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Types of Interest Rates and Their Implications for Borrowers

What Is a Rate of Interest?

The interest rate is the percentage of the principal that the lender charges the borrower per year. Typically, the interest rate on a loan is expressed annually as the annual percentage rate (APR).

A bank or credit union may also apply an interest rate to the earnings from a savings account or certificate of deposit (CD).APY refers to the interest earned on these deposit accounts.


  • The interest rate is the amount levied by a lender to a borrower in addition to the principal for the use of assets.
  • A bank or credit union also applies an interest rate to the quantity earned from a deposit account.
  • In most mortgages, straightforward interest is used. Some loans, however, use compound interest, which is applied not only to the principal but also to the accumulated interest from prior periods.
  • The lender will charge a consumer with a low risk rating a lower interest rate. A loan with a high risk rating will have a greater interest rate.
  • The annual percentage yield is the interest rate earned on a savings account or CD at a bank or credit union. CDs and savings accounts use compound interest.

Realizing Interest Rates

In essence, interest is a fee charged to the creditor for the use of an asset. Borrowed assets can include cash, consumer products, vehicles, and real estate. Consequently, an interest rate can be considered the “cost of money”; higher interest rates make borrowing the same quantity of money more costly.

Thus, interest rates pertain to the majority of lending and borrowing transactions. Individuals borrow money to finance the purchase of homes, the completion of projects, the establishment or continuation of businesses, and educational expenses. Businesses obtain loans to finance capital expenditures and expand their operations through the acquisition of fixed and long-term assets such as land, structures, and equipment. By a predetermined date, borrowed funds are either repaid in a single sum or in periodic installments.

The interest rate is applied to the loan’s principal, which is the amount borrowed. The interest rate represents the cost of borrowing for the debtor and the rate of return for the lender. Typically, the amount to be repaid exceeds the amount borrowed because lenders require compensation for the loss of use of the funds during the loan period. Instead of providing a loan, the lender could have invested the funds during that time, which would have generated income from the asset. Interest is the difference between the total amount repaid and the original loan amount.

When the lender deems the borrower to be minimal risk, the borrower will typically be charged a lower interest rate. If the applicant is deemed high risk, they will be charged a higher interest rate, resulting in a more expensive loan.

A lender typically evaluates risk by reviewing a prospective borrower’s credit score; therefore, it is essential to have an excellent credit score if you want to qualify for the best loans.

Simple Rate of Interest

If you borrow $300,000 from the bank and the loan agreement specifies that the interest rate is 4% simple interest, you will have to repay the bank the original loan amount plus (4% x $300,000) = $300,000 plus $12,000, or $312,000.

The above example was calculated using the annual basic interest formula, which is as follows:

Simple interest = principal X interest rate X time

The individual who took out a loan will owe $12,000 in interest at the end of the year, assuming the loan was only for one year. If the loan term was 30 years, the interest payment will be as follows:

Simple interest = $300000 X 4 % X 30 = $360000

A 4% annual straightforward interest rate results in an annual interest payment of $12,000. After 30 years, the borrower would have paid $12,000 x 30 years = $360,000 in interest, which demonstrates how banks profit from loans, mortgages, and other forms of lending.

Annual Interest Rate

Some lenders prefer the compound interest method, which increases the amount of interest paid by the borrower. Compound interest, also known as interest on interest, is applied to both the principal and accumulated interest from prior periods. The bank assumes that the borrower will owe principal plus interest at the end of the first year. The bank also anticipates that the borrower will owe the principal plus interest for the first year plus interest on interest for the first year at the end of the second year.

The interest payable when compounding is greater than the interest payable when using straightforward interest. The monthly interest rate is calculated by adding the accrued interest from the previous months to the principal balance. For shorter intervals, the calculation of interest is equivalent for both approaches. However, as the duration of the loan increases, the disparity between the two methods of calculating interest rises.

At the conclusion of 30 years, the total amount of interest owed on a $300,000 loan with a 4% interest rate is nearly $700,000.

Use the following formula to determine compound interest:

Compound interest = p X [(1 + interest rate)n − 1]
p = principal
n = number of compounding periods​

Interest Compounded and Savings Accounts

When money is saved in a savings account, compound interest is advantageous. The compounded interest earned on these accounts compensates the account proprietor for allowing the bank to use the deposited funds.

For instance, if you deposit $500,000 into a high-yield savings account, the bank can use $300,000 of these funds to finance a mortgage. To compensate you, the bank deposits 1% annual interest into your account. So, while the bank is taking 4% from the borrower, it is giving 1% to the account holder, netting it 3% in interest. In essence, investors lend the bank money, which then provides borrowers with funds in exchange for interest.

The snowball effect of compounding interest rates, even at rock-bottom levels, can help you build wealth over time; Investopedia Academy’s Personal Finance for Graduates course teaches how to create a nest egg and preserve wealth.

Borrower’s Debt Cost

While interest rates represent interest income for the lender, for the borrower they represent the cost of debt. Companies compare the cost of debt to the cost of equity, such as dividend payments, to determine the least costly source of funding. To attain an optimal capital structure, the cost of capital is evaluated, as the majority of businesses finance their capital through debt and/or equity issuance.

APR versus APY

Consumer loan interest rates are typically expressed as annual percentage rates (APR). This is the rate of return that lenders require for access to their funds. As an illustration, the interest rate on credit cards is expressed as an APR. In our example, the APR for the mortgage or borrower is 4 percent. The APR does not account for annual compound interest.

The annual percentage yield (APY) is the interest rate earned on a savings account or CD at a bank or credit union. This interest rate accounts for compounding.

How do interest rates get established?

The interest rate imposed by banks is determined by a number of variables, including the economic climate. The central bank of a country (e.g., the Federal Reserve in the United States) establishes the interest rate, which each bank employs to determine the APR range it offers. When the central bank establishes high interest rates, the cost of debt increases. When the cost of debt is excessive, borrowing is discouraged and consumer demand is reduced. Additionally, interest rates tend to increase alongside inflation.1

To combat inflation, banks may implement higher reserve requirements, resulting in a tighter money supply or an increase in credit demand. In an economy with a high interest rate, individuals save their money because the savings rate is higher. The stock market suffers because investors would rather invest in higher-yielding savings accounts than in the stock market, which offers reduced returns. Additionally, businesses have limited access to capital funding via debt, resulting in economic contraction.

Economies are frequently stimulated during periods of low interest rates because borrowers have access to cheap loans. Since savings interest rates are low, businesses and individuals are more likely to spend and invest in speculative assets, such as stocks. This expenditure stimulates the economy and injects capital into the capital markets, resulting in economic expansion. While governments prefer low interest rates, they ultimately lead to market disequilibrium, where demand exceeds supply and causes inflation. Inflation causes an increase in interest rates, which may be related to Walras’ law.


Midway through 2022, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. This is an increase from 2.89 percent a year ago.

Rates of Interest and Discrimination

Even though laws such as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibit discriminatory lending practices, systemic prejudice persists in the United States. According to a Realtor.com report published in July 2020, purchasers in predominantly Black neighborhoods are offered mortgages with higher interest rates than those in predominantly white neighborhoods. According to its analysis of 2018 and 2019 mortgage data, the higher interest rates increased the total cost of a typical 30-year fixed-rate loan by almost $10,000 over its lifetime.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the agency charged with enforcing the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), issued a Request for Information (RFI) in July 2020 seeking public input on ways to enhance ECOA’s efforts to ensure nondiscriminatory access to credit. “Clear standards help protect African Americans and other minorities, but the CFPB must take action to ensure that lenders and others adhere to the law,” stated Kathleen L. Kraninger, director of the agency.

Why are 30-year loan rates higher than 15-year loan rates?

Interest rates are determined by default risk and opportunity cost. Longer-term loans and obligations are inherently riskier because the creditor has more time to default. Likewise, the opportunity cost is greater over extended time periods, as the principal is unavailable for use elsewhere.

How Does the Federal Reserve Use Interest Rates to Influence the Economy?

Along with other central banks around the world, the Federal Reserve employs interest rates as a monetary policy instrument. By increasing the cost of borrowing among commercial banks, the central bank can affect a variety of other interest rates, including those on personal loans, business loans, and mortgages. This increases the cost of financing in general, reducing the demand for money and cooling a hot economy. In contrast, a reduction in interest rates makes it simpler to borrow money, which stimulates spending and investment.

Why do bond prices react negatively to changes in interest rates?

A bond is a type of debt instrument that typically pays a fixed rate of interest throughout its existence. Suppose that the prevalent interest rate is 5%. If a bond has a par value of $1,000 and an interest rate (coupon) of 5%, it will pay bondholders $50 per year. If interest rates increase to 10%, new bonds will pay twice as much, or $100 per $1,000 face value. Existing bonds that pay only $50 must be offered at a significant discount if they are to be purchased. Similarly, if interest rates fall to 1%, new bonds will pay only $1,000 per $1,000 face value. Therefore, a $50 coupon bond will be in high demand, and its price will be quite high.

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