APR vs. APY: How One Letter Makes a Big Difference

Last updated on June 7, 2018 Views: 547 Comments: 1

APR vs. APY: While the seem similar, there’s a big difference between annual percentage rate and annual percentage yield. Here’s what you need to know.

APR vs. APY

APR and APY are short acronyms with big importance. Despite the confusion, these two terms are not interchangeable. What exactly is the difference between APR and APY? Here’s a quick lesson:

  • APR stands for annual percentage rate
  • APY stands for annual percentage yield
  • APR is more commonly used regarding credit cards, mortgages, and loans
  • APY is more commonly used regarding interest-bearing accounts

One thing APR and APY have in common is that they come into play in our lives just about every day if we use credit cards, pay a mortgage, or keep money in the bank. Both determine how much you will earn or pay on investment products and loans. Understanding the basic differences between APR and APY is important before you do something like open a credit card or choose an investment account.

APR is going to be tossed at you when you shop around for credit cards, car loans, or home loans. APR represents the interest you’ll be responsible for paying. APY is a phrase you’re going to hear as you search around for bank accounts, CDs, and a variety of investment products. APY is the amount you stand to earn if you place your money in the hands of a financial institution.

The Basics of APR

The rate portion of an annual percentage rate refers to the amount of money a lender is charges when you borrow money. You can figure out the APR of a loan or balance by multiplying the period rate by the number of payment periods in a year. A simple way to look at it is that an account with an interest rate of 1 percent will have an APR of 12 percent.

On the other side, you can divide the APR by the number of payment periods to get the per-payment rate. Many loans will give you the APR rather than the per-payment rate. If your car loan has a 7.5 percent APR, you’ll pay .625 percent in interest every month.

Sometimes you’ll see both an interest rate and an APR for any given loan or balance. In this case, the APR is typically higher. That’s because APR includes interest, points, broker fees, and additional fees. This is especially common for accounts like mortgages.

The Basics of APY

APY is the rate of return of an interest rate. It takes into account compound interest. Compound interest is the interest you earn on top of the principal and simple interest. APY takes the interest rate and provides a percentage based on how often interest is compounded during a year.

Remember the account with an interest rate of 1 percent and an APR of 12 percent? That same account would carry an APY of approximately 12.68 percent. However, that’s just a basic estimate using the most basic scenario. Actual percentages will always depend on factors like the specific financial institution you’re dealing with and state laws.

Things to Keep in Mind When Shopping Around for Rates

Keep in mind that most lenders and institutions will list whichever number makes their products appear more appealing. This is why it’s important to always ask a potential lender or institution which percentage type they’re quoting as you’re shopping around for loans or accounts.

Compare all the options you’re considering based on the same percentage type to get a true picture. Anything else would be like measuring apples against oranges instead of making a true apples-to-apples comparison. The Truth in Lending Act (TILA) requires all lenders to provide you with accurate cost information that allows you to comparison shop for loans.

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1 comment
JoeHx says:

If I’m understanding this right, that means APY is typically going to be higher than APR, assuming there’s more than one compounding period a year? And if it only compounds once a year, APY would equal APR?