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Financial Glossary

Financial Glossary

Consumer Education Program


Glossary of financial terms. 

Financial Glossary

– A –


Annual Percentage Rate – How lenders state the interest rate on a loan.  The lower the APR, the lower the amount of interest you'll pay.


Annual Percentage Yield – How credit unions and banks tell you how much money you'll earn on your savings if you leave a lump sum in your account for one full year.  Use it to compare what institution gives you the best return on your money.


Automated Teller Machine – a machine that can be used to withdraw money from your account, check your account balance, or transfer money between your checking and savings accounts.  You must have an ATM or debit card in order to use the machine to get to your deposit accounts. You can use a major credit card to get cash advances on that card account at most ATMs.

ATM Surcharge

An ATM surcharge is a fee charged by an ATM owner to a non-customer using the ATM. They range from 50 cents to $5.00 or more. Heavily used ATMs (such as those at tourist attractions, airports, and casinos) often have the highest surcharges. By regulation the ATM will give the user a chance to cancel the transaction before the account is charged.

– B –


The amount of money you have in a checking or savings account or the principal amount you owe on a loan.   With a checking account, it is important to figure out (or "balance") exactly how much money you have by comparing your check register to your statement. 


This is a type of investment that represents corporate or government debt. In essence, a bond is a loan from the purchaser to the company or government agency that issued it. Bonds are not federally insured, though bonds issued by the U.S. Government are considered free of repayment risk.

Bonds, U.S. Savings

U.S. Savings Bonds are a popular way to save for the future. They are issued by the U.S. Treasury Bureau of the Public Debt. They are exempt from state income taxes and taxes are deferred until redeemed. DCU Certificate Accounts often pay higher dividend rates than U.S. Savings Bonds.

– C –


An account where you deposit money for a specific amount of time (at DCU, between 3 months and 5 years).  The amount that you earn on a certificate is greater than what you earn in other types of saving accounts, but there is a penalty or fee for taking your money out early.


A check is a negotiable instrument – a written order for your financial institution to pay someone with money in your checking account.

Check Hold

A check hold is when a financial institution temporarily blocks your access to all or part of the funds in a deposited check until enough time has passed for it to be paid by the institution on which it was drawn. Federal Reserve Regulation DD specifies the maximum holds financial institutions can place on deposited items. DCU's hold policies are more member-friendly than the maximums specified by "The Fed".

Check Image

A check image is a picture of a cleared check. The image can be useful when you need to prove to a third party, such as a merchant or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), that a check you wrote actually cleared. DCU provides check images through online banking that show the front and the back of each check. The back shows how the person you paid endorsed the check.

– D –

Debit Card

A debit card is a plastic card used to make purchases where the amount is paid from a checking account instead of a credit card account. A DCU Visa Debit Card can serve as a debit card in two ways. If you specify "credit" at the cash register or gas pump, the purchase still hits your checking account, but you don't need to enter a PIN. The transaction typically clears your account in two days. If you specify "debit" at the terminal, you are making a "Point-of-Sale" (POS) transaction. You'll "swipe" your card in the terminal and enter your PIN. The purchase amount will be removed from your checking account immediately.


To put money into a checking or savings account.  This could be any combination of cash or checks. 

Direct Deposit

At most companies, employees can have their employer deposit their pay directly into a financial institution checking account or savings account instead of giving them a paycheck to deposit themselves. This is done by ACH (Automated Clearing House) where the funds are wired instantaneously from the employer's financial institution to the employee's financial institution. The money arrives faster, there is no risk of loss or theft, and there are no payday lines to stand in. Direct deposit is always set up by the employee through their employer's payroll department. At DCU, members can receive extensive benefits for sending direct deposit of their net pay, Social Security, or pension to their DCU Checking Account.


Portion of earnings companies pay their owners.  There are two kinds: (1) interest you earn on your savings at a credit union (which is called dividends by federal regulation) and (2) the share of earnings companies pay you when you own their stock.

– E –

Easy Touch

Easy Touch Telephone Teller System is a FREE DCU service members can use to access their accounts by touch-tone phone 24 hours a day. You can check balances, research transactions, make transfers and loan payments, and much more. The generic name for this service is "Automated Voice Response Unit".

Eff Date

Effective Date – the actual date when money either goes into or comes out of an account. 


To cash or deposit a check, you must sign (endorse) it on the back.  Most institutions request you include your account number in the endorsement so they know against which account to place a hold on the funds if a check-hold is necessary. Writing "For Deposit Only" with your name and account number is a type of restrictive endorsement. It means the check may only be deposited in your account. You would do this to prevent someone else from cashing or depositing the check if it were lost or stolen.

– H –

Home Equity Loan

This is a loan against the portion of a home's appraised value on which you do not owe money – basically the value of a home, minus the current balance of any mortgage loan on the property. There are primarily two kinds of home equity loans. A Home Equity Line of Credit allows you to borrow money, pay it back, and borrow it again as with a credit card account. The interest rate can change during the loan. A Home Equity Installment Loan typically is for a pre-set length of time at a fixed interest rate.

– I –


There are two kinds: (1) money you pay a financial institution for the use of money you borrowed or (2) money you earn on a savings account. Interest on savings at credit unions is called Dividends by federal regulation.

– L –

Loan Principal

Amount of the original loan you still owe.  The principal goes down each month as you make payments.  You pay interest each month on the remaining principal until it's paid off.

– M –

Member Described Accounts

This is a type of savings account to which you can assign a name. This name will appear on your statement. For example, if you wanted to save for a Big Screen TV, you could open up an account and call it "Big Screen TV" to keep track of the funds.

Money Market Account

At DCU, a Money Market Account is a federally-insured savings account that may pay higher dividends than the basic Savings Account. The dividends rates on the account are tiered. That means the dividend rate you earn on your whole balance each day depends on the tier in which your balance falls. Checks are available on the account.


A mortgage is a type of loan used to purchase a home, usually with the land.

Mutual Fund

A mutual fund is a type of investment where a group of investors collectively own shares of stocks or bonds. You buy shares of a mutual fund as you would stock. Mutual funds are not federally insured.

– N –

Net Pay

Net Pay is the money you earn on a paycheck minus any taxes or other deductions such as Social Security.

Non-Sufficient Funds

This is when a check or pre-authorized debit is charged against an account, there is not enough money in the account to cover it, and no overdraft protection to cover it. If the financial institution returns the item unpaid, it is considered Non-Sufficient Funds. All financial institutions charge fees when this occurs. The merchant who received the check may also charge fees to the check writer. Purposely writing checks when there are no funds to cover them is considered a crime. See "Overdraft".

– O –


This is when a check or pre-authorized debit is charged against an account, there is not enough money in the account to cover it, but the account owner has some form of overdraft protection. The financial institution covers the transaction and may charge an "overdraft fee" based on their policies and the account structure of the individual. Unlike Non-Sufficient Funds, the person or business who was paid by the check or debit does not know there were not enough funds in the checking account to cover the transaction.

– P –


Your Personal Identification Number is the secret code you need to use your Check (Debit) Card or ATM Card at an ATM or POS terminal, Easy Touch Telephone Teller, or your DCU Visa Credit Card at an ATM.

Point-of-Sale (POS)

POS is a way your can use your DCU Debit Card or ATM Card to make purchases. At merchants that have POS terminals, you'll need to "swipe" your card and enter your PIN to complete your purchases. POS works through regional ATM networks.

– R –


When you "reconcile" or "balance" your checking account, you are using your monthly statement to determine the exact amount you have available in your account. It's important to do this each month to prevent overdrafts (and any resulting fees). Each DCU statement includes instructions on how to reconcile your checking account.


You receive a check register when you receive checks.  The register is a chart that helps you to record all of the transactions you complete with your checking account. You'll enter the check number (if a check), the date, who you paid, what it was for, how much, and if the amount may be tax deductible. It's important to keep your register up to date so you always know how much is in your account. You'll also use your register when your reconcile your account each month.

Returned Check

See "Non-Sufficient Funds"

– S –

Savings Account

This is DCU's basic savings account (a kin to "statement savings accounts" at other institutions). To be a DCU member, you must maintain a minimum balance of at least $5.00 in this account. Both DCU Checking and Savings Accounts are accessible through non-DCU ATMs.

Service Charge

This is a fee charged by a financial institution. It can be the price for a valuable service or a penalty for violating a "rule". The amount and type of service charges varies by financial institution. Credit unions always have fewer and lower service charges than banks and DCU is no exception.


This is an electronic or paper record of your account transactions over a set period of time. At DCU, your statement will cover either one calendar month or three calendar months depending on the services you are using. Your statement is an essential tool in reconciling your account balances.


Stock is a type of investment. A share of stock represents a share of ownership in a company. You can make money on stock in two ways – dividends and increases in the price. Stock dividends represent the method companies may use to distribute earnings to their owners (the shareholders). Stocks that don't pay dividends are often called growth stocks – earnings come solely from price growth.

Stop Payment

This is when you instruct your financial institution not to honor a check you have written on your account when it is presented for payment. Financial institutions charge a fee for this service.

– T –

Temporary Checks

Ever notice how checks have the person's name, address and other information printed on them?  This can take a few weeks to print up after someone first opens a checking account.  Therefore, the person who opened the checking account receives blank temporary checks which they can use until they receive their printed checks in the mail.  Not every store will accept temporary checks, however.


A set amount of time for a financial product. This usually refers to the number of months before a particular loan must be completely repaid or the number of months funds in a certificate account must be on deposit before they may be withdrawn without penalty.

Traveler's Cheques

You can use travelers cheques just as you would cash. The advantage of travelers cheques is that they can be replaced if lost or stolen. The disadvantages are that not every merchant will accept them and the money the cheques represent is not earning dividends for you as it would if you left it in your savings account.

Treasurer's Check

Also can be called Bank Checks or Cashier's Checks.  This is a special type of check that is issued by DCU where you give permission to have money taken out of your account and paid to another person or company.  The difference between a Treasurer's Check and a regular check is that a Treasurer's Check is a guaranteed check. The funds are drawn from DCU's account rather than an individual's account so the funds are guaranteed to be there.

– W –


To take money out of a checking or savings account by any means.