In government, the practice of spending more money than is received as revenue, the difference being made up by borrowing or minting new funds. The term usually refers to a conscious attempt to stimulate the economy by lowering tax rates or increasing government expenditures. Critics of deficit financing regularly denounce it as an example of shortsighted government policy. Advocates argue that it can be used successfully in response to a recession or depression, proposing that the ideal of an annually balanced budget should give way to that of a budget balanced over the span of a business cycle. Seealso John Maynard Keynes; national debt.
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Credit cooperative formed by a group of people with some common bond who, in effect, save their money together and make low-cost loans to each other. The loans are usually short-term consumer loans, mainly for automobiles, household needs, medical debts, and emergencies. Credit unions generally operate under government charter and supervision. They are particularly important in less developed countries, where they may be the only source of credit for their members. The first cooperative societies providing credit were founded in Germany and Italy in the mid-19th century; the first North American credit unions were founded by Alphonse Desjardins in Lévis, Quebec (1900), and Manchester, N.H. (1909). The Credit Union National Association (CUNA), a federation of U.S. credit unions, was established in 1934 and became a worldwide association in 1958.
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Small card that authorizes the person named on it to charge goods or services to his or her account. It differs from a debit card, with which money is automatically deducted from the bank account of the cardholder to pay for the goods or services. Credit-card use originated in the U.S. in the 1920s; early credit cards were issued by various firms (e.g., oil companies and hotel chains) for use at their outlets only. The first universal credit card, accepted by a variety of establishments, was issued by Diners' Club in 1950. Charge cards such as American Express require cardholders to pay for all purchases at the end of the billing period (usually monthly). Bank cards such as MasterCard and Visa allow customers to pay only a portion of their bill; interest accrues on the unpaid balance. Credit-card companies get revenue from annual fees and interest paid by cardholders and from fees paid by participating merchants.
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Organization that provides information to merchants or other businesses concerning the creditworthiness of their customers. Credit bureaus may be private enterprises or may be operated on a cooperative basis by the merchants in one locality. Users of the service pay a fee and receive information from various sources, including businesses that have granted the customer credit in the past, public records, newspapers, the customer's employment record, and direct investigation.
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Transaction between two parties in which one (the creditor or lender) supplies money, goods, services, or securities in return for a promised future payment by the other (the debtor or borrower). Such transactions normally include the payment of interest to the lender. Credit may be extended by public or private institutions to finance business activities, agricultural operations, consumer expenditures, or government projects. Large sums of credit are usually extended through specialized financial institutions such as commercial banks or through government lending programs.
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Short- and intermediate-term loans used to finance the purchase of commodities or services for personal consumption. The loans may be supplied by lenders in the form of cash loans or by sellers in the form of sales credit. Installment loans, such as automobile loans and credit-card purchases, are paid back in two or more payments; noninstallment loans, such as the service credit extended by utility companies, are paid back in a lump sum. Consumer loans usually carry a higher rate of interest than business loans. Seealso credit.
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