A card used in an automated teller machine (ATM) which may access a
credit or a debit account to complete banking inquiries and fund
transfers between accounts.
A credit card endorsed by groups such as colleges, sports teams,
professional organizations, or special interest groups that are
offered to their alumni, fans or members. Typically, use of the credit
card gives financial benefit to the endorsing organization.
Annual Percentage Rate:
Often referred as the "APR", this shows how much credit will
cost you on a yearly basis.
Annual Fee: The annual cost of membership to a particular credit card
account. Most banks now have products without annual fees.
The status of being legally declared unable to pay your debts as they
become due. Federal bankruptcy laws have been enacted which allow a
person or organization to liquidate their assets to pay a reduced
amount to their creditors or which allow the rehabilitation of the
debtor by requiring creditors to accept reduced payments from future
earnings of the debtor. A declaration of bankruptcy will remain on a
person’s credit report for at least 10 years and in some cases
indefinitely. Declaring bankruptcy is generally considered a last
Balance Computation Methods:
Credit card issuers assess finance charges by applying the APR to a
balance. There are several methods for determining your balance. Two
of the most frequently used balance methods are as follows:
*Average Daily Balance Method – This balance is figured by
adding the outstanding balance and deducting payments and credits for
each day in the billing cycle, and then dividing by the number of days
in the billing cycle. Some credit card issuers include new
transactions in this calculation while others exclude new
*Two-Cycle (or Double-Cycle) Average Daily Balance Method – This
balance is calculated by taking the sum of the average daily balances
for two billing cycles. The first balance is for the current billing
cycle and the second balance is for the previous billing cycle.
The length of time between billing statements. A billing cycle is
typically 30 days but because of weekends, holidays, and the variance
in the number of days in a month, a billing cycle may be as short as
27 days and as long as 33 days.
Business Card (Business Credit Card):
A bookkeeping and tax preparation tool for many businesses, these
credit cards are generally issued to corporate executives or business
owners. They make it easy to keep business expenses separate from
Unlike revolving credit cards, charge cards must be paid in full every
month. The American Express card is an example of a charge card.
There are various types of Chip Cards, sometimes called Smart Cards.
Electronic chips allow these cards to function in different ways: as
credit cards, debit cards, frequent buyer or rewards program cards,
I.D. cards, or any combination. Many college I.D. cards are chip
cards. These may or may not be credit cards.
A credit card sponsored by both the issuing bank and a retail
organization such as a department store or an airline. Cardholders
benefit through account enhancements that allow discounts or free
merchandise from the sponsoring merchant based on account usage.
Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS): This is a non-profit
organization that has helped thousands of people get out of debt. CCCS
counselors can advise you on how to develop a budget you can live
with, and can be invaluable in helping you negotiate repayment plans
with your creditors. This service is confidential. To contact the CCCS,
Credit Bureaus collect and report vital facts about your financial
habits; for instance, whether or not you pay your bills on time. These
facts are then compiled into a "credit report," which can be
accessed by potential creditors, employers, etc. The three major
credit reporting agencies are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion You can
contact them at the addresses below.
Equifax Information Service Center
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Trans Union LLC
Consumer Disclosure Center
P.O. Box 390
Springfield, PA 19064-0390
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-2140
1-888 EXPERIAN (888 397 3742)
Unlike charge cards, these cards allow you to "revolve" your
charges; that is, carry over portions of your balance from month to
month. However, if you do not pay your balance in full, you’ll be
assessed finance charges. To protect your credit rating, be sure to
pay at least the minimum amount due by the payment due date.
Credit Card Insurance:
This insurance protects you if you are unable to pay your credit card
bills because of illness, unemployment, or other severe conditions.
Under these circumstances, the insurance provider will pay your
When you receive a new credit card, you’re usually issued a set
"credit line." That amount is the most you can charge on
your account. Under some circumstances, your card issuer may increase
or decrease your credit line.
This is record of your credit history. It shows whether you pay your
bills on time, how much debt you have, etc. Your report is compiled by
credit bureaus and released to lenders and others.
A convenient way to "pay as you go," this enhanced card
subtracts money from your account when you use it to make a purchase
or get cash.
Equal Credit Opportunity Act
Federal Reserve Regulation B):
This federal law protects your rights against being denied credit
because of sex, race, color, age, national origin, or religion. It
also guarantees your right to have credit in your given name or your
married name, the right to know why if your credit application is
rejected and the right to have someone other than your spouse co-sign
Fair Credit Billing Act:
This federal act protects many important credit rights, including your
rights to dispute billing errors, unauthorized use of your account,
and charges for unsatisfactory goods and services.
The total cost of credit including service fees, late fees,
transaction fees, and other charges.
Unlike a "Variable APR," this type of APR does not change
based on changes in an index.
If you have a credit card, a "grace period" means the period
of time your issuer doesn’t charge you interest on purchases. Be sure
to read the fine print, though. Some credit card issuers give you a
grace period only if your account is paid up and doesn’t have a
balance carried over from the previous month.
Credit is not free! When you use money provided by a bank or financial
institution, the interest rate reflects the amount they charge you for
This is a temporary, usually low, interest rate (expressed as a yearly
rate) offered by providers to "introduce" you to their
services. It will usually go up after a certain amount of time.
(London interbank offered rates):
Five major London banks daily determine these fixed rates for specific
maturities. What does this mean to you? LIBOR may be used by some
banks instead of the Prime Rate to set Annual Percentage Rates.
You’ll see this on your credit card statement. It’s the lowest amount
you can pay every month, based on that month’s balance at the time of
Performance (or Risk Based) APR:
A performance APR is similar to a variable APR but it is based on your
payment performance. There is a standard APR when you open the account
but that APR will increase if you are late making a payment. If you
are late making a payment more than once within a specified time
period (usually between 6 and 12 months) the APR may increase again.
If the APR has gone up because of a late payment or late payments it
may go back to the standard APR if you are not late on your payments
for a certain period of time (typically one year).
How much you owed your card issuer at the end of your last billing
"Prime" means "best," and this rate is what banks
charge their best commercial customers for loans. The Prime changes
often, is reported daily in the Wall Street Journal, and is used as a
reference point for many businesses. For instance, the Prime Rate is
used by some financial institutions to set the APR for credit cards.
Unlike interest or fees, the "principal" reflects the actual
dollar amount of the purchases you made, or the balance that remains
on your loan or credit card account.
A real convenience for businesses, this card eliminates the need for
time-consuming purchase orders. A company simply places orders
directly with suppliers and charges them to the card. Usually used for
purchases of $5,000 or less.
A great "first credit card" or way to re-establish your
credit rating, this kind of card is "secured" by money you
deposit in a designated savings account. For instance, if you deposit
$500, your credit card limit generally will be for that amount. If for
some reason you cannot pay your credit card bills, your credit card
issuer will be paid from the savings account.
see Chip Card.
Fees which are charged when you make certain types of transactions.
Transaction fees are typically assessed on cash advances and cash-like
transactions such as money orders, wire transfers, and casino gaming
Truth in Lending Act
(Implemented by Federal Reserve Regulation Z):
This federal law protects you by making sure lenders tell you about
the costs, terms, and conditions at the time they offer you a loan or
The Variable Annual Percentage Rate (expressed in yearly terms)
fluctuates based on an index such as the Prime Rate or LIBOR.
credit score, commonly known as FICO scores, are used by creditors to
determine how good a credit risk you are. It has predictive value for
telling the lender how likely you are to repay a loan or to make
payments on time.
The credit score is calculated using
information in your credit reports. Usually each person living in the
United States who has a Social Security number, whether a citizen or
not, will have three versions of credit reports to their name.
Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are three companies collect your
credit information and provide your credit report (also known as
credit profile) to your lenders/creditors.
The credit score is based on a model derived from analysis of
past credit history of thousands of people. Based on the collective
"credit history" of thousands of people with financial
profile similar to yours, the credit score tries to estimate your
future behavior in respect to repayment of your loans, making timely
Described below are the
five main categories of information on your credit report that
are used in the calculation of your credit score, along with their
general level of importance. Within these categories is a complete
list of the information that goes into a FICO score. Be aware that:
score takes into consideration all these categories of information,
not just one or two. No
one piece of information or factor will determine your score.
importance of any factor depends on the overall information in your
credit report. For some
people, a given factor may be more important than for someone else
with a different credit history. In addition, as the information in
your credit report changes, so does the importance given any one
factor in determining your score. Because the details of your
financial situation are unique, and the exact formula used in
calculation of your credit score is kept secret, it is not possible to
predict what factors will bear the most weight in your situation.
Thus, it’s impossible to say exactly how important any single factor
is in determining your score – even the levels of importance shown are
for the general population, and will be slightly different for
different credit profiles. What’s important is the mix of
information, which varies from person to person, and for any one
person over time.
score only looks at information in your credit report.
Lenders look at many things when making a credit decision, including
your income and the kind of credit you are applying for. However, your
FICO score does not reflect these facts, as it only evaluates your
credit report at the credit reporting agency.
score considers both positive and negative information in your credit
report. Late payments
will lower your score, but having a good record of making payments on
time will raise your score.
score does not consider your ethnic group, religion, gender, marital
status and nationality.
These are, in fact, prohibited from use in scoring by US law.
The Five Things That
Approximately 35% of your score
is based on your Payment History.
The first thing any lender would want
to know is whether you have paid past credit accounts on time. This is
also one of the most important factors in a credit score. However,
late payments are not an automatic "score-killer." An
overall good credit picture can outweigh one or two instances of, say,
late credit card payments. By the same token, having no
late payments in your credit report doesn’t mean you will get a
"perfect score." Some 60-65% of credit reports show no late
payments at all — your payment history is just one piece of
information used in calculating your score.
Your score takes into account:
Payment information on many types of accounts.
These will include credit cards (such as Visa, MasterCard, American
Express and Discover), retail accounts (credit from stores where you
do business, such as department store credit cards), installment loans
(loans where you make regular payments, such as car loans), finance
company accounts and mortgage loans.
record and collection items – reports of events such as bankruptcies,
judgments, suits, liens, wage attachments and collection items.
These are considered quite serious, although older items will count
less than more recent ones.
Details on late or missed payments and public record and collection
items – specifically, how late they were, how much was owed, how
recently they occurred and how many there are.
A 30-day late payment is not as risky as a 90-day late payment, in and
of itself. But recent payments and frequency count too. A 30-day late
payment made just a month ago will count more than a 90-day late
payment from five years ago. Note that closing an account on which you
had previously missed a payment does not make the late payment
disappear from your credit report.
many accounts show no late payments.
A good track record on most of your credit accounts will increase your
About 30% of your score
is based on Amounts
Having credit accounts and owing money
on them does not mean you are a high-risk borrower with a low score.
However, owing a great deal of money on many accounts can indicate
that a person is overextended, and is more likely to make some
payments late or not at all. Part of the science of scoring is
determining how much is too much
for a given credit profile.
Your score takes
amount owed on all accounts.
Note that even if you pay off your credit cards in full every month,
your credit report may show a balance on those cards. The total
balance on your last statement is generally the amount that will show
in your credit report.
amount owed on all accounts, and on different types of accounts.
In addition to the overall amount you owe, the score considers the
amount you owe on specific types of accounts, such as credit cards and
Whether you are showing a balance on certain types of accounts.
In some cases, having a very small balance without missing a payment
shows that you have managed credit responsibly, and may be slightly
better than no balance at all. On the other hand, closing unused
credit accounts that show zero balances and that are in good standing
will not generally raise your score.
many accounts have balances.
A large number can indicate higher risk of over-extension.
much of the total credit line is being used on credit cards and other
"revolving credit" accounts.
Someone closer to "maxing out" on many credit cards may have
trouble making payments in the future.
much of installment loan accounts is still owed, compared with the
original loan amounts.
For example, if you borrowed $10,000 to buy a car and you have paid
back $2,000, you owe (with interest) more than 80% of the original
loan. Paying down installment loans is a good sign that you are able
and willing to manage and repay debt.
Length of Credit History:
About 15% of your score
is based on
Length of Credit History.
In general, a longer credit history
will increase your score. However, even people with short credit
histories may get high scores, depending on how the rest of the credit
Your score takes into account:
long your credit accounts have been established, in general.
The score considers both the age of your oldest account and an average
age of all your accounts.
long specific credit accounts have been established.
– How long it
has been since you used certain accounts.
4) Are You Taking on
About 10% of your score
is based on New
People tend to have more credit today
and to shop for credit – via the Internet and other channels – more
frequently than ever. Fair, Isaac scores reflect this fact. However,
research shows that opening several credit accounts in a short period
of time does represent greater risk – especially for people who do not
have a long-established credit history. This also extends to requests
for credit, as indicated by "inquiries" to the credit
reporting agencies – an inquiry is a request by a lender to get a copy
of your credit report.
The scores distinguish between searching for many new credit accounts
and rate shopping, which is generally not associated with higher risk.
In part, this is handled by treating a grouping of inquiries – which
probably represents a search for the best rate on a single loan – as
though it was a single inquiry.
Your score takes
many new accounts you have.
The score looks at how many new accounts there are by type of account
(for example, how many newly opened credit cards you have). It also
may look at how many of your accounts are new accounts.
long it has been since you opened a new account.
Again, the score looks at this by type of account.
long it has been since you opened a new account.
Again, the score looks at this by type of account.
many recent requests for credit you have made, as indicated by
inquiries to the credit reporting agencies.
Note that if you order your credit report from a credit reporting
agency — such as to check it for accuracy, which is a good idea —
the score does not count this. This is considered a
"consumer-initiated inquiry," not an indication that you are
seeking new credit. Also, the score does not count it when a lender
requests your credit report or score in order to make you a
"pre-approved" credit offer, or to review your account with
them, even though these inquiries may show up on your credit report.
of time since credit report inquiries were made by lenders.
Whether you have a good recent credit history, following past payment
Re-establishing credit and making payments on time after a period of
late payment behavior will help to raise a score over time.
5) Types of Credit
About 10% of your score
is based on Types of Credit in Use.
According to the
information provided by the Fair & Isaac, the creater of FICO
credit score, about 10% of your credit score is based on:
kinds of credit accounts you have, and how many of each.
The score is a complex formulat that takes into account both the types
of account, their mix and the total number of credit accounts you have
under your name.
account types include:
credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company
accounts and mortgage loans. In general, the effect of how many
accounts you have and their mix would vary with your income and other
factors. It is not recommended that you open new accounts just to
"diversify" your credit profile. This part of the credit
score is more important if you do not have a lot of other credit
information on your file, as would happen for example to young adults.
If you are totally confused at this point – don’t feel alone. The best
way to not have to worry about a negative profile, is to make your
payments on time. It’s much easier (although it might not be EASY) to
pay on time than spending years cleaning up a negative credit history.
The three major Credit Bureaus have
their own criteria on how to read your credit report. But they all
share the same information. In the past years they made their credit
reports clearer so people can understand it easily.
Name, Address, Date of Birth, Social Security number and spouse’s
Credit and Payment History
Listing of companies that have loaned you money in the past, along
with the account numbers, size of your credit lines, dates the lines
were opened, dates you last used the credit lines, lines’ repayment
terms, amounts you presently owe, status of your payments and number
of months your payments are past due.
Those assigned to collect overdue debts, including original creditor’s
name, which collection agency oversaw which account, the amount it
tried to collect and whether you paid.
Federal, state or local courts showing liens, bankruptcy filings or
Additional History Information
Former addresses, employers, etc.
Listing of inquiries made by potential credit grantors like credit
A credit report is simply a document that outlines your credit history.
The report contains details of your last residence, employment
history, payment history, whether you’ve declared bankruptcy, and
other personal information relative to your finances.
Credit reports are made available by what’s known as a "consumer
reporting agencies" and the most common type is a credit bureau.
By collecting important personal financial data, they make your credit
history available to lenders, credit card companies, insurance
companies, department stores, employers [with your consent], mortgage
companies, and even landlords.
Credit bureaus make a profit by collecting and selling your personal
information. They comb public records to see if you have any previous
foreclosures, tax liens, or court judgments against you. They combine
this information with your payment habits to form a summary of your
credit history. Creditors or lenders then evaluate your report and
determine if you meet the right criteria to qualify.
These low rate credit cards feature the best APR rates available in credit cards today. But don’t be fooled this doesn’t mean these cards don’t feature the benefits and rewards other higher rate credit cards have to offer. Choose the low rate credit card that best fits your needs, whether you are looking to gain miles for your next trip, rebates on your purchases or any other perks these low rate credit cards have to offer.
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