What is credit?
Credit is defined in a couple of ways. One is the amount of money you are approved to borrow from a lending institution. With this approval comes an agreement to repay the charges, any additional fees that can or will be applied, and to abide by time restrictions.
Credit can also be classified as your borrowing reputation. It paints a picture of your payment history and provides the lender with information regarding the likelihood of your repayment, in other words, your risk factor.
Use of Credit
When used responsibly, credit can be a convenient and effective financial tool. From a simple credit card to an auto or home loan, credit is the American way of life. Cashless transactions are soon becoming the way of the future, and credit cards are among the most prevalent. Understanding credit is important in order to use credit to your advantage and to prevent the common financial pitfall – debt.
Four Common Forms of Credit
This form of credit allows you to borrow money up to a certain amount. The lending institution sets a credit limit, or the most you can borrow. In revolving credit, the borrower revolves the balance by rolling from month to month until it is paid in full. Interest charges typically occur for any revolving balance. As the money is paid back, the difference between the maximum credit limit and the current balance is available to be borrowed. This is the most common form of credit issued by credit cards, such as Visa, MasterCard, and store and gas cards. Credit cards are considered unsecure credit because there is no collateral securing the amount borrowed.
This form of credit is often mistaken to be the same as a revolving credit card. However, the major difference between a credit card and a charge card is the credit card can carry a balance, whereas the charge card must be paid in full each month. If the balance is not paid on time and in full, penalty fees will be added. American Express is an example of a well-known charge card. This form of credit is advantageous against accumulating credit card debt.
Installment credit involves a set amount borrowed, a set monthly payment and a set timeframe of repayment. Interest charges are pre-determined and calculated into the set monthly payments. Common forms of installment credit agreements are home mortgages and auto loans.
Installment credit is also typically secure. Secure credit requires security for the lender. The borrower must provide collateral, something of value pledge in order to guarantee loan repayment. If the borrower fails to repay, or defaults on the loan, the lender may confiscate the collateral. A home is an example of collateral on a mortgage, and a vehicle on an auto loan. If the borrower were to default, the home or vehicle would be repossessed.
Non-Installment or Service Credit
This form of credit allows the borrower to pay for a service, membership, etc. at a later date. Generally, payment is due the month following the service, and unpaid balances will incur a fee, interest, and/or penalty charges. Continued non-payment will result in service cancellation and can be reported to the credit bureau, affecting your credit score. Service or non-installment agreements are very common in our everyday life. Cell phone, gas and electricity, water and garbage are all examples of service credit.
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