Consumer debt can be defined as ‘money, goods or services provided to an individual in lieu of payment.’ Common forms of consumer credit include credit cards, store cards, motor (auto) finance, personal loans (installment loans), consumer lines of credit, retail loans (retail installment loans) and mortgages. The cost of credit is the additional amount, over and above the amount borrowed, that the borrower has to pay. It includes interest, arrangement fees and any other charges. Some costs are mandatory, required by the lender as an integral part of the credit agreement. Other costs, such as those for credit insurance, may be optional. The borrower chooses whether or not they are included as part of the agreement.
Interest and other charges are presented in a variety of different ways, but under many legislative regimes lenders are required to quote all mandatory charges in the form of an annual percentage rate (APR). The goal of the APR calculation is to promote ‘truth in lending’, to give potential borrowers a clear measure of the true cost of borrowing and to allow a comparison to be made between competing products. The APR is derived from the pattern of advances and repayments made during the agreement. Optional charges are not included in the APR calculation. So if there is a tick box on an application form asking if the consumer would like to take out payment insurance, then insurance costs will not be included in the APR calculation.