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What is debt? Get to know the common types of loans, credit

If you've ever borrowed money, you've had debt. Whether it's the money you paid a friend when they spotted the lunch tab or the student loans you owe to the government, that's debt.

Debt is all around us, from credit cards to car payments to home mortgages. But there's more to debt than just owing money. There are several types of debt that can add up for the average American.

Here is a quick primer on debt.

What is debt?

In short, debt is the money you owe to someone or something. It's money that you borrowed and must pay back, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

"Consumer debt" is categorized by the goods and services consumed by individuals or households. This includes:

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  • Credit card debt.

  • Mortgages.

  • Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

  • Auto loans.

  • Student loans.

  • Medical debt.

  • Personal loans.

In 2023, the total consumer debt balances in the U.S. were $17.06 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Average debt in America: See the 2023 statistics.

Examples of debt

There is more than one type of debt and each operates differently. According to Capital One, the most common forms of debt include:

  • Secured debt.

  • Unsecured debt.

  • Revolving debt.

  • Installment debt.

Secured debt is backed by collateral, meaning something of equal value to the debt is given in its place. If someone does not properly pay off the debt, the collateral is taken away. For example, if someone fails to make mortgage payments, their house (in this case, the collateral) could be foreclosed on.

Unsecured debt, on the other, has no collateral backing. Common examples of this type include student loans and some credit cards.

Revolving debt, also called open-ended credit, lets someone borrow money and pay back the loans at their discretion so long as their account is in good standing.

Installment debt is when you receive the total loan amount at the beginning and pay it off over a period of time, or in installments.

Just Curious for more? We've got you covered

USA TODAY is exploring the questions you and others ask every day. From "What is net pay?" to "What is inflation?" to "What causes a recession?" − we're striving to find answers to the most common questions you ask every day. Head to our Just Curious section to see what else we can answer for you.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is debt? Here's how it works and the common types