How Do Banks Set Interest Rates?

How Do Banks Set Interest Rates?

Have you ever noticed that different bank accounts earn interest at different rates? For example, a checking account might only make a minimal interest rate, while a savings account or an investment account might earn a lot through interest.

To understand how a bank sets interest rates, you would have to look at net interest margin spreads. Net interest margin spread is the difference between the interest rates banks give to their members through accounts like savings and the interest rate banks earn from the people who have an ongoing loan.

This spread generates income for the bank, which is reported quarterly. These things become complicated once we consider all the ways in which banks can lend money.

So, how do banks set interest rates? Read on to get a glimpse of how exactly the bank sets interest rates and what federal interest rates are.

Related Article: Best Banks and Credit Unions for Veterans & Active Military

Why Bank Interest Rates Matter?

It’s safe to say that interest rates affect the bank and everyone in the economy. For instance, think about how much money you would put in a savings account if it allowed you to earn at an interest rate of 15% rather than 0.5%. And, if that were true, just think about how people would stop investing in their 401(k) plans.

It’s a fact that in an economy, savers receive interest for keeping funds with the bank until a future date while borrowers pay interest to keep their needs met in the present. And, when there are more savings in the economy, the interest rate decreases. But on the other hand, if the economy sees a fall in savings, the loanable amount decreases, which increases the interest rate.

This means that interest rates are affected by how much loanable amount is in the economy. In addition to this, interest rates matter because they determine the flow of labor and resources. For instance, lower interest rates make borrowing easy and increase the flow of funds in an economy.

How Do Interest Rates Work?

How bank rates work depends upon the risk involved in lending the loan. Always remember, if there is a higher chance that the loan repayment will go smoothly, the interest rates will always be lower.

A person’s credit score evaluates this risk. The lower the credit score, the higher the interest rates. Moreover, financial products like credit cards also have a higher interest rate because these cards are usually expensive to manage.

Factors determining interest rates include market conditions and the amount of loan borrowed. These rates are set by the Federal Reserve in case of short-term interest rates.

For long-term interest rates, like a 30-year mortgage, interest rates are set by Treasury note yields.

Related Article: How to Get a Bank Loan

Types of Interest Rates

Depending upon the type of financial product, the bank offers a number of interest rates to its customers. Here is an overview of the most common types of interest rates offered by different banks.

Checking Interest Rates

A checking bank account is usually used for day-to-day transactions and accepting paychecks. Most checking accounts even allow unlimited transactions and come with lower fees.

However, the interest rate associated with a checking account is comparatively lower than a savings account. This means that your checking account won’t earn much interest rate. If you plan to make interest on your savings, a savings account might be a better option. A checking account is usually for daily transactions like paying bills, transferring money, or accepting paychecks.

The average interest rate on a checking account in the US is 0.03%.

Savings Interest Rates

Usually used for short-term savings, a savings account is an interest-bearing account that allows you to earn modest interest on your savings while keeping the funds accessible for emergency purposes.

While these banks don’t offer much liquidity for funds, they let you earn higher interest rates than a checking account.

There are no transaction limits in a savings account, and the interest you own is considered taxable income. The national average for savings accounts interest rate is 0.06%.

CD Interest Rates

Certificate of Deposit (CD) allows you to earn premium interest rates on your savings, given that you agree to keep a specific amount in your bank account for a fixed period.

Because the risk factor is usually lower, these accounts offer a safer approach to saving your money than investment accounts.

The interest rates on a CD account depend upon the duration you agreed to keep your funds in the account. For one year duration, the national average interest rate is 0.14% and 0.27% for five years.

Mortgage Interest Rates

Mortgage interest rates depend on various factors like loan term, your credit score, the home’s purchasing cost, credit history, the type of loan you choose, etc.

It also depends upon market conditions like inflation, demographics, and current mortgage rates. In addition, belonging to particular groups like the military can help you earn special discounts and become a part of home loan programs like VA loans.

The average interest rate for a fixed, 30-year mortgage would be 3.75% and 2.75% for a 15-year mortgage.

Personal Loan Interest Rates

Personal loans are typically taken out to consolidate debts, pay bills, or cover emergency expenses. You can also use the loan amount for renovations or shifting into a new home.

A personal loan’s interest rate is determined by factors such as loan term, credit score, loan amount, etc.

The national average for a personal loan is 4.49%.

Auto Loan Interest Rates

There are many ways to purchase a car, and borrowing an auto loan is one of them. You can easily get these loans from credit unions and banks.

The rates depend upon several factors. The national average for auto loan rates in the US is 5.35% for used cars and 3.64% for new cars.

Bond Interest Rates

A bond is generally used in mutual funds while purchasing a company’s share for investment purposes. Bond interest rates depend on factors like company type, company’s worth, etc.

A bond with a three-month maturity period comes with an interest rate of 0.18%.

Credit Card Interest Rates

The interest rate on a credit card is the rate borrowed on the amount from the credit card. These rates depend upon factors like the amount borrowed, your credit score, and your card’s limit.

These rates can range from 17.30% to 20.45%.

Related Article: What is the DOD Savings Deposit Program?

Bank Interest Rate Policy

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the bank accounts that help you earn the most interest rates are traditional savings accounts, CDs, and money market accounts.

Interest rates depend upon market factors like GDP, inflation, overall loan amount, and client inputs like credit score, credit history, and type of loan.

How Do Banks Set Interest Rates? Market-Based Factors

Here’s a list of some market-based factors that might affect your interest rates.


Inflation is the rate at which the prices of a commodity fluctuates in an economy. And if we speak about banking, inflation and interest rates are inversely correlated to each other.

In simpler terms, when inflation is high, interest rates are decreased by the banks so that more people borrow the loans to increase the liquidity of funds in the economy.

Treasury Notes

Treasury notes are bills issued by the US government, making them the safest way of investing money, as the government guarantees them. Because less risk is involved, interest rates tend to be lower.

Economy Health

The increase and decrease of interest rates directly affect the economy’s health. For example, if the interest rate in an economy increases, the economy will witness a reduction in the demand for loans. This will reduce the price of commodities and help the government achieve the goal of lowering inflation.

How Do Banks Set Interest Rates? Client Factors

Client factors like credit score and credit history also play a vital role in determining interest rates in the economy. Here are some client factors affecting interest rates-

Credit Score

A borrower’s credit score is a significant factor affecting interest rates. The higher your credit score, the lower interest rates you qualify for.

You can improve your credit score by paying bills on time, consolidating remaining debt, and trying not to max your credit cards.

Number of Loans

Your interest rate would also depend on the number of ongoing loans you have with a financial institute. Fewer loans would mean lower interest rates.

History with Bank

If you have a good credit history of paying bills on time, the bank might be willing to offer you lower interest rates.

Length of Loan

Remember, the shorter the loan term, the lower your interest rates. However, a shorter loan term would also mean higher monthly installments.

Finding the Best Interest Rate

It’s recommended to get quotes from several banks so that you can decide upon the lowest rate possible. You can also get exclusive discounts like military discounts depending on your job status.

Here’s how to find the best interest rate.

Shop Around

You can shop around and get different quotes from different banks. This will help you qualify for the lowest rate possible.

Time of Year

The time of year also affects your interest rates.

Work on Your Credit Score

It is recommended to improve your credit score to qualify for lower interest rates. You can improve your credit score by consolidating existing debts, managing credit cards, and paying bills on time.

Related Article: What is the Veterans Benefits Banking Program (VBBP)?

Picking the Right One for You

You can qualify for a lower interest rate in a variety of ways. Still, you may be eligible for an even lower rate by refinancing. When deciding on the best place to open an account or take out a loan, make sure to consider the length of the loan, interest rate flexibility, and refinancing options.

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