Understanding Your Bank Account Details Better

By: Peter Kenny

With so many different terms floating around, banking terminology can get really confusing. If you are someone who doesn't know their AER from their APR and their PIN from their Chip, then this guide to common banking terms could enlighten you.


AER stands for Annual Earnings Rate. AER is used to calculate the annual amount that you earn on an investment or savings account. The higher the AER, then the better the investment or savings account. If you are looking for a savings account then compare AER's to work out where your money is going to make the most profit.


APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate, and is the amount of interest that you pay each year on a loan or mortgage. The lower the APR then the less you will pay yearly on that item of borrowing. Items with high APR's like credit cards have APR figures around 15-20% whereas mortgages have a low APR figure of about 5-7%. The quickest way to compare loans is to look at their APR values.

Chip and PIN

Chip and PIN is the current system used to pay for items or withdraw cash using a credit or debit card. The card has a 4-digit PIN, or personal identification number, that you enter into a cash machine or till machine in order to retrieve money or pay for goods. The chip on the card holds information that, combined with the PIN, allows the machine to identify you as the correct owner of the card. Chip and PIN is more secure than the previous magnetic strip and signature technology that was used a few years ago.


An overdraft is a sum of money that you are minus within an account. If you go beyond the amount of actual money you have in an account, then you go into the overdraft. Many accounts have a pre-arranged limit that allows you to go overdrawn, which can be useful, as unauthorised overdrafts will cost you a lot in interest and fees.


If you use online banking, then Phishing is a term you might have heard of but you might not know what it means. Phishing is a form of scam or illegal attempt to get hold of your bank details online so that they can withdraw money from them. When online banking started this was a big problem, but with increased security measures the problem is getting better. Most Internet browsers include a Phishing filter to stop such practices from occurring.

Standing orders and Direct Debits

Standing orders and Direct Debits are similar in some ways, but different in others. Both involve a regular amount being transferred from one account to another. Standing orders are a regular, fixed amount that you pay to another person or company, usually monthly. Direct Debits are an amount of money, which can be fixed or varied, that is removed from your account at set intervals. One example of a Direct Debit is mortgage repayments.

Getting advice

If you are unsure about any other banking terms, then visiting your local bank branch or looking online might help. Never be afraid to ask about something, because if you don't understand something that is part of your account policy, you could lose money or not be taking full advantages of the features on offer to you.

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Peter Kenny is a writer for The Thrifty Scot. Please visit us at Best Current Accounts and Child Trust Funds

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