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Usury refers to the act of lending money at exorbitantly high interest rates, often illegally. In some contexts, it simply means charging interest on loans, but its negative connotation is linked to the exploitative or oppressive interest rates. The limit of what is considered usurious can vary significantly based on regional laws and social norms.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Usury” is: ˈyo͞oZHərē

Key Takeaways

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  1. Usury refers to the act of lending money at an interest rate that is considered excessively high. Often these interest rates are predatory in nature, taking advantage of borrowers in desperate financial situations.
  2. Many jurisdictions have laws against usury. To prevent usury, some jurisdictions limit the annual percentage rate (APR) that any lender, including payday lenders, can charge. Others outlaw payday lending entirely.
  3. Despite legislation to protect against usury, predatory lending practices continue. It’s important for consumers to be informed about the terms and conditions of any loan they take out to prevent falling victim to usurious practices.

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Usury is a significant term in business and finance as it refers to the practice of lending money at exceptionally high interest rates that are considered unethical or illegal. It’s important because it can have severe socio-economic repercussions. For example, if not regulated, it can cause financial hardship for borrowers who may find themselves in a relentless cycle of debt. Financial institutions, governments, and regulatory bodies worldwide monitor and regulate interest rates to prevent usury, protecting consumers and maintaining the stability and integrity of financial markets. Therefore, understanding usury is essential not just for finance professionals but also for consumers to guard against predatory lending practices.


Usury is largely recognized for its role in the field of lending, and its basic purpose is to prevent the exploitation of borrowers. Essentially, usury refers to the act of lending money at interest rates that are considered excessively high or unreasonably above the maximum legal limit set by a country or state’s law. When people need money, whether it’s for personal or business reasons, they often turn to lenders. However, these transactions can potentially lead to financial traps if individuals or businesses are not sufficiently protected. Therefore, usury laws serve as a form of protection, ensuring that borrowers are not subjected to unmanageably high interest rates that could deepen their financial difficulty.Usury also plays a critical role in regulating the behavior of lenders, fostering responsible lending practices. Such regulations prevent predatory lenders from taking advantage of borrowers’ desperation or lack of financial understanding. Moreover, usury can be used to maintain economic stability. Extremely high rates can create significant financial stress for individuals or businesses, potentially causing late repayments, defaults and even bankruptcies. This can lead to broader financial instability if it occurs on a large scale. Thus, through the application of usury laws, policymakers aim to promote fair lending, uphold economic integrity, and encourage healthy growth within the financial ecosystem.


1. Payday Loans: Some payday lenders charge very high interest rates for their short-term loans, up to nearly 400% annual percentage rate (APR) or even higher. If a person borrows $100 for two weeks and has to pay back $115, that equates to an APR of nearly 400%, which is considered usurious in many places.2. Credit Card Companies: Some credit card companies may practice usury by charging very high interest rates, especially for individuals with low credit scores. If an individual fails to pay his/her balance in full, the remaining balance is charged an interest that can range from 25% to 35%, which is considered usurious in some jurisdictions.3. Predatory Lending: This is prominent in the housing market where lenders target vulnerable, low-income, or disadvantaged individuals by giving loans with extremely high interest rates. They often disguise these high rates with low “introductory” rates that balloon after a period of time. This practice is considered usury. For example, a person might take out mortgage for a house with an introductory rate of 4% that jumps to 15% after a year.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Usury?

Usury is the act of lending money at an interest rate that is considered unreasonably high or that exceeds the rate permitted by law.

Is Usury legal?

The legality of usury depends on the jurisdiction and the specific interest rate. Some countries or states have strict laws against usury, while others may set a certain interest rate threshold, exceeding which it may be considered usury.

How is the Usury rate determined?

The rate at which interest becomes usurious can differ by location, as it’s typically determined by state law or national law. The usury rate is often a fixed percentage above the prevailing market interest rate.

Who is affected by Usury?

Both lender and borrower are affected by usury. The borrower is burdened with unusually high interest rates, while the lender may face legal consequences if found guilty of usury.

Can a contract be voided on the grounds of Usury?

Yes, if a court determines that a loan agreement is usurious, it can declare the contract void and unenforceable. The specifics, however, can depend on jurisdiction and the particular case involved.

What measures are being taken to prevent Usury?

Governments often tackle usury through regulation and laws. These laws cap the maximum interest rate that can be charged on loans. Some governments also have bodies or regulators to enforce these laws and take action against predatory lending practices.

How can a borrower protect themselves from Usury?

Borrowers can protect themselves by being informed about the prevailing interest rates and usury laws in their jurisdiction. Before taking a loan, they should carefully go through the loan agreement and check if the interest rates are excessively high. Additionally, they can report the lender if they suspect usury.

What is the difference between Usury and loan sharking?

Though similar, loan sharking is often distinguished from usury by its association with violence and coercion. Both involve lending money at high interest rates, but loan sharking usually refers to illegal activity and is often associated with organized crime.

Related Finance Terms

  • Interest Rates
  • Loan Sharking
  • Personal Loans
  • Debt Collection
  • Consumer Rights Act

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