Important Terms for Clients

This page contains some common terms and definitions, which are intended to help you better understand your credit transaction. Credit costs money, so it is important that you fully understand the terms of your credit transaction. If you come across terms you do not understand, look up the terms or ask our personnel to explain the terms to you. Ask questions. Make certain the questions that you ask are answered. Make certain you understand the terms and costs of your loan.

Common Terms and Definitions

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): The cost of your credit as a yearly rate. APR combines the interest rate plus the fees charged on your loan. APR is higher than the interest rate because it includes both fees and interest as finance charges.  The calculation of APR is mandated pursuant to Federal Law (12 CFR Part 1026 – Truth in Lending Act (“TIL-APR”)). It is intended to provide a single value for a consumer to compare the cost of credit between one lender and another. 

Balance: The total amount of money owed to a lender. 

CDFI: Community Development Financial Institution

Collateral: Security pledged by a borrower to protect the interests of the lender; in case of default, the lender may take ownership of the security, if any, pledged by the borrower. 

Contract: A written binding document describing the terms of an agreement between two or more persons. (Keep all paperwork. Later, if there are any questions, you will have your agreement in writing.) 

Credit Bureau: A private company that records your credit history for distribution upon request by authorized parties. When you apply for credit, a lender may request a credit report to review when considering your application. 

Credit History: A record containing your information, including your payment history on previous debts.

Credit Report: A report of the credit history and other information about you kept by credit bureaus, which may include: your name, address, social security number, payment history (good and bad), current and previous debts, employers, income, etc. Accurate information on a credit report may not be legally removed. Incorrect information may be removed by disputing the information to the credit bureau involved.

Default: Failure to pay a debt as agreed to on a contract. When a loan defaults, the lender may demand full payment of the remaining debt. 

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA): A federal regulation that requires lenders to promote the availability of credit to all creditworthy applicants without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age (provided the applicant can contract); to whether all or part of the applicant’s income derives from a public assistance program; or to whether the applicant has in good faith exercised any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act. The regulation prohibits creditor practices that discriminate based on any of these factors. 

Finance Charge: The dollar amount the credit will cost you. Finance charges include interest and may also include transaction fees and service fees. 

Interest: The cost of borrowing money, generally a percentage of the amount owed. 

Principal: The amount of money owed on a debt, on which interest is calculated.