What is a Credit Line and How Does it Work (2023)

Definition and Examples of Credit Lines
How Does a Credit Line Work?
Secured and Unsecured Credit
Revolving vs. Non-Revolving Lines of Credit
Types of Credit Lines
Pros and Cons of Credit Lines
Cons Explained
Credit Line vs. Credit Limit
How to Get a Line of Credit
Key Takeaways

An individual or organization can borrow money from a credit line and return it over time, frequently without asking for a new loan.

Definition and Examples of Credit Lines

A credit line, commonly referred to as a “line of credit” (LOC), is a sort of standing loan that enables people, corporations, or other organizations to borrow money as needed, return it, and keep borrowing without asking for a new loan. Another name for a line of credit is a “evergreen loan.”

Credit cards, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), and small company credit lines are just a few examples of how a credit line could be obtained.

  • Alternate name:Line of credit (LOC)

How Does a Credit Line Work?

A line of credit is not the same as a conventional loan. With the latter, you request for a certain amount of money and repay it over the specified period of time in installments. You cannot keep borrowing additional funds against the same debt.

However, when you ask for a credit line, you are requesting regular access to money for when you need it. It’s common knowledge that you can withdraw money frequently.

These loans can be dangerous, but they frequently allow you to finish tasks or conduct business when you lack the essential funds. Any time you incur debt and put off paying it off, you’re making the assumption that you’ll be able to fulfill your responsibility in the future.

Secured and Unsecured Credit

Credit lines can be secured or unsecured, much like other loans. A secured loan requires you to pledge a personal asset (or assets) as security, which the bank can take if you don’t pay. One popular kind of secured credit line is a home equity line of credit. If you fall behind on your loan, your HELOC lender will be entitled to that sum of the equity in your property.

On the other hand, an illustration of an unsecured credit line is a credit card. Your card issuer gives you access to funds depending on your financial status and credit history rather than needing an asset as collateral.

The credit card company may send your account to collections if you fall behind on payments, but it cannot seize any of your actual property without first taking you to court.

Secured loans often feature lower interest rates than unsecured loans because they pose a reduced risk to your lender.

Revolving vs. Non-Revolving Lines of Credit

Most credit lines are open-ended, revolving accounts that let you draw money continuously up to the credit limit so long as you are keeping up with your repayment obligations. However, some are closed-end or non-revolving accounts. In some circumstances, you are not permitted to draw money until the debt has been paid back. Once you start the payback period on a HELOC, you might be unable to draw more money after that point.

Revolving lines of credit, such as credit cards, can be obtained, and non-revolving lines of credit, such as HELOCs, can be obtained.

Types of Credit Lines

Credit lines can take many different shapes and have many functions.

You might really have a specified draw period with a more conventional line of credit, during which you can routinely withdraw funds up to the maximum and make interest-only or interest-plus-principal payments. But as soon as the repayment period starts, your balance is payable in accordance with the arrangement you made with your lender regarding the repayment schedule.

An individual or a corporation may be granted a traditional line of credit. Some more credit lines are:

  • Credit card:a personal account for unrestricted, revolving consumer spending with a predetermined balance cap. Interest starts to build up on any charges that are not settled at the end of the month.
  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC):A credit line used to finance home improvements using the equity in your home as leverage. HELOCs can occasionally be used for other expenses as well.
  • Business credit line:A credit line with a bank or another lender that a company can utilize to pay for significant costs or operations costs

Your personal or company credit score, the assets you can (and want to) use as collateral, and the purpose of your loan will all affect which credit line is appropriate for you.

Pros and Cons of Credit Lines


  • Immediate access to cash
  • Only borrow what you need
  • Interest-only payments during draw period (if applicable)
  • Continue borrowing as needed


  • Higher interest rates
  • Interest adds up
  • Can put assets at risk
  • Financial risks
  • Unexpected changes

Pros Explained

  • Immediate access to cash:When needed, both businesses and individuals have access to flexible cash. When it comes to something straightforward like bank account overdraft protection, a personal credit line can be useful.
  • Borrow what you need:You are not required to borrow the whole amount permitted. You can only borrow when needed, not otherwise.
  • Interest-only payments during the draw period:You can finance significant projects if your loan has a draw term without worrying about having to start making payments the next month. For example, this might be a terrific way to finance a home renovation before you put your house up for sale.
  • Continue borrowing as needed:You can keep borrowing and repaying when you need access to more money, as opposed to taking out a single loan and then applying for another one after it is paid off.

Cons Explained

  • Higher interest rates:A credit line frequently has an interest rate that is substantially greater than a conventional loan.
  • Interest adds up:The interest payments will keep rising if you don’t pay off the loan’s principal. You might have to pay much more than what you borrowed in the beginning.
  • Can put assets at risk:If you default on a secured line of credit, such as a HELOC, your assets may be at risk. Your home, business assets, or other collateral may be seized by lenders.
  • Financial risks:Credit lines have financial hazards, just like any other form of borrowing. You can end up in serious debt if you rely on them without being able to pay back the money you borrow.
  • Unexpected changes:Your line of credit (LOC) may be canceled, have its limit reduced, or have its interest rate changed at any moment by the bank that issued it.

Credit Line vs. Credit Limit

A credit line, often known as a HELOC or a credit card, is a sort of loan that enables you to borrow money and return it in an ongoing fashion.

In contrast, a credit limit is a component of a loan. The credit limit of a loan is the most money you can take out or utilize before you have to start making payments. For instance, if your credit card has a $10,000 credit limit, the total of your charges cannot exceed $10,000.

Before you can use your credit card to make more purchases after you’ve reached that limit, you must start paying off the balance on it.

How to Get a Line of Credit

You must submit an application just as you would for a loan to get a line of credit. Based on the following factors, lenders will evaluate whether to accept your application and establish your borrowing limits:

  • Using history
  • Credit rating
  • Income available to pay back the loan
  • assets that can be used as security

Find the best rate and terms before obtaining a line of credit for yourself or your company. That entails ensuring that your credit rating is as strong as it can be, paying off previous debts, and, if you own a business, making sure that you get along well with your suppliers.

Once you have access to a credit line, don’t use it as a constant source of cash. To assist you in managing your credit line, you can be given a checkbook or a payment card that uses your pool of available funds. Paying down your accounts on schedule is crucial to managing your interest payments.

If used properly, a line of credit may be a potent tool in your financial toolkit, just like any other loan. Never use a loan as an excuse to shirk your financial responsibilities. Before you take on debt, make sure you can afford to pay it back.

Key Takeaways

  • An individual or organization may borrow money and return it via a credit line, a sort of loan.
  • Credit cards, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), and small company credit lines are just a few examples of how a credit line could be obtained.
  • As long as you are maintaining your account terms and making payments as required, the majority of lines of credit are revolving accounts that let you continuously draw funds up to the credit limit.
  • You must submit an application just as you would for a loan to get a line of credit. Lenders will evaluate your application and decide whether to approve it based on your credit history, income, and any available collateral.
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