Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Financial Literacy Cougar Money Matters

Credit Basics

Credit is borrowed money that you can use to purchase goods and services when you need them. You get credit from a credit grantor, whom you agree to pay back the amount you spent, plus applicable finance charges, at an agreed-upon time. Consumers use credit to buy almost everything, including food, clothing, housing and transportation. Below are the four types of credit:

Revolving Credit

Revolving Credit is a line of credit you can keep using after paying it off. You can make purchases with it as long as the balance stays under the credit limit, which can change over time. Credit cards are the most common type of revolving credit.

Service Credit

Service credit is your agreements with service providers are all credit arrangements. You receive electricity, cellular phone service, gym membership, etc., with the agreement that you will pay for them each month. Not all service accounts are reported in your credit history.

Installment credit

With installment credit, a creditor loans you a specific amount of money, and you agree to repay the money and interest in regular installments of a fixed amount over a set period of time. Car loans and mortgages are two examples of installment credit.

Good credit is important

Good credit is necessary if you plan to use credit to make a major purchase, such as a car or a home, or want to be able to take advantage of the convenience credit can provide. The importance of good credit also extends beyond purchases, in that your credit information may be used by potential employers and landlords as part of the selection process.

Credit grantors review credit applications and credit reports to determine financial risk: If they lend you money, extend you credit or give you goods and services, will you pay them back? They may consider your income, how long you’ve lived at your present address, how long you’ve worked for the same employer, what kinds of assets you have and the balances of your bank accounts. Often, though, the primary resource guiding their decision is your credit information.