In the dictionary


1-[uncountable] money that you have in your bank account; if you or your bank account are in credit, there is money in the account

You have a credit balance of £250.

My account is in credit.

2-[uncountable] the right to use a service up to a certain limit, paid for in advance

My phone's run out of credit.

to add credit to your phone

In the dictionary, they say "credit" means "the right to use a service up to a certain limit, paid for in advance"

But I think this definition is not a complete one.

Because when you say "add credit to your phone", it will sound like you add the right to your cellphone.

Look at the other definition of credit which means "money that you have in your bank account".

So I guess the definition 2 should be changed to "the amount of money and its right to use a service up to a certain limit, paid for in advance"

Also, "credit" in the definition 2 should be countable or else we can not say "I have a credit of $20 in my cellphone" which is very natural to say it.

Does "credit" in "My phone's run out of credit" refer to an amount of money or just the right to use a service up to a certain limit, paid for in advance?

2 Answers 2


"Credit" refers only to money in this context. It's the amount of money that you have paid to the phone company, but not yet consumed through using the service.

"Credit" is not a unit of measure for services owed, or the measure of any "right" to anything.

With the phone companies I'm familiar with, this money can be refunded to you if you request it. Also, if that company offers other services, they might allow you to use that prepaid credit towards another product, like a new monthly phone plan, so it's clearly still money.

Tangent: The concept of buying "rights" to services doesn't really make sense in general. The only rights I can think of that you can purchase are the rights to build buildings or the rights to do resource extraction. There's probably others, but it's not common, and certainly doesn't apply to a prepaid phone because the phone company retains the right to deny you service any time they want and refund your money.


“Credit” has a broad field of meaning. Even if we limit it to its meaning in business and finance, it has somewhat different meanings depending on context.

In its original business meaning, it was short for “me credit,” meaning “he trusts [me to pay]” in Latin. Its opposite was “debit,” a shortening of the Latin for “me debit” meaning “he owes [me something].” In other words, it involves situations where someone owes someone else something. Usually the something owed is either money or goods or services valued at specific prices.

In accounting and bookkeeping, “credit” and “debit” have technical meanings derived from those original meanings but no longer connected to debts.

Outside of the technical meaning of “credit” in double entry bookkeeping but still staying in the vocabulary of business, “credit” retains its association with debts of various kinds. Debt necessarily involves two parties, and whether “credit” or “debit” applies depends on which party’s viewpoint is taken. In US business communications, the business views things from its perspective. So when your phone company says you have a credit balance of X on your phone, it means that the phone company owes you for X worth of service. In other words, the phone company may or may not owe you money, but it definitely owes you a certain amount of service priced at X.

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