowers who have poor credit or are otherwise deemed less likely to repay the loan. Read more about Subprime Lending.
Tax Refund
A tax refund is the money that taxpayers receive when they overpay on the taxes they owe. Tax refunds are provided by the IRS for federal taxes, and individual departments of revenue for state taxes. Read more about Tax Refund.
Tax Relief
Tax relief refers to any reduction in the taxes owed by a taxpayer. These reductions are granted by the government and can include write-offs, credits and tax-breaks. Read more about Tax Relief.
Taxes
Taxes are a mandatory financial contribution imposed by a government. They can be levied on individuals as well as corporations. Read more about Taxes.
Term
The term of a loan is the pre-determined amount of time before the loan must be paid back in full, plus interest. Term can also refer to the conditions under which a loan is made, including the interest rate, monthly payment amount, and associated fees or penalties. Read more about Term.
Title Loans
A title loan is a short-term loan that requires borrowers to offer their vehicle title as collateral. Title loans generally carry high-interest rates in addition to the risk of borrowers losing their vehicle if they’re unable to repay the loan. Read more about Title Loans.
Variable Rate
Variable rates are interest rates that change periodically over the life of a loan. The rate can go up or down based on market conditions. Read more about Variable Rate.