Interest rate definition

Writer and editor - Bryan Robinson | Updated on 2023-01-11


An interest rate is the percentage of an annual loan or credit line charge you pay for borrowing money. Interest rates are typically determined by your creditworthiness, the type of loan (such as a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage), the length of the loan term and many other factors.

What is an interest rate?

An interest rate is the amount charged by a lender to a borrower for the use of money. The interest rate is typically noted on an annual basis, known as the annual percentage rate (APR).

Types of interest rates

There are several types of interest rates, but in general, they can be divided into two categories: fixed and variable. A fixed interest rate is one that stays the same for the life of the loan. For example, if you have a mortgage with a 6% interest rate, your monthly payment will stay the same every month for the life of the loan (unless you refinance). A variable interest rate is one that can fluctuate over time. For example, if you have a credit card with a 14% variable interest rate, your monthly payments could go up or down depending on what the interest rate is at any given time.

The type of interest rate you choose will depend on several factors, including your personal preference and your financial goals. Some people prefer the stability of a fixed interest rate, while others like the flexibility of a variable interest rate. If you plan to stay in your home for a long time, a fixed-rate mortgage might be a good option for you. However, if you think you might move soon or if you want to take advantage of lower rates when they become available, a variable-rate mortgage might be right for you. Ultimately, the decision comes down to what’s best for your individual situation.

The role of the central bank

A country’s central bank sets the interest rates. The central bank’s actions influence other banks, which then set their own rates. The central bank uses monetary policy to influence the cost and availability of money and credit, which in turn affects interest rates.

Here’s how it works: When the central bank raises rates, it becomes more expensive for banks to borrow money. In order to make up for this increase in cost, banks will raise the rates they charge on loans and credit products, including credit cards, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), and personal loans. On the other hand, when the central bank lowers rates, it becomes cheaper for banks to borrow money. This enables banks to pass on the savings to consumers in the form of lower interest rates on loans and credit products.

The role of the market

The simple answer is that interest rates are determined by the market, but there are a number of factors that come into play. The most important factor is the demand for money. When money is in high demand, interest rates will be higher. When there is less demand for money, interest rates will be lower.

Other factors that can affect interest rates include inflation, the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, and the state of the economy. Inflationary pressure can cause interest rates to rise, while a weak economy can lead to lower interest rates. The Federal Reserve’s monetary policy can also have an impact on interest rates.

The impact of interest rates on businesses

Many businesses are affected by changes in interest rates. For example, a company that borrows money to finance its operations will see its costs rise if interest rates increase. Conversely, a company that lends money will see its profits decline if interest rates increase. In general, companies that have high levels of debt are more sensitive to changes in interest rates than companies with low levels of debt.

In addition, changes in interest rates can impact a company’s stock price. For example, if interest rates go up, the demand for a company’s products may decrease, leading to a decline in the company’s stock price. Similarly, if interest rates go down, the demand for a company’s products may increase, leading to an increase in the company’s stock price.

The impact of interest rates on consumers

When interest rates rise, the cost of borrowing money also rises. This can have a big impact on consumers, especially those who have adjustable-rate mortgages or loans with variable interest rates.

As the cost of borrowing goes up, people are likely to spend less money. This can lead to slower economic growth and increased unemployment. Inflation can also rise when interest rates go up, as people demand higher wages to offset the higher cost of living.

Related: Variablerate loan page.


To summarize, the interest rate is the percentage of an amount of money that is charged as interest. The interest rate can be either fixed or variable. The main types of interest rates are nominal, real, and effective. Nominal interest rates are what is typically quoted when people talk about the “interest rate”. However, real interest rates are what matters when making decisions about savings and investments because they account for inflation. Effective interest rates incorporate compounding and are used to compare different investment options.

Bryan Robinson

Bryan Robinson
Writer and editor

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