Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

Accrued Interest: Interest that has been earned, but not yet paid, to the account holder for a share account; or interest due, but not yet paid by a borrower on a loan.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMS): A mortgage that does not have a fixed interest rate. The rate changes during the life of the loan based on movements in an index rate, such as the rate for Treasury securities or the Cost of Funds Index. ARMs usually offer a lower initial interest rate than fixed-rate loans. The interest rate fluctuates over the life of the loan based on market conditions, but the loan agreement generally sets maximum and minimum rates. When interest rates increase, generally your loan payments increase; when interest rates decrease, your monthly payments may decrease. For more information on ARMs, see the Consumer Handbook on Adjustable Rate Mortgages.

Adverse Action: Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, a creditor's refusal to grant a loan on the terms requested, or termination of an existing line of credit loan.

Adverse Action Notice: The notice required by the Equal Credit Opportunity Act advising a loan applicant or existing debtor of the denial of their request for credit or advising of a change in terms considered unfavorable to the borrower. Freezing the line of credit on a home equity loan requires the financial institution to send the adverse action notice to the borrower describing why the financial institution froze the line.

Amortization: The process of reducing debt through regular installment payments of principal and interest that will result in the payoff of a loan at its maturity.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): The cost of credit on a yearly basis, expressed as a percentage.

Annual Percentage Yield (APY): A percentage rate reflecting the total amount of interest paid on a share account based on the interest rate and the frequency of compounding for a year.

ACH - Automated Clearing House: An electronic deposit or withdrawal from your share account such as direct deposit of members' salaries and government benefit payments (e.g., social security, welfare, and veterans' entitlements), and preauthorized transfers.

Available Balance: The balance of an account, less any merchant holds from pending debit card transactions, uncollected funds, or other restrictions against the account.

Available Credit: The difference between the credit limit assigned to a cardholder’s account or a line of credit indicating the remaining amount of funds to borrow on the account.

Balance Transfer: The process of moving an outstanding balance from one credit card to another. This transfer is usually done to obtain a lower interest rate on the outstanding balance. Transfers are sometimes subjected to a Balance Transfer Fee.

Beneficiary: A person who is entitled to receive the benefits or proceeds of a share account, will, trust, insurance policy, retirement plan, annuity, or other contract.

Business Day: In general, a business day is defined as Mondays through Fridays except most federal holidays.

Canceled Check (Share Draft): A check that a financial institution paid, charged to the account holder's account, and then endorsed. Once canceled, a check is no longer negotiable.

Charge-off: The balance on a loan, or negative share draft account, that a financial institution no longer expects to be repaid and writes off as a bad debt.

Charter Number A unique number assigned to the credit union by NCUA, You can find a specific credit union’s charter number by visiting,

Check 21 Act: Check 21 is a Federal law designed to enable financial institutions, banks, and businesses that receive checks as payment to convert the check to an electronic payment (ACH), which is intended to make check processing faster and more efficient. Check 21 is the short name for the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, which went into effect on October 28, 2004.

ChexSystems: The ChexSystems, Inc. network is comprised of member financial institutions that regularly contribute information on mishandled checking and savings accounts to a central location. ChexSystems shares this information among member institutions to help them assess the risk of opening new accounts.

If you close an account with a negative balance and the financial institution writes your account off to bad debts, it may report your activity to ChexSystems which can make it difficult to open an account at another financial institution. Generally, information remains on ChexSystems for five years.

Closed-End Loan: Generally, any loan in which the amount given to the borrower, plus any finance charges, is expected to be repaid in full by a specified date. Most real estate and automobile loans are closed-end loans.

Closing a Mortgage Loan: The consummation of a contractual real estate transaction in which all appropriate documents are signed and the proceeds of the mortgage loan are then disbursed by the lender.

Closing Costs: The expenses incurred by sellers and buyers in transferring ownership in real property. The costs of closing may include an origination fee, discount points, attorneys' fees, loan fees, title search and insurance, survey charge, recordation fees, and the credit report charge.

Collateral: Assets that are offered to secure a loan or other credit. For example, if you obtain a real estate mortgage, the credit's collateral is typically your house. Collateral becomes subject to seizure on default.

Collection Agency: A company hired by a financial institution to collect a debt that is owed. Creditors typically hire a collection agency only after they have made efforts to collect the debt themselves, usually through letters and telephone calls. How the collection agency interacts with you in the collection of the debt is regulated by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Compound Interest: Compound interest is the interest paid on a deposit or share account, which is added to the account balance at the end of the dividend period. Compounding occurs during the next dividend period when you earn dividends or interest on the dividend credited to your account at the end of the prior dividend period. 

Consumer Reporting Agency: An agency that regularly collects or evaluates individual consumer credit information, or other information about consumers, and sells consumer reports for a fee to financial institutions and or others creditors.

Conventional Fixed Rate Mortgage: Mortgage loans other than those insured or guaranteed by a government agency such as the FHA (Federal Housing Administration), the VA (Veterans Administration), or the Rural Development Services (formerly known as the Farmers Home Administration or FmHA). A fixed-rate mortgage offers you a set interest rate and payments that do not change throughout the life, or "term," of the loan. A conventional fixed-rate mortgage loan is fully paid off over a given number of years-usually 15, 20, or 30. A portion of each monthly payment goes towards paying back the money borrowed, the "principal"; the rest is "interest."

Co-Signer: An individual who signs the note of another person as support for the credit of the primary signer and who becomes responsible for the obligation.

Coverdell Education Savings Account: Formerly called education IRA. An education account that accumulates interest tax-free. You can also withdraw money from this account without penalty.

Credit Application: Also known as a loan application, which is given to a potential borrower to provide details about his or her credit worthiness, which includes details about residence, employment, income, and existing debt. Sometimes, an application fee is charged to cover the cost of loan processing.

Credit Card Account Agreement: A written agreement, for a credit card account, that explains the
  • terms and conditions of the account,
  • credit usage and payment by the cardholder, and
  • duties and responsibilities of the card issuer.
Credit Disability Insurance (CDI): A type of insurance, also known as accident and health insurance, that makes payments on the loan if you become ill or injured and cannot work. Preexisting conditions may limit your ability to receive payments. CDI is optional coverage.

Credit History: A record of an individual’s or company’s past borrowing and repaying behavior maintained by an independent credit reporting agency. It will list personal or corporate information, including how long your credit lines remained open, history of late and current payments, the original amount and the outstanding balance, monthly payments, charged-off accounts, delinquent accounts, and accounts charged-off in bankruptcy. 

Credit Life Insurance (CLI): A type of life insurance that helps repay a loan if you should die before the loan is fully repaid. CLI is optional coverage.

Credit Report: A detailed report of an individual's credit history prepared by a credit reporting agency and used by a financial institution in determining a loan applicant's creditworthiness.

Credit Score: A number, roughly between 300 and 800, measuring an individual's credit worthiness. The most well-known type of credit score is the FICO® score. This score is derived from a mathematical formula that assigns numerical values to various pieces of information in your credit report. The score of 800 is the best rating you can receive. Financial institutions may use a credit score to help determine whether you qualify for a particular credit card, loan, or service.

Credit Union: A not-for-profit financial institution owned by its members and represented by a volunteer board of directors who are elected by the membership. Credit Unions are formed by people who join together to form a common bond. To become a member, you must meet the credit union’s field of membership requirements and open a share account. Credit unions make money by loaning other members your savings. The members who borrow money from the credit union pay interest on their loan (like rent for using the money). The credit union then takes the interest from the loans and pays you a dividend on your share account.

Customer Identification Program (CIP): A program required to prevent financing of terrorist operations and money laundering. Banks and other financial institutions are required to adopt written procedures to ensure proper identification of customers. Financial institutions also must keep records of identifying information and check customer names against terrorist lists. This applies to anyone who opens a new account as well as existing account holders when the institution is unfamiliar with their identity.

Cut-Off Time: A time of day established by a financial institution for receipt of deposits. After the cut-off time, deposits are posted to your account on the next banking day.

Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI): The percentage of a member's monthly gross income that goes toward paying installment debts. Generally, the higher the ratio, the lower is your capacity to repay the loan. The DTI is calculated by dividing total monthly debts by total monthly gross income.

Dividends: The money the credit union pays you for keeping your money in your savings account, also known as a share account.

Earnest Money: Money given to a seller by a buyer to demonstrate the buyer’s good faith. If the deal falls through, the deposit is usually forfeited.

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT): The transfer of money between accounts by consumer electronic systems, such as automated teller machines (ATMs) and electronic payment of bills, rather than by check or cash. (Wire transfers, checks, drafts, and paper instruments do not fall into this category.)

Escheat: Transferring savings accounts to the State when 1) a person dies without leaving a will and has no heirs, or 2) when the property (such as a bank account) has been inactive for a certain period of time.

Escrow: The holding of money or documents by a neutral third party before closing on a property. It can also be funds held in reserve by a financial institution or mortgage company to pay taxes, insurance, and other mortgage-related items when due.

Federal Credit Union: A credit union chartered, examined, and supervised by the federal government through NCUA.

Fixed Rate Loan: Loans that have a fixed rate of interest. Both the interest rate and the monthly payments (for principal and interest) stay the same during the life of the loan.

Foreign Transaction Fee: A fee assessed by your financial institution for making a transaction at another financial institution or bank's ATM.

Garnishment/Garnish: A legal process allowing a financial institution to remove funds from your deposit or share account to satisfy a debt that you have not paid. If you owe money to a person or company, they can obtain a court order directing your financial institution to take money out of your account to pay off your debt. Not all states allow garnishment actions.

Guarantor: A party who agrees to be responsible for the payment of another party's debts should that party default.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC): A line of credit secured by the equity in a member's home. It is typically used for home improvements, debt consolidation, and other major purchases. Interest paid on the loan is generally tax deductible (consult a tax advisor to be sure). The funds may be accessed by writing checks against the line of credit or by getting a cash advance.

Home Equity Loan (HEL): A home equity loan allows you to tap into your home's built-up equity, which is the difference between the amount that your home could be sold for and the amount that you still owe. Homeowners often use a home equity loan for home improvements, or to finance their child's college education. The interest paid is usually tax-deductible. Because the loan is secured by your home's equity, if you default, the financial institution may foreclose on your house and take ownership of it. This type of loan is sometimes referred to as a second mortgage or borrowing against your home.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA): A retirement savings program for individuals to which yearly tax-deductible contributions, up to a specified limit, can be made. The amount contributed is not taxed until withdrawn. Withdrawal is not permitted without penalty until the individual reaches age 59 1/2.

Insufficient Funds: When a member's checking or share draft account balance is inadequate to pay a check or ACH presented for payment.

Insured Shares: Deposits held in federal and most state chartered credit unions that are guaranteed by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) against loss due to credit union failure.

Joint Account: An account owned by two or more persons. Either party can conduct transactions separately or together as set forth in the deposit account contract. In addition, some states allow one owner of the account to use the share balance as collateral in case of default.

Kiting: Writing a check in an amount that will overdraw the account but making up the deficiency by depositing another check on another financial institution. For example, mailing a check for the mortgage when your checking account has insufficient funds to cover the check, but counting on receiving and depositing your paycheck before the mortgage company presents the check for payment.

Lien: Legal claim against a property. Once the property is sold, the lien holder is then paid the amount that is owed.

Line of Credit: A pre-approved loan authorization with a specific borrowing limit based on creditworthiness. A line of credit allows borrowers to obtain a number of loans without re-applying each time as long as the total of borrowed funds does not exceed the credit limit.

Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV): The ratio of the loan principal (amount borrowed) to the appraised value (selling price). For example, on a $100,000 home, with a mortgage loan principal of $80,000, the loan-to-value ratio is 80 percent. The LTV will affect the types of programs available to the borrower; generally, the lower the LTV, the more favorable the program terms offered by lenders.

Maturity: The date on which the principal balance of a loan, bond, or other financial instrument becomes due and payable.

Membership: To have a savings account at a credit union, you must belong to a group of people with a common bond. As a member of a credit union, you also become an owner of the credit union. Because you are an owner, your savings account is called a regular share account.

Money Market Share Account: A savings account that generally offers a higher rate of interest in exchange for larger than normal deposits. Insured by the NCUSIF, these accounts have limits on the number of transactions allowed and may require higher balances to receive the higher rate of interest.

Mortgage: A contract or debt instrument used in a real estate transaction where the property is the collateral for the loan. A mortgage gives the lender a right to take possession of the property if the borrower fails to pay off the loan.

Mortgage Loan: A loan made by a financial institution to a borrower for the financing of real property.

Mortgagee: The financial institution in a mortgage loan relationship.

Mortgagor: The borrower in a mortgage loan relationship.

National Credit Union Administration (NCUA): The Federal regulatory agency that charters and supervises Federal credit unions. NCUA also administers the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, which insures the deposits of federally insured credit unions (both Federal credit unions and state-chartered credit unions.)

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP): The program of flood insurance coverage and floodplain management administered under the Flood Disaster Protection Act (FDPA or Act) and applicable Federal regulations found in Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subchapter B.

Official Check: A check drawn on a financial institution and signed by an authorized financial institution official. (Also known as a cashier's check.)

Open-End Credit: A credit agreement (typically a credit card) that allows a member to borrow against a preapproved credit line when purchasing goods and services. The borrower is only billed for the amount that is actually borrowed plus any interest due. (Also called a charge account or revolving credit.)

Overages: The difference between the lowest available price and any higher price that the homebuyer agrees to pay for a loan. Loan officers and brokers are often allowed to keep some or all of this difference as extra compensation.

Overdraft: When the amount of money withdrawn from a checking or share draft account that is greater than the amount actually available in the account, the excess is known as an overdraft and the account is said to be overdrawn.

Overdraw: To write a check for an amount that exceeds the amount on deposit in the account.

Over Limit: An open-end credit account in which the assigned dollar limit has been exceeded.

Payee: The person or organization to whom a check, draft, or note is made payable.

Payoff: The complete repayment of a loan, including principal, interest, and any other amounts due. Payoff occurs either over the full term of the loan or through prepayments.

Payoff Statement: A formal statement prepared when a loan payoff is contemplated. It shows the status of the loan account, all sums due, and the daily rate of interest.

Periodic Rate: The interest rate described in relation to a specific amount of time. The monthly periodic rate, for example, is the cost of credit per month; the daily periodic rate is the cost of credit per day.

Personal Identification Number (PIN): Generally, a four-character number or word, the PIN is the secret code given to credit or debit cardholders enabling them to access their accounts. The code is either randomly assigned by the financial institution or selected by the consumer. It is intended to prevent unauthorized use of the card while accessing a financial service terminal.

Phishing: When internet fraudsters impersonate a business in an attempt to trick you into giving out your personal information, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details. Legitimate businesses do not ask you to send sensitive information through insecure channels.

Point of Sale (POS): 1) The location at which a transaction takes place. 2) Systems that allow consumers to effect transfers of funds from their deposit accounts and other financial transactions at retail establishments.

Points (also called discount points): One point is equal to 1 percent of the principal amount of a mortgage loan. For example, if a mortgage is $200,000, one point equals $2,000. Lenders frequently charge points in both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages to cover loan origination costs or to provide additional compensation to the lender or broker. Points are paid usually on the loan closing date and may be paid by the borrower or the home seller, or split between the two parties. In some cases, the money needed to pay points can be borrowed, but increases the loan amount and the total costs. Discount points (sometimes called discount fees) are points that the borrower voluntarily chooses to pay in return for a lower interest rate.

Power of Attorney: A written instrument that authorizes one person to act as another's agent or attorney. The power of attorney may be for a definite, specific act, or it may be general in nature. The terms of the written power of attorney may specify when it will expire. If not, the power of attorney usually expires when the person granting it dies. Some institutions require that you use the financial institution's power of attorney forms. (The financial institution may refer to this as a Durable Power of Attorney: The principal grants specific rights to the agent.)

Preferred Risk Policy (PRP): A policy that offers fixed combinations of building/contents coverage or contents-only coverage at modest, fixed premiums. The PRP generally is available for property located in B, C, and X Zones in Regular Program Communities that meets eligibility requirements based on the property’s flood loss history.

Prepayment Clause: A clause in a mortgage allowing the mortgagor to pay off part or all of the unpaid debt before it becomes due.

Prepayment Penalty: A penalty imposed on a borrower for repaying the loan before its due date. (In the case of a mortgage, this applies when there is not a prepayment clause in the mortgage note to offset the penalty.)

Principal Balance: The outstanding balance on a loan, excluding interest and fees.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): Protects the lender against a loss if a borrower defaults on the loan. It is a payment usually required of a borrower for loans in which a down payment is less than 20 percent of the sales price, or in a refinancing, when the amount financed is greater than 80 percent of the appraised value. When you acquire 20 percent equity in your home, PMI is cancelled. Depending on the size of your mortgage and down payment, these premiums can add $100 to $200 per month or more to your payments.

Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA): Federal law that, among other things, requires lenders to provide "good faith" estimates of settlement costs and make other disclosures regarding the mortgage loan. RESPA also limits the amount of funds held in escrow for real estate taxes and insurance.

Refinancing: A way of obtaining a better interest rate, lower monthly payments, or borrow cash on the equity in a property that has built up on a loan. A second loan is taken out to pay off the first, higher-rate loan.

Release of Lien: To free a piece of collateral from a mortgage or lien.

Remittance Transfers: Federal law defines “remittance transfers” to include certain electronic money transfers from consumers in the United States to recipients abroad, including friends, family members, or businesses. Remittance transfers are commonly known as “international wires,” “international money transfers,” or “remittances.”

Renewal: A form of extending an unpaid loan in which the borrower's remaining unpaid loan balance is carried over (renewed) into a new loan at the beginning of the next financing period.

Residual Interest: Interest that continues to accrue on your credit card balance from the statement cycle date until the financial institution receives your payment. For example, if your statement cycle date was January 10 and the bank received your payment on January 20, there were ten days for which interest accrued. This amount will be posted on your next statement.

Retirement Accounts: An account that helps you plan for your retirement. It is also the best way to save for tomorrow. Retirement accounts include defined contribution plans (e.g. IRA, 401k, or profit sharing plans) and defined benefit plans (e.g. pension or cash balance plans).

Return Item: A negotiable instrument, principally a check that has been sent to a financial institution for collection and payment and is returned unpaid by the sending financial institution.

Reverse Mortgage: A special home loan product that allows a homeowner aged 62 or older the ability to access the equity that has accumulated in their home. The home itself will be the source of repayment. The loan is underwritten based on the value of the collateral (home) and the life expectancy of the borrower. The loan must be repaid when you die, sell your home, or no longer live there as your principal residence. (Also called home equity conversion mortgages or reverse-annuity mortgages). 

Revolving Credit: A credit agreement (typically a credit card) that allows a customer to borrow against a preapproved credit line when purchasing goods and services. The borrower is only billed for the amount that is actually borrowed plus any interest due. (Also called a charge account or open-end credit.)

Right of Offset: Financial institution's legal right to seize funds a guarantor or debtor may have on deposit to cover a loan in default. It is also known as the right of set-off.

Right of Rescission: Right to cancel, within three business days, a contract that uses the home of a person as collateral, except in the case of a first mortgage loan. There is no fee to the borrower, who receives a full refund of all fees paid. The right of rescission is guaranteed by the Truth in Lending Act (TILA).

Safe (or Safety) Deposit Box: A type of safe usually located in groups inside a financial institution vault and rented to customers for their use in storing valuable items.

Satisfaction of Mortgage: A document signed by a lender indicating that a mortgage has been fully paid and all debts satisfied. The document must be filed with the County Recorder (or Recorder of Deeds) to clear the title.

Settlement (or Closing) Costs: Fees paid at a loan closing. May include application fees; title examination, abstract of title, title insurance, and property survey fees; fees for preparing deeds, mortgages, and settlement documents; attorneys’ fees; recording fees; estimated costs of taxes and insurance; and notary, appraisal, and credit report fees. Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the borrower receives a “good faith” estimate of closing costs within three days of application. The good faith estimate lists each expected cost either as an amount or as a range.

Share Account: Credit unions call savings accounts share accounts because at a credit union you are a part owner of the credit union. By example, if you own a piece of a company you own a share of stock. If you have an account at a credit union, you have a share account.

Share Certificate: A form of savings instrument where the member agrees to maintain the deposit in the credit union for a specific period of time in exchange for interest payments. Early withdrawal of the share certificate generally includes an early withdrawal penalty.

Share Draft Account: Credit unions call checking accounts share draft accounts. Share draft accounts are a transaction accounts.

Signature Card: A card signed by each depositor and customer of a financial institution, which may be used as a means of identification. The signature card represents a contract between the financial institution and the depositor.

Stale-Dated Check: A check/share draft presented to a paying financial institution 180 days (6 months) or more after the original issue date. Financial institutions are not required by the Uniform Commercial Code to honor stale-dated checks/share drafts and can return them to the issuing financial institution unpaid. The maker of a check/share draft can discourage late presentment by writing the words "not good after X days" on the back of the check.

Stop Payment: An order not to pay a check or share draft that has been issued but not yet cashed. If requested soon enough, the check will not be debited to the payer's account. Most financial institutions charge a fee for this service.

Truth in Lending Act (TILA): A Federal law that requires lenders to provide standardized information so that borrowers can compare loan terms. In general, financial institutions must provide information on:
  • what credit will cost the borrower,
  • when charges will be imposed, and
  • what the borrower's rights are as a consumer.

Uniform Commercial Code (UCC): A set of statutes enacted by the various States to provide consistency among the States' commercial laws. It includes negotiable instruments, sales, stock transfers, trust and warehouse receipts, and bills of lading.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): HUD is a Cabinet department in the Executive branch of the United States federal government. HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business.

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ): DOJ is the United States federal executive department responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice. DOJ’s mission is to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.

Usury: Charging an illegally high interest rate on a loan.

Usury Rates: The maximum rate of interest lenders may charge borrowers. The usury rate is generally set by State law. The NCUA Board sets the maximum loan interest rate a federal credit union may charge.

Variable Rate: Any interest rate or dividend that changes on a periodic basis.

Wire Transfer: An electronic transfer of money from one person to another. A more narrow technical meaning, referring to one certain method of transferring funds, which usually involves an electronic transfer of funds from one credit union account to another.

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