Credit Card Glossary
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A Glossary of Credit Card Terms and Definitions – Buy Now, Pay Later!

Like any other industry, when you start delving into it, you come across all these terms and acronyms that mean absolutely nothing to you. But relax – the following guide will help you over the bumps to a smooth ride.

  • ACH Payment
    Payments made online that will be reflected on your billing statement are called ACH (Automated Clearing House) Payments.
  • Access checks
    Access checks, also known as cash advance checks or convenience checks, are issued against a line of credit. The transaction is applied to the cash balance and a transaction fee may be applicable.
  • Adjusted balance
    An adjusted balance is determined by subtracting all payments made during the billing cycle from the outstanding balance at the beginning of the billing cycle, prior to the calculation and accrual of finance charges to the account.

  • Affinity card/Co-brand
    An affinity card is best described by its other name, a co-brand card. This card is offered by a lending institution in conjunction with another organization. A couple of examples are the Tiger Woods American Express Card and the General Motors Visa Card. Frequently, use of this card entitles holders to special discounts or deals.

  • Annual fee
    An annual fee is charged on a yearly basis for the customer's continued participation in an open-end credit plan.

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
    The APR is the total yearly cost of the interest on a loan, expressed as a percentage rate.

  • Authorized user
    An authorized user is a person who’s been given authority by a primary cardholder to make charges to that primary cardholder's account, but who doesn’t have legal responsibility for repaying the account.

  • Average daily balance
    The average daily balance is calculated by adding each day’s outstanding balance (in a billing cycle) and then dividing that total by the number of days in the billing cycle, resulting in the finance charges.

  • Balance transfer
    When an unpaid credit card debt is transferred from one issuer to another, it’s known as a balance transfer.

  • Balance transfer fee
    A balance transfer fee is charged to customers for making a balance transfer to discourage them from doing so.

  • Bankruptcy
    A bankruptcy is a legal mechanism, the purpose of which is to modify or eliminate a person's obligation to repay certain kinds of debt in order to permit the person to get a "clean start” economically. Bankruptcy is a serious step for a borrower because it can severely limit access to credit for years to come.

  • Billing cycle
    A billing cycle is the period between billing statements.

  • Billing statement
    A billing statement is sent periodically by a credit card issuer to the customer, summarizing all transactions and other activity applicable to that credit card account, including balance, purchases, payments, credits and finance charges.

  • Cardholder agreement
    The cardholder agreement is the written statement that sets forth all of the terms and conditions applicable to a credit card account. It generally outlines the cardholder's obligations with respect to their credit card account, such as repayment, default, billing disputes and other associated terms.

  • Cash advance fee
    A cash advance fee is charged for using a credit card to obtain cash (generally at an ATM or bank window). This fee can be stated in terms of a flat, per-transaction fee or a percentage of the amount of the cash advance. Generally, cash advance fees do not have a grace period, which means that interest accrues from the moment the money is withdrawn.

  • Cash card
    A cash card has a set amount of value which can be read by a special cash card reader. Participating retailers will use the reader to debit the card in increments until the value is gone. The card is like cash – it has no built-in security, so it can be used by anyone if lost or stolen.

  • Charge card
    A charge card requires a full payment of the entire accrued balance by the due date.

  • Co-signer (Joint Applicant)
    A person who signs a credit card application with the primary applicant is known as the co-signer. The co-signer agrees to be legally liable for any balance incurred on the credit card, regardless of who used the card.

  • Credit bureau (credit reporting agency)
    A credit bureau collects and sells information regarding people and their credit history. The company issues credit reports that list a person’s creditors and their creditor’s history with an individual.

  • Credit insurance
    Credit insurance pays or pays off credit card debt should the borrower be unable to pay the debt as a result of the loss of employment, death or disability.

  • Credit limit
    The maximum amount of available credit a cardholder may access is called the credit limit.

  • Credit report
    A credit report is a compilation of information regarding a consumer’s credit. The credit report is often a critical factor in credit scoring systems that lenders use to issue low interest credit cards, home equity mortgages or other loans.

  • Debit card
    A debit card is issued by a bank to provide direct access to a cardholder's checking or savings account. Any withdrawal of funds is immediate with online debit cards and delayed a day or two with offline debit cards.

  • Default
    A card issuer may consider a cardholder in default if the cardholder fails to perform all of the duties and obligations set forth in the cardholder agreement.

  • F (Fixed)
    If the letter "F" appears after the annual percentage rate (APR) the interest rate is fixed and not subject to adjustment.

  • Finance charge
    A finance charge is a charge made for consumer credit, including interest and certain fees.

  • Fixed Rate
    A fixed rate is an interest rate that does not vary based on an index but is fixed at a previously disclosed level.

  • Foreign currency surcharge
    A foreign currency surcharge covers the cost of converting purchases made in a foreign currency to the cardholder’s home currency.

  • Gold card
    A gold credit card has a gold hue and may offer a larger line of credit than a standard card, and may also provide extra perks or incentives to cardholders.

  • Grace period
    A grace period is the period of time you have without a finance charge on new purchases if the total new balance is paid in full each month by the payment due date noted on your periodic billing statement.

  • Guarantor
    A guarantor is an individual who is financially liable for an account and does not have charging privileges.

  • Index
    An index is an objective, published figure (not controlled by the lender) used to establish a lending rate. Some common indices are the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) and the Prime Rate as listed in the Wall Street Journal.

  • Indexed rate
    The indexed rate is determined by adding the margin to the published index.

    Interest rate
    The interest rate is the factor used to calculate the finance charge applied to your account, often expressed as an annualized rate.

  • Introductory (or intro) rate
    A lender may charge an introductory or teaser rate, which is lower than their normal interest rate, for a short period of time (usually commencing when an account is established). After the introductory period is over, the rate charged increases to the stated post-introductory interest rate.

  • Joint credit
    Joint credit is issued to two people based on an evaluation of each party's respective assets, incomes and credit history. Both parties are fully responsible for repaying the debt.

  • Late payment fee
    A customer is charged a late payment fee when their monthly payment has not been received as of the due date for payment as shown on the billing statement.

  • MasterCard
    MasterCard, a product of MasterCard International, is distributed by issuing financial institutions around the world. Master Card's products are issued by 23,000 financial institutions in 220 countries and territories

  • Minimum payment
    A minimum payment is the minimum amount a cardholder can pay to keep the account from going into default. Most card issuers require a minimum payment of at least 2 percent of the outstanding balance.

  • Monthly periodic rate
    The monthly periodic rate, calculated monthly, equals the yearly rate divided by 12.

  • New balance
    The new balance is the outstanding amount calculated as of the statement closing date, also known as total new balance.

  • Offline debit card
    An offline credit card shares traits of both ATM and credit cards. Offline debit cards have the VISA or MasterCard logo on them and can be issued by a bank, instead of, or in addition to, an ATM card. They can be used at any establishment that displays the VISA or MasterCard logo, but using them does not access a line of credit -- it debits a customer's checking account, but there's a delay of 24 to 72 hours before the debit is made in the account.

  • Online debit card
    An online debit card deducts funds from the bank account immediately, as soon as the card is used. It may have the VISA or MasterCard logo, or only the issuing bank's logo, like an ATM card.

  • Over-the-limit fee
    An over-the-limit fee is charged for exceeding the credit limit on the card.

  • Pay-down program
    A pay-down program consists of the steps for paying down a credit card balance. The first step is to stop charging on the card and make the normal monthly minimum payment by the due date. Then, two weeks later, send half the amount again, and two weeks later, half again. The half-payments are made on the two-week schedule until the balance is paid.

  • Penalty rate
    A penalty rate, an increase in a card’s annual percentage rate, may go into effect in the event an account holder defaults on a payment or other obligation.

  • Periodic rate
    The periodic rate is determined by dividing the APR by a unit of time (e.g. monthly periodic rate or daily periodic rate).

  • Personal Identification Number (PIN)
    A Personal Identification Number is a security measure required to be punched into a keypad before a transaction can be completed.

  • Platinum card
    A platinum credit card has a platinum hue, and may offer a larger line of credit (generally $5,000 and up) than a standard or a gold card, and may also provide extra perks or incentives to cardholders.

  • Point of sale (POS)
    The point of sale is the location where the transaction takes place.

  • Posting date
    The posting date is the date that a credit or charge is recorded on your account.

  • Pre-approved
    A credit card with a pre-approved offer means that a potential customer has passed a preliminary credit screening.

  • Previous balance
    The previous balance is the outstanding balance on the account at the end of the previous billing cycle.

  • Primary cardholder
    The primary cardholder is the person listed on an account who shares financial responsibility with the secondary cardholder.

  • Prime rate
    The prime rate is an index used to calculate the applicable APR for a variable rate account.

  • Private label cards
    A private label card is issued by a retail outlet, such as a department store or gasoline company, that contains the logo of the private company. It is generally accepted only by the retailer who issued it.

  • Rebate credit card
    A rebate credit card allows the customer to accumulate cash, merchandise or services based on card usage.

  • Recent Activity
    Recent activity refers to the transactions posted to your account for the current billing cycle, and since the last statement.

  • Revolver
    A revolver is a term credit card issuers use for cardholders who roll over part of the account balance to the next month, instead of paying off the balance in full each month.

  • Revolving line of credit
    A revolving line of credit is an agreement to lend a specific amount to a borrower and to allow that amount to be borrowed again once it has been repaid. Most credit cards are considered to have a revolving line of credit.

  • Secondary user
    A secondary user jointly applies for a credit card and has financial responsibility for the repayment of the account balance.

  • Secured card
    A secured card is a credit card that a card holder secures with a security deposit to ensure payment of the outstanding balance if the card holder defaults on payments. It is used by people new to credit or people trying to rebuild their poor credit ratings.

  • Standard card
    A standard card is the basic card offered by issuers. Customers with higher incomes and good credit reports can qualify for the higher-limit gold and platinum cards.

  • T (tiered)
    If the letter T appears after the annual percentage rate (APR), the interest rate is based on tiered pricing, with different periodic rates applied to different levels of the outstanding balance.

  • Titanium card
    A titanium credit card has titanium hue, and carries an even higher credit limit range and benefits than a platinum card.

  • Transaction date
    The transaction date is the date that goods or services were purchased or the date the cash advance was made.

  • Truth in Lending Act
    The Truth in Lending Act is a federal law that requires lenders to provide standardized information so borrowers can compare loan terms. In general, lenders must provide information on what credit will cost the borrowers, when charges will be imposed and what the borrower’s rights are as a consumer.

  • Unsecured debt
    An unsecured debt is not guaranteed by the pledge of any collateral. Most credit cards are unsecured debt, which is one reason why their interest rate may be higher than other forms of lending, such as mortgages, which use property as collateral.

  • V (variable)
    If the letter V appears after the annual percentage rate (APR), the interest rate is variable and subject to change.

    Variable Rate
    A variable rate is an interest rate that varies based on the combination of a published index rate and a previously disclosed margin.

  • VISA
    VISA cards, a product of VISA USA, are distributed by financial institutions around the world. Nearly 600 million cards carry one of the Visa brands and more than 14 million locations worldwide accept Visa cards.

  • Wire transfer
    A wire transfer transfers funds electronically from one financial institution to another.

About The Author

Gareth Marples is a successful freelance writer providing valuable tips and advice for consumers about online credit card applications, searching the Internet for credit reports & free credit checksand home mortgage, payday, and auto loans. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.

This "Glossary of Credit Card Terms & Definitions" reprinted with permission.

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