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Cardmember Agreement

The issuer's written statement of terms and conditions relating to your credit card account. The Cardmember Agreement is required by Federal Reserve regulations. The Agreement states that  the annual percentage rate, the monthly minimum payment formula, annual fee, if applicable, and your rights in billing disputes.

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Cash Advance

A cash withdrawal at an automated teller machine, bank teller or by use of a convenience check. This cash is an instant loan from your credit card account. The credit card company will apply interest charges from the day you take the advance until the day you pay it off. A transaction fee may also be charged based on the amount of your withdrawal. Other transactions, which may be considered cash advances, include gaming activities and some balance transfers.

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Cash Advance Fee

A one-time fee for cash advances in addition to normal interest charges. This fee is usually a percentage of the advance amount.

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Charge Card

A card that requires full payment of the balance before the end of the billing period. It is not a line of credit and no interest is charged.

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An asset pledged to a lender to guarantee repayment. Collateral could include savings, bonds, insurance policies, jewelry, property or other items that are pledged to pay off a loan if payments are not made according to the contract. Collateral is not required for unsecured credit card accounts.

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The referral of a past due account to a specialist in collecting loans or accounts receivable.

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Consolidation Loan

If you owe money to several creditors, you can combine your payments and balances into a single account with one creditor. This can be done in several ways. For example, you can transfer several high interest credit card balances onto one card with a lower rate. If you own a home, you can consolidate your debt with a low-interest home equity loan. Or, you can get a loan specifically designed for this purpose.

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To sign a credit agreement with someone and agree to share the debt with that person or assume the debt if the other person defaults and doesn't pay.

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A co-signer is a person who signs a loan or credit card with the primary applicant, pledging to be responsible for repaying the loan or debt in the event the applicant is unable.

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An amount of money that a bank or credit card issuer lends to you. You can charge/spend any amount from your credit line to make purchases or take cash advances. As long as you pay the minimum payment due each month by the due date, you can continue to use your remaining available credit.

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Credit Bureau

A credit bureau is a company that collects and sells information about how you manage your credit. Many banks and credit issuers regularly update the credit bureaus about your payment habits and how much money you owe. Potential creditors may check your credit report when you apply to rent an apartment or when you apply for a loan, credit card or even a new job. If you are denied credit, the creditor must tell you where they got the credit information. You have 60 days after credit denial to obtain your credit report free of charge.

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Credit Card Debt

The total unpaid balances on all of your credit cards (not to be confused with the minimum amount you owe each month).

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Credit Criteria

Factors used by lenders to rate the credit worthiness or ability to repay debt. They may include the following: income, amount of personal debt carried, number of accounts from other credit sources and credit history. A lender is free to use any credit-related information in approving or denying a credit application as long as they do not violate the Equal Credit Opportunity Act which prohibits credit discrimination on the basis of race, sex and other factors.

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Credit History

Your credit history is a record of the way you manage your debt. It is kept by the credit bureaus in the form of a credit report. Banks and credit card issuers tell the credit bureaus about how you pay your debts. When you apply for new credit or a loan, the bank will check your credit history before granting any credit. Information such as missed or late payments will be on your credit report for up to 7 years and bankruptcy filings can remain there for as long as 10 years.

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Credit Available

The amount of unused credit that is available. Your credit available is your outstanding balance subtracted from your total credit line. For example, if your credit line is $5,000 and you have an outstanding balance of $4,000, your credit available is $1,000, which means that you have $1,000 of credit left that you can use to make purchases with your credit card.

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Credit Management

The way you handle the money you borrow from banks or credit issuers. For example, wise consumers will pay more than the minimum due each month by the due date.

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Credit Report

A credit report is a record of all of the information that credit bureaus have collected about the way you've managed your finances over the last 7-10 years. It is the official record of how you pay the money you owe to your creditors. It includes the names of companies that have lent you money, your current account balances, and the timeliness of your payments. The information on your report can either qualify or disqualify you from obtaining credit cards, mortgages, loans, car or apartment leases and possibly employment.

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You are judged to be qualified to have credit.

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