Kathy Jane Buchanan
Written by Kathy Jane Buchanan

Kathy Jane Buchanan has more than 10 years of experience as an editor and writer. She currently worked as a full-time personal finance writer for PaydayChampion and has contributed work to a range of publications expert on loans. Kathy graduated in 2000 from Iowa State University with degree BSc in Finance.

What Is a Line of Credit and How Does It Work?

A line of credit is a revolving loan that allows borrowers to take a certain amount of money from a financial institution and pay it back in installments or all at once, depending on the needs. Interest begins to accrue whenever cash is taken out from a credit line.

Lines of credit may be divided into several categories, including personal, commercial, and even home equity. The most significant benefit of a LOC is the inherent adaptability it provides. One of the possible drawbacks is the possibility of incurring excessive debt, high-interest rates, and penalties for late payments.

Credit lines are cost-effective solutions to the financial uncertainties that arise from month to month or while carrying out a complex transaction, such as getting married or upgrading a property.

Main Points

  • Most HELOCs are secured LOCs.
  • Getting a line of credit is the same as getting a loan.
  • Like a loan, you need good credit to get a credit line.

What is a Line of Credit?

A line of credit is a flexible loan from a financial institution that consists of a predetermined amount of money borrowed as required and return immediately or over time. Line of Credit is a lower-risk revenue stream than credit card loans. Unregulated outstanding sums affect a bank’s earning asset management.

Most financial institutions are not interested in funding one-time personal loans, particularly unsecured ones. It is not a good practice for a borrower to take out a loan every month or two, pay it back, and then take another loan. These issues are remedied by establishing lines of credit, which make a certain sum of money available on demand.

What is the Purpose of a Line of Credit?

Opening a personal line of credit is an excellent option for providing flexible access to cash for major scheduled costs. The decision depends on the requirements and the specifics of the situation. Access a certain sum of money for a predetermined length of time via this financial instrument (called the draw period). One crucial aspect to consider is the individual’s credit report when applying for a personal line of credit.

A line of credit is useful when someone has to incur certain incremental costs over months or while making recurring purchases or payments. A credit line usually does not need any collateral. However, a positive credit history or a high credit score is required, which is typically assessed through a credit report.

How Does a Line of Credit Work?

A loan entails money in exchange for regular payments to the lender. A credit line functions like a credit card. Credit is extended up to a certain amount, which is withdrawn. The amount ranges from 1000 to 100,000 dollars and any amount in between. Utilization of a line of credit is staggered over weeks, months, or even years. Only the money that is actively borrowed is subject to repayment. Like other credit instruments, the borrower’s credit report plays a significant role in determining the terms and conditions of the line of credit.

What Is an Example of a Line of Credit?

There are two types of lines of credit: secured loans and unsecured. Borrowers must provide collateral to secure the loan when taking out a loan utilizing a prearranged line of credit. The home’s equity serves as the collateral, also known as the security for the loan. The interest rates are more favorable for the borrower because there is less risk for the lender with a secured line of credit. However, there is a significant disadvantage; the lender seizes the property if the borrowers cannot repay the secured loans per the terms of the agreement.

A personal line of credit is considered unsecured, implying it does not need collateral. The interest rates that apply to the unsecured line of credit are higher than those that use the secured loans line of credit. In addition, since there is no collateral, the risk to the lender is increased.

One example of an unsecured line of credit is as follows; consider remodeling the house but are still determining how much it would set back. Please apply to the bank for a line of credit allowing withdrawals for improvements.

It has been about a month since the home remodeling project started, spending around $15,000.The available line of credit has increased to $5,000. Pay interest on the borrowed funds, so provide at least the minimum amount due each month—the credit line rise by an amount equal to the sum paid.

What are the Different Types of Lines of Credit?

There are several distinct credit lines. Each is used for a certain objective.

Personal Line of Credit

Personal Lines of Credit are used for emergencies, weddings, overdraft protection, travel, entertainment, and to smooth out unpredictable revenue. It allows for unsecured borrowing and borrowing again. A Personal Line of Credit needs no defaults, a 670+ credit score, and a stable income.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

Most secured LOCs are HELOCs. A HELOC’s size is based on the home’s market value, less due. Credit limits are usually 75% or 80% of the home’s market value, less the mortgage debt. HELOCs have a draw time (typically ten years) during which borrowers borrow, repay, and borrow again. The amount is due after the draw period, or a loan is extended to pay it off. HELOCs contain closing charges, including a property evaluation. Credit unions often offer competitive rates and terms for HELOCs.

Business Line of Credit

Both business and personal lines of credit provide access to a predetermined credit limit that is free to borrow against and then return as necessary. Business credit lines offer greater limits and are geared toward companies. A line of credit is used for equipment purchases, cash flow concerns, and more. Credit unions can also be an alternative source for obtaining a business line of credit.

What are the Advantages of a Line of Credit?

  • Easy accessibility to funds: Borrow money whenever needed within the draw period if having a personal line of credit. Depending on the financial institution extending the line of credit, it is used via a bank branch, online, or a mobile app.
  • Overdraft protection on certain accounts: Some financial institutions let the borrowers utilize a personal line of credit (PLOC) if concerned about over drafting one of the funds. Its solution provides peace of mind if writing checks often or have concerns about exceeding the account’s limit.
  • Better rates than credit cards: A personal line of credit offers lower interest rates than credit cards. Credit history determines the interest rate on a revolving line of credit.
  • No collateral is needed: A personal line of credit doesn’t require security, unlike home equity lines of credit, which use the property as collateral. A suitable option if one doesn’t possess a home or car to serve as collateral,
  • Only pay for withdrawals: Personal lines of credit (PLOC) are interest-free until the borrower withdraws the money. Withdraw up to the maximum; the only charge is the initial deposit plus interest.

What are the Limitations of a Line of Credit?

A LOC’s principal benefit is the flexibility to borrow the necessary amount and avoid paying interest on a large loan. However, while taking out a LOC, borrowers must be aware of any possible issues.

  • LOCs without collateral are subject to higher interest rates and credit criteria.
  • Almost usually variable, LOC interest rates range substantially from one lender to another.
  • LOCs do not provide the same level of regulatory protection as credit cards. There are serious consequences for making late payments and exceeding the LOC limit.
  • An open LOC encourages overspending, which makes it difficult to make payments.
  • LOC abuse lowers a borrower’s credit rating. Depending on the severity, using the services of a reputable credit repair business is worthwhile.

How to Use a Line of Credit?

A line of credit is used for a variety of different uses. Paying for a wedding, an expensive trip, or a sudden financial emergency are all examples of possible services.

LOCs are fixed amounts of money borrowed, repaid, and borrowed again. The lender sets interest, payments, and other regulations. Some credit lines enable borrowers to make checks, while others contain a credit card. A LOC has built-in flexibility. A borrower seeks a particular amount but only utilizes it some. Modify the line of credit expenditure based on needs and pay interest only on the amount drawn. Borrowers adjust the amount of money to repay based on the financial situation, such as budget or cash flow. Pay back the loan amount or make the minimum payment each month.

Here are some statistics about lines of credit:

Interest rateThe average interest rate for a line of credit is 10%.
Repayment termAbout 70% of borrowers who use a line of credit repay it within five years.
Amount of credit availableThe average amount of credit that is available on a line of credit is $10,000.
Repayment success rateAbout 70% of borrowers who use a line of credit repay it within 5 years.
Credit score improvementAbout 30% of borrowers who use a line of credit improve their credit score by 50 points or more.
Statistics about the line of credit

Frequently Asked Questions

When is a Line of Credit Useful?

Lines of credit are helpful in circumstances that need large cash deposits, such as weddings, and when there are regular financial outlays, but the amounts are anticipated in advance. During the housing boom, credit lines were popular to fund house renovations. People often got a mortgage to purchase a home plus a line of credit for renovations or repairs. A line of credit is used for rapid, as-needed emergency funding.

How to get a Line of Credit?

Applying for a line of credit is the same as applying for a loan. Lenders use the following criteria to decide whether to accept the application and set borrowing limits:

  • Credit History
  • Credit Score
  • Available funds to pay back the loan
  • Assets that are used as collateral

Find the best rate and conditions before taking up a line of credit for personal or commercial use. It involves maintaining a good credit rating, paying off debts, and maintaining excellent supplier connections if it operates a business.

Line of credit chart

How Does a Line of Credit Affect a Credit Score?

Borrowing more than 30% of the available credit hurts the credit score. A query is made on the credit file, which damages the score. A credit score is temporarily lowered due to the hard inquiry that is caused.

How to Calculate the Interest Rate on a Line of Credit?

The credit balance and the yearly interest rate determine interest on this choice. Multiply the balance by the interest rate every day. Divide the annual rate by 365 to get the daily interest rate delivered.

  1. Compare. Credit lines combine card and loan features. Only borrow a certain amount and spend it as needed. The line of credit contains maintenance fees and interest until it’s used. Like a loan, a credit line requires good credit. A line of credit offers more flexible payback and usage limitations (used at the borrower’s discretion, provided the regulations aren’t exceeded between the start and activation dates).
  2. Determine whether a line of credit is best. Variable or uncertain expenditures are excellent for lines of credit. People use them to meet variable monthly bills or fixed expenses when income varies. Lines of credit aren’t good for single-item expenditures like a home or a vehicle. A regular loan would be cheaper.
  3. Know the drawbacks of lines of credit. Lines of credit are helpful for unexpected or unanticipated needs. They are more costly than standard car or housing loans due to higher interest rates and a potential starting fee. Rates are generally better than credit cards and payday loans. The interest on lines of credit is normally not tax deductible, save for lines secured by residences.

What is the difference between a credit card and a line of credit?

Personal loans are unsecured. Therefore it is handy when banks only approve personal loans for a few people. Line of Credit is a better option for borrowing since they come with cheaper interest rates than credit cards.

A line of credit is a good choice in unanticipated circumstances, such as medical emergencies, unexpected hospitalizations, last-minute marriages, house renovations, or even home building.

What is the difference between a line of credit and a term loan?

The difference between a line of credit and a loan is that both are subject to the borrower’s creditworthiness and eligibility requirements, making it possible to access a certain sum of money. Depending on the circumstance, borrowers must return the loan amount via equated monthly payments (EMIs) or quarterly repayments. Borrowers are often handed the whole amount in one large sum when taking out a loan. The total amount borrowed is subject to an interest rate predetermined or, in certain instances, negotiable over the loan term.

A line of credit gives the maximum predetermined limit that is borrowed up to, according to the terms. Borrowers keep taking out cash as long as staying under the limit. Only the utilized part of the loan incurs interest.

Kathy Jane Buchanan

Kathy Jane Buchanan has more than 10 years of experience as an editor and writer. She currently worked as a full-time personal finance writer for PaydayChampion and has contributed work to a range of publications expert on loans. Kathy graduated in 2000 from Iowa State University with degree BSc in Finance.