What Is a Security Interest?

A Security Interest Explained in Less Than 4 Minutes

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Definition
A security interest is a legal claim to any collateral you put down to get a loan.

A security interest is a legal claim to any collateral you put down to get a loan. It’s what allows your lender to take possession of the collateral if you stop making your loan payments. 

A security interest reduces your lender’s risk since they can sell the collateral to recoup some of the money lost. Understanding a security risk will help you make better decisions when using it in a loam agreement. 

Definition and Example of a Security Interest

A security interest is a legal claim your lender has to any collateral you put down to obtain a loan. If you agree to a security interest and eventually default on your loan, your lender has the right to take possession of your collateral.

It’s common to grant a security interest on loans that come with collateral requirements, like mortgages and auto loans. 

For instance, if you take out a mortgage, your closing documents will grant your lender security interest in the home you’re purchasing. This security interest gives your lender the right to repossess the house if you default on your mortgage. 

Note

A security interest can benefit both the lender and the borrower. It gives the lender greater confidence that you’ll repay your loan, allowing them to charge you a lower interest rate.  

How Does a Security Interest Work?

A security interest allows your lender to take possession of the collateral if you default on your loan. However, the lender can only do that if the security interest is valid. 

The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) outlines three criteria a security interest must meet to be considered legally valid:

  • You signed a security agreement granting rights to the secured party (lender)
  • A value is assigned to the collateral by the secured party
  • You (the debtor) have ownership of the collateral

The lender must also perfect the security interest, which means they ensure that no other creditors have a claim to the collateral. The exact steps your lender takes to perfect the security interest can vary depending on where you live. 

Note

If you’re getting ready to close on a mortgage, familiarize yourself with some of the documents you’ll be signing. Knowing what to expect at closing will help you understand what to look for on your closing documents.

Secured Loans vs. Unsecured Loans

Secured Loans Unsecured Loans
A loan that is secured by collateral, or property A loan that isn’t secured by any type of collateral
If you default on the loan, your lender can take possession of your collateral If you default on the loan, your lender can start the debt collection process
Since the loan is less risky to the lender, it usually has lower interest rates Since these loans are riskier, they usually have higher interest rates
Mortgages and auto loans examples of secured loans Credit cards are an example of unsecured loans

A secured loan is backed up by some type of collateral. For instance, if you take out an auto loan, the car you’re purchasing is used as collateral. 

So if you stop making payments on your auto loan, your lender can repossess the car and sell it to recoup any lost money. The collateral requirements make secured loans less risky to your lender, so they often come with lower interest rates. 

In comparison, an unsecured loan, like a credit card, doesn’t have collateral requirements. If you default on your credit card, your lender can start the debt collection process, but there’s no collateral to repossess. This lack of collateral makes unsecured loans riskier to your lender and often results in higher interest rates. 

Key Takeaways

  • A security interest is a legal claim your lender has to the collateral used to secure a loan.
  • If you default on your loan terms, your lender can take possession of your collateral to recoup some of the money lost.
  • A security interest makes the loan less risky for your lender, so you will likely receive a lower interest rate. 
  • If you apply for a mortgage or auto loan, your closing documents will outline the lender’s security interest in the collateral.
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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “What Is a Security Interest?” Accessed Dec. 21, 2021.

  2. Uniform Council Code. “Uniform Commercial Code Revised Article 9. Secured Transactions.” Page 56. Accessed Dec. 21, 2021. 

  3. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Differentiating Between Secured and Unsecured Loans.” Accessed Dec. 21, 2021. 

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