An exchange traded note, or ETN, is a note which tracks a benchmark such as an index, commodity prices, stocks, forex, or another underlying asset. When an ETN reaches maturity, the issuer pays the holder the exact amount indicated by the benchmark at the time, minus fees.
ETNs are not secured, and are guaranteed by the issuer alone. Because ETNs normally have long maturity periods, ensuring the creditworthiness of the issuer is of crucial importance to investors.
Exchange traded notes are classified as exchange traded products (ETP), a category which also include exchange traded funds (ETFs) and exchange traded commodities (ETCs).