Loan Prepayment penalty definition

Writer and editor - Bryan Robinson | Updated on 2023-03-05

A prepayment penalty is a fee lenders might charge if you pay off all or part of your mortgage early. The penalty is usually stated as a percentage of the mortgage loan amount. For example, if you take out a $200,000 mortgage with a prepayment penalty of 3%, you’ll owe a penalty of $6,000 if you pay off the mortgage within three years.

How do prepayment penalties work?

Prepayment penalties are fees are not just on mortgages. They are charged to borrowers for paying off any kind of loan before the loan’s maturity date if the loan provider has that in the contract. Prepayment penalties are most commonly associated with mortgages, but they can also be found on other types of loans, such as auto loans, small business loans and student loans. borrowers should always check the terms of their loan before signing to see if a prepayment penalty applies.

If you have a prepayment penalty on your loan, it is important to factor that into your plans for paying off the loan early. While some lenders may be willing to waive the fee if you make a certain number of monthly payments on time, others may require you to pay the full amount of the prepayment penalty if you want to pay off your loan early.

Prepayment penalties are more common with adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) than with fixed-rate mortgages. They’re also more common with loans originated before 2010 than those originated after that date.

The Dodd-Frank Act, which was passed in 2010, put restrictions on prepayment penalties. The act said that:

  • penalties can only last for three years after closing
  • they can only be charged if the loan has an interest rate that could adjust
  • the maximum penalty is 2% of the loan amount

Prepayment penalties are less common now than they were in the past, but they can still be found on some loans. If you’re thinking of taking out a loan, be sure to ask if there is a prepayment penalty and what the terms are.

Prepayment Penalty Examples

The following are some prepayment examples:

Mortgage loans

A mortgage loan is a loan used to purchase a home. A prepayment penalty is a fee charged by the lender if the borrower pays off their loan early. This means that if you have a mortgage with a prepayment penalty and you want to sell your home or refinance your loan, you will have to pay a fee.

For example, let’s say you have a $250,000 mortgage with a 4% interest rate and a 3% prepayment penalty. If you were to refinance your loan after two years, you would owe a prepayment penalty of $7,500 ($250,000 x 3%).

Auto loans

One type of loan that often has a prepayment penalty is an auto loan. An auto loan is a loan used to finance the purchase of a vehicle. Some lenders may charge a prepayment penalty if you pay off your auto loan early.

Prepayment penalties on auto loans are typically less than $100, but they can be higher. For example, if you have an auto loan with a 5% interest rate and you make a prepayment that equals 3% of the principal amount of your loan, your prepayment penalty would be $150.

Student loans

Prepayment penalties on student loans are rare, but they do exist. If you have a private student loan with a prepayment penalty, it’s important to understand how the penalty works before you decide to refinance your loan.

For example, let’s say you have a $10,000 private student loan with a 6% interest rate and a 10-year repayment term. If you decide to refinance your loan after two years, you would owe a prepayment penalty of $600 (6% of $10,000).

Most prepayment penalties are triggered by refinancing, but some loans also have penalties for making extra payments. It’s important to read your loan agreement carefully to understand all the terms and conditions of your loan before you sign on the dotted line. Thankfully, a prepayment penalty only applies during the first few years of the loan term. After that, you can usually prepay without penalty.

What Are the Disadvantages of Prepayment Penalties?
There are several disadvantages of prepayment penalties:

  • You may end up paying more in interest: If you have a 5% interest rate on your mortgage and a 3% prepayment penalty, you’re effectively paying 8% interest on your loan if you pay it off early. That’s because the penalty is applied to the remaining balance of the loan, which means you’re paying interest on the penalty itself.
  • Prepayment penalties can be costly: A common prepayment penalty is equal to 3% of your loan balance. So, if you have a $100,000 mortgage with a 3% prepayment penalty and you pay off your mortgage five years into a 30-year loan term, you would owe a $3,000 prepayment penalty. That’s in addition to any other costs associated with refinancing or selling your home.
  • They limit your financial options: If you run into financial difficulties and need to sell your home or refinance your mortgage to lower your payments, a prepayment penalty can make that difficult or impossible.

You may have a hard time refinancing

If you refinance your home before the prepayment penalty expires, you may have to pay a penalty to do so. The amount of the prepayment penalty varies by lender, but is typically equal to 3-6% of your outstanding loan balance. This can make refinancing more expensive and may negate any savings you would have realized by getting a lower interest rate.

You may not be able to sell your home

If you have a prepayment penalty on your loan, you may not be able to sell your home if you need to move before the penalty period is over. This can limit your ability to take advantage of job opportunities or relocate for other reasons. In some cases, the prepayment penalty may be equal to six months’ worth of interest payments, so it can be a significant financial barrier.

There are also some other disadvantages to prepaying your loan, such as losing the ability to deduct the interest on your taxes. However, these disadvantages should be weighed against the advantages before you make a decision.

Prepayment Penalty Advantages

You may get a lower interest rate

Many people think that it is always better to avoid prepayment penalties, but there are some situations where it may actually be beneficial to pay one.

One advantage of prepaying your loan is you may be able to get a lower interest rate. This is because lenders see prepayment penalties as a way to protect themselves from borrowers who will refinance their loans as soon as interest rates drop. If you are planning on staying in your home for the long term, this can be a significant savings. You may also be able to negotiate a lower interest rate if you have a good credit score.

Another advantage of prepaying your loan is that it can help you build equity in your home more quickly. When you make regular payments on your mortgage, a portion of each payment goes towards interest and the rest goes towards the principal. If you prepay your loan, more of each payment will go towards the principal, which means you will build equity more quickly.

You may be able to negotiate a shorter loan term

If you’re worried about a prepayment penalty, you may be able to negotiate a shorter loan term with your lender. A shorter loan term will have a lower interest rate, which could save you money in the long run.

Should You Pay a Prepayment Penalty?

You may also want to know if there are good reasons to pay a prepayment penalty.

Pros and cons of prepaying

Here are some things to consider before deciding whether to prepay your mortgage:


  • You may be able to deduct the prepayment penalty from your taxes.
  • You’ll save money on interest over the life of the loan.
  • You can pay off your mortgage sooner than you would if you didn’t prepay.


  •  You’ll have to pay a prepayment penalty, which can be significant.
  • You may not have as much flexibility with your cash flow if you prepay.

When prepaying makes sense

If you have a mortgage with a prepayment penalty, it’s important to know when prepaying makes sense, because while you may save money in interest payments, you could end up paying more in penalties.

Here are some scenarios when prepaying your loan could make sense:

  • You’re selling your home and need to pay off the mortgage.
  • You’re refinancing your mortgage and the new loan doesn’t have a prepayment penalty.
  • You’re facing financial hardship and need to modify your loan.
  • Your adjustable-rate mortgage is about to reset, and you want to lock in a lower interest rate.

When you shouldn’t prepay

You should never prepay if you:

  • Are in the early years of your loan and most of your payment is going to interest
  • Are close to default or foreclosure
  • Have a low credit score
  • Can’t afford the prepayment penalty
Bryan Robinson

Bryan Robinson
Writer and editor

Bryan Robinson is a finance writer with expertise in lending and their interest rates, fees, contracts and more.
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