Revolving Credit vs. Line of Credit: What’s the Difference?

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In the financial world, the terms “revolving credit” and “line of credit” are often mentioned in the same breath, but they hold distinct differences that can have significant implications for your borrowing habits. Whether you’re considering a credit card, a home equity line of credit (HELOC), or a business loan, understanding these differences is crucial for managing your finances effectively and maintaining a healthy credit score.

Revolving Credit vs. Line of Credit: What's the Difference?

Key Takeaways:

  • Flexibility vs. Structure: Revolving credit, like credit cards, offers flexible borrowing with no fixed repayment term, while lines of credit provide a set amount of funds with potential for a fixed repayment period, offering structured financial planning.
  • Credit Utilization: High utilization of revolving credit can negatively impact credit scores, whereas lines of credit typically have a lesser impact but still require prudent management.
  • Interest Rates and Benefits: Credit cards may have higher interest rates and offer rewards, while lines of credit usually have lower rates but could include additional fees.
  • Strategic Use: Revolving credit is suitable for daily expenses and fluctuating financial needs, while lines of credit are ideal for larger, planned expenditures like home renovations or business investments.
  • Managing Limits: Exceeding the limit on revolving credit can lead to adverse effects on credit scores and accrue additional charges, emphasizing the need for responsible credit management.

What is Revolving Credit?

Revolving credit differs from installment loans as it does not come with a fixed number of payments. This flexible form of credit allows for greater freedom and adaptability in managing financial obligations. The most common examples of revolving credit include credit cards and personal lines of credit. With revolving credit, borrowers have a credit limit, and they can use as much or as little of the credit as they choose, as long as they do not exceed the limit. Revolving credit is flexible and convenient, allowing for repeated borrowing without the need to apply for a new loan each time.

Revolving Credit Examples and Definition

Credit cards are the quintessential example of revolving credit. They offer the flexibility to make purchases, big or small, provided that you stay within your credit limit. Another example is a revolving line of credit (RLOC), which functions similarly but can be used for larger amounts, often for business purposes.

Revolver Loans and Revolving Accounts

Revolver loans refer to the revolving lines of credit that businesses often use to manage cash flow and finance operations. A revolving account, on the other hand, is any account that allows the user to borrow repeatedly up to a set limit while making periodic payments.

Line of Credit: A Closer Look

A line of credit is a flexible loan from a bank or financial institution. Similar to a credit card, it provides a borrower with a set amount of money that can be used when needed, paid back, and then used again. However, lines of credit are not all revolving, and some can be non-revolving, meaning once the funds are used, the line of credit closes.

Types of Lines of Credit

  • Personal Lines of Credit: These are typically unsecured loans that offer access to funds on an as-needed basis.
  • Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs): Secured against the borrower’s home, HELOCs often have lower interest rates and larger credit limits.
  • Business Lines of Credit: These can be secured or unsecured and are used to fund business operations.

Key Differences Between Revolving Credit and Lines of Credit

The main difference lies in the terms of the credit. Revolving credit, such as credit cards, typically has no set end date, while a line of credit could be either revolving or non-revolving. Non-revolving lines of credit, once used, cannot be borrowed again without reapplying for a new loan.

Credit Utilization and Impact on Credit Score

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Credit utilization, which is the proportion of your outstanding credit balances to your credit limits, holds substantial influence over your credit score. When it comes to revolving credit, having high utilization can have a detrimental effect on your score. Additionally, credit lines also impact your credit utilization, although it’s worth noting that HELOCs are evaluated differently compared to credit cards.

Financial Flexibility and Borrowing Habits

Revolving credit offers unparalleled flexibility, making it ideal for everyday purchases and unexpected expenses. Lines of credit, particularly HELOCs, are better suited for long-term financial needs, like home renovations or consolidating high-interest debt.

Revolving Credit: Advantages and Considerations

Revolving credit accounts, particularly credit cards, often come with rewards programs, cashback, or travel points, making them attractive for regular use. However, they also tend to have higher interest rates compared to lines of credit, which can accumulate significant charges if balances are not paid in full.

Managing Revolving Debt

Effective management of revolving debt is crucial. It requires discipline to avoid overspending and diligence in making more than the minimum payments to reduce balances quickly.

Lines of Credit: Strategic Financial Planning

Lines of credit can be a strategic financial tool. For example, a HELOC can provide funds for home renovations, potentially increasing the property’s value. Business lines of credit can be instrumental in covering operational costs or capitalizing on growth opportunities.

The Cost of Convenience

While lines of credit offer convenience, they may come with various fees, such as transaction fees or annual maintenance fees. Understanding these costs is essential to avoid unexpected expenses.


What is a Revolving Line of Credit?

A revolving line of credit is a flexible financing option where the borrower can draw funds, repay, and draw again up to a credit limit.

Can a Line of Credit Improve My Credit Score?

Responsible use of any line of credit, including timely payments and keeping balances low, can improve your credit score.

Is a Mortgage Considered Revolving or Installment Credit?

A mortgage is considered installment credit, as it has a fixed repayment schedule and does not allow for borrowing against the paid amount.

Are There Fees Associated with Lines of Credit?

Yes, some lines of credit may have fees, such as an annual fee, origination fee, or transaction fees.

How Does a HELOC Differ from a Credit Card?

A HELOC is secured against your home and typically has a lower interest rate, while a credit card is unsecured and can have higher rates.

What Does ‘Revolving’ Mean in Financial Terms?

In financial terms, ‘revolving’ refers to credit that can be used, paid back, and used again, repeatedly.

Are Installment Loans Better Than Revolving Credit?

Installment loans are not necessarily better than revolving credit; they are just different. Installment loans are suitable for one-time expenses with a fixed repayment schedule, while revolving credit offers more flexibility.

What Happens if I Max Out My Revolving Credit?

Maxing out revolving credit can hurt your credit score due to high credit utilization and may lead to higher interest charges and over-limit fees.

Can I Convert a Line of Credit to a Term Loan?

Some financial institutions may allow you to convert a line of credit to a term loan, which can offer a fixed interest rate and repayment schedule.

The Bottom Line

Understanding the nuances between revolving credit and lines of credit is essential for making informed financial decisions. Revolving credit, with its ease of use and flexibility, is excellent for day-to-day expenses, while lines of credit can provide a safety net for larger, planned expenses. By considering your financial needs and borrowing habits, you can choose the type of credit that best suits your situation, ensuring financial flexibility and stability.