Loans Not Sharks' Financial Terms

Glossary of Financial Terms

Welcome to Loans Not Sharks Glossary of financial terms. This glossary has been created to help you navigate through the world of personal finance, especially in terms of loans, thus helping you to better meet your financial needs. 

Whether you are looking to take out a personal loan, create a new account at your bank or just get your finances in order, this glossary is here to help fill in the gaps and back up your knowledge of finances. 

Don’t just breeze over the financial words that you don’t understand. Instead, use this glossary as a reference as you come across the financial lingo that you don’t understand and make sure you know what you are talking about when it comes to your money and your life. 

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 aboutAmortization

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). 

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.

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” 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 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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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 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

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 is interest that adds to a loan’s principal as it accumulates. ​Read  more about​ Compound Interest. 

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 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. 


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. 

A credit check is an official review of the credit history listed in your credit report.  Lenders, credit card companies, and others conduct credit checks to determine how  likely you are to make payments on time. ​Read more about​ Credit Check.

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 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 is the maximum amount that a financial institution allows a client to  borrow. ​Read more about​ Credit Limit. 

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. 

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 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. 

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 is a description of an individual’s credit health and history. ​Read  more about​ Creditworthiness. 

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 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  privilege of borrowing money. ​Read more about​ Debt. 

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 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 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. 

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. 

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.

A debtor is any individual or institution that owes money to another individual or  institution. ​Read more about​ Debtor. 

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. 

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 is a payment method in which funds are transferred electronically to  a recipient’s account. ​Read more about​ Direct Deposit. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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 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 is a loose term used to describe someone’s history of repaying what  they borrow. If you have “good credit” it can mean 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. ​Read more  about​ Good Credit. 

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.

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. 

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 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.

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 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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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 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. 

A microloan is a loan for small businesses. ​Read more about​ Microloan. 

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.

A no credit check loan is a type of loan in which a lender evaluates your  creditworthiness without conducting a “hard” credit check. ​Read more about​ No  Credit Check Loan. 

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. 

An online loan is a loan acquired through the internet. There are many different  kinds of online loans. Some of them are safe, while others are not. ​Read more about  Online Loan. 

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. 

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 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.

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. 

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 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 (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. 

A personal loan agreement is a written contract between two private parties, usually  friends or relatives, that details a personal loan arrangement between the two. This  usually includes the date of the 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 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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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 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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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

Subprime lending is a category of money lending that provides loans to borrowers  with bad credit. Because the borrowers are deemed less likely to repay, the loans  typically carry higher interest rates than those offered to borrowers with good  credit. ​Read more about​ Subprime Lending. 

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. 

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 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. 

Wage garnishment is a legal tool that allows a lender, legal entity or institute to take  money directly from your paychecks to cover debts you owe. ​Read more about  Wage Garnishment.