Loan contracts come in all kinds of forms and with varied terms, ranging from simple promissory notes between friends and family members to more complex loans like mortgage, auto, payday and student loans. Banks, credit unions and other people lend money for significant, but necessary items like a car, student loan or home. Other loans, like small business loans and those from the Department of Veterans Affairs, are only available to select groups of people.
Regardless of type, every loan and its conditions for repayment, is governed by state and federal guidelines to protect consumers from unsavory practices like excessive interest rates. In addition, loan length and default terms should be clearly detailed to avoid confusion or potential legal action.
In case of default, terms of collection of the outstanding debt should clearly specify the costs involved in collecting upon the debt. This also applies to parties of promissory notes as well. If you are in need of money for an essential item or to help make your life more manageable, it’s a good thing to familiarize yourself with the kinds of credit and loans that might be available to you and the sorts of terms you can expect.
Types of Credit: Open-End & Closed-End Credit Options
The two basic categories of consumer credit are open-end and closed-end credit. Open-end credit, better known as revolving credit, can be used repeatedly for purchases that will be paid back monthly, though paying the full amount due every month is not required. The most common form of revolving credit are credit cards, but home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOC) also fall in this category.
Credit cards are used for daily expenses, such as food, clothing, transportation and small home repairs. Interest charges are applied when the monthly balance is not paid in full. The interest rates on credit cards average 15 percent, but can be as low as zero percent (temporary, introductory offers) and as high as 30 percent or more, depending on the consumer’s payment history and credit score. Loans for bad credit may be hard to find, but lower interest rates are available within nonprofit debt management programs, even for credit scores below 500.
Closed-end credit is used to finance a specific purpose for a specific period of time. They also are called installment loans because consumers are required to follow a regular payment schedule (usually monthly) that includes interest charges, until the principal is paid off. The interest rate for installment loans varies by lender and is tied closely to the consumer’s credit score. The lending institution can seize the consumer’s property as compensation if the consumer defaults on the loan.
Examples of closed-end credit include:
- Car loans
- Appliance loans
- Payday loans