How a Line of Credit Works
By Justin Pritchard. Banking/Loans Expert
Justin Pritchard helps consumers navigate the world of banking.
A line of credit is a pool of available money that you can borrow from. When you are approved for a line of credit, you get the ability to spend money – but you don t actually borrow or pay interest until you access the funds.
Home Equity Lines of Credit:
These loans are popular because they allow you to borrow relatively large amounts at relatively low interest rates (compared to credit cards or unsecured loans ).
Why is the interest rate lower? Banks consider these loans to be quite safe because they assume you ll repay the line of credit to avoid losing your home in foreclosure .
Line of Credit vs Home Equity Loan:
Generally, a HELOC is more flexible than a home equity loan. You only borrow what you need, and you can typically go back for more money when you need to (as long as you stay below your maximum credit limit. and as long as your lender does not cancel your line of credit unexpectedly). You might use a checkbook or payment card to access your line of credit.
With a home equity loan or second mortgage , you do it all in one shot.
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You ll get the entire maximum loan amount in one lump-sum, and you ll have to pay interest on the entire loan balance. With a HELOC, on the other hand, you only owe interest on any outstanding loan balance.
Typically your monthly payments will remain the same each month with a home equity loans, and you ll have a fixed interest rate (or one that only changes periodically). A HELOC will have a variable rate that can change frequently, so monthly payments can vary.
Credit Card Lines of Credit
Again, a line of credit can be very similar to a credit card. In fact, your credit card basically is a line of credit: you get to borrow up to a maximum limit, and you can repay and re-borrow numerous times.
Draw and Repayment Periods:
Your line of credit will have a draw period and a repayment period. During the draw period, you borrow money and use your line of credit. This may last for 10 years or so, and it looks and feels similar to a credit card account. During the repayment period, you repay principal and interest on the loan (see How Amortization Works ).
Like most loans. lines of credit have closing costs. Factor these in when you make your decisions on lenders and loan types .
Overdraft Line of Credit:
Another type of line of credit is the overdraft line of credit, available in your checking account. That line of credit creates a small loan when you spend more than you have available in checking, and is usually less expensive than an overdraft fee (assuming you only overdraw by a few bucks).