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An IOU (abbreviated from the phrase "I owe you") [1] [2] is usually an informal document acknowledging debt. An IOU differs from a promissory note in that an IOU is not a negotiable instrument and does not specify repayment terms such as the time of repayment. IOUs usually specify the debtor, the amount owed, and sometimes the creditor. IOUs may be signed or carry distinguishing marks or designs to ensure authenticity. In some cases, IOUs may be redeemable for a specific product or service rather than a quantity of currency, constituting a form of scrip.[ citation needed ]


California Registered Warrants

Also referred to as "IOUs" by the U.S. state of California, the term "Registered Warrants", which specify a future payment date, is meant to differentiate these IOUs from regular, or “normal” payroll warrants which permit the holder to exchange their warrant for cash immediately. For both types of warrants, redeeming them may be delayed until funds are available. Because of this uncertainty, warrants are not negotiable instruments. Registered Warrants were issued in July 2009 due to a temporary inability of the state of California to redeem its warrants. [3] Warrants are issued as payment to state employees, private businesses, local governments, taxpayers receiving tax refunds, and owners of unclaimed money.

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Security (finance)

A security is a tradable financial asset. The term commonly refers to any form of financial instrument, but its legal definition varies by jurisdiction. In some countries and languages the term "security" is commonly used in day-to-day parlance to mean any form of financial instrument, even though the underlying legal and regulatory regime may not have such a broad definition. In some jurisdictions the term specifically excludes financial instruments other than equities and fixed income instruments. In some jurisdictions it includes some instruments that are close to equities and fixed income, e.g., equity warrants.

Bond (finance) Instrument of indebtedness

In finance, a bond is an instrument of indebtedness of the bond issuer to the holders. The most common types of bonds include municipal bonds and corporate bonds. Bonds can be in mutual funds or can be in private investing where a person would give a loan to a company or the government.

Debt Obligation that requires one party to pay agreed-upon value to another party

Debt is an obligation that requires one party, the debtor, to pay money or other agreed-upon value to another party, the creditor. Debt is a deferred payment, or series of payments, which differentiates it from an immediate purchase. The debt may be owed by sovereign state or country, local government, company, or an individual. Commercial debt is generally subject to contractual terms regarding the amount and timing of repayments of principal and interest. Loans, bonds, notes, and mortgages are all types of debt. The term can also be used metaphorically to cover moral obligations and other interactions not based on economic value. For example, in Western cultures, a person who has been helped by a second person is sometimes said to owe a "debt of gratitude" to the second person.


In corporate finance, a debenture is a medium- to long-term debt instrument used by large companies to borrow money, at a fixed rate of interest. The legal term "debenture" originally referred to a document that either creates a debt or acknowledges it, but in some countries the term is now used interchangeably with bond, loan stock or note. A debenture is thus like a certificate of loan or a loan bond evidencing the fact that the company is liable to pay a specified amount with interest. Although the money raised by the debentures becomes a part of the company's capital structure, it does not become share capital. Senior debentures get paid before subordinate debentures, and there are varying rates of risk and payoff for these categories.

Loan Lending of money by one or more individuals, organizations, or other entities to other individuals, organizations etc.

In finance, a loan is the lending of money by one or more individuals, organizations, or other entities to other individuals, organizations etc. The recipient incurs a debt and is usually liable to pay interest on that debt until it is repaid as well as to repay the principal amount borrowed.

A mortgage is a legal instrument which is used to create a security interest in real property held by a lender as a security for a debt, usually a loan of money. A mortgage in itself is not a debt, it is the lender's security for a debt. It is a transfer of an interest in land from the owner to the mortgage lender, on the condition that this interest will be returned to the owner when the terms of the mortgage have been satisfied or performed. In other words, the mortgage is a security for the loan that the lender makes to the borrower.

Stored-value card

A stored-value card (SVC) is a payment card with a monetary value stored on the card itself, not in an external account maintained by a financial institution. This means no network access is required by the payment collection terminals as funds can be withdrawn and deposited straight from the card. Like cash, payment cards can be used anonymously as the person holding the card can use the funds. They are an electronic development of token coins and are typically used in low-value payment systems or where network access is difficult or expensive to implement, such as parking machines, public transport systems, closed payment systems in locations such as ships or within companies.

Scrip Any substitute for legal tender or currency

A scrip is any substitute for legal tender. It is often a form of credit. Scrips have been created for payment of employees under truck systems, and for use in local commerce at times when regular currency was unavailable, for example in remote coal towns, military bases, ships on long voyages, or occupied countries in wartime. Besides company scrip, other forms of scrip include land scrip, vouchers, token coins such as subway tokens, IOUs, arcade tokens and tickets, and points on some credit cards.

Promissory note

A promissory note, sometimes referred to as a note payable, is a legal instrument, in which one party promises in writing to pay a determinate sum of money to the other, either at a fixed or determinable future time or on demand of the payee, under specific terms.

Commercial paper

Commercial paper, in the global financial market, is an unsecured promissory note with a fixed maturity of rarely more than 270 days.

Negotiable instrument Contract document exchangeable for money

A negotiable instrument is a document guaranteeing the payment of a specific amount of money, either on demand, or at a set time, whose payer is usually named on the document. More specifically, it is a document contemplated by or consisting of a contract, which promises the payment of money without condition, which may be paid either on demand or at a future date. The term has different meanings depending on the use of the term as it is used in the application of different laws, and depending in which country and context it is used.

Cheque Method of payment

A cheque, or check, is a document that orders a bank to pay a specific amount of money from a person's account to the person in whose name the cheque has been issued. The person writing the cheque, known as the drawer, has a transaction banking account where their money is held. The drawer writes the various details including the monetary amount, date, and a payee on the cheque, and signs it, ordering their bank, known as the drawee, to pay that person or company the amount of money stated.

In finance, maturity or maturity date is the date on which the final payment is due on a loan or other financial instrument, such as a bond or term deposit, at which point the principal is due to be paid.

A PIK, or payment in kind, is a type of high-risk loan or bond that allows borrowers to pay interest with additional debt, rather than cash. That makes it an expensive, high-risk financing instrument since the size of the debt may increase quickly, leaving lenders with big losses if the borrower is unable to pay back the loan.

In the United States, a mortgage note is a promissory note secured by a specified mortgage loan.

Money Object or record accepted as payment

Money is any item or verifiable record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts, such as taxes, in a particular country or socio-economic context. The main functions of money are distinguished as: a medium of exchange, a unit of account, a store of value and sometimes, a standard of deferred payment. Any item or verifiable record that fulfils these functions can be considered as money.

Texas dollar

The Texas dollar was the currency of the Republic of Texas. Several forms of currency were issued, but an ongoing economic depression made it difficult for the government to provide effective backing. The republic accepted the standard gold and silver coins of the United States, but never minted its own coins.

Morgan v. United States, 113 U.S. 476 (1885), was a case involving several judgments of the United States Court of Claims in four cases against the United States for the payment of United States bonds known as "five-twenty bonds."

Warrant of payment

In financial transactions, a warrant is a written order by one person that instructs or authorises another person to pay a specified recipient a specific amount of money or supply goods at a specific date. A warrant may or may not be negotiable and may be a bearer instrument that authorises payment to the warrant holder on demand or after a specific date. Governments and businesses may pay wages and other accounts by issuing warrants instead of cheques.

Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 is an act in India dating from the British colonial rule, that is still in force largely unchanged.


  1. "I O U". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). 1989. Etymology: [= ‘I owe you’.]
  2. "Origin of IOU from the pronunciation of I owe you - First Known Use: 1795". Merriam-Webster .
  3. "Frequently Asked Questions about Registered Warrants (IOUs)". Archived from the original on 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2012-07-21.

Wiktionary-logo-en-v2.svg The dictionary definition of IOU at Wiktionary