Here Is Everything to Know about Variable Interest Rates

When dealing with a variable interest rate, you can find it on loans or securities that fluctuate over time due to its dependence on an index that varies regularly. It has the apparent advantage of lowering a borrower’s interest to be paid if the underlying index falls.

Inversely, interest payments rise when the underlying index increases.

In this article, you will learn more about variable interest rates and how they affect specific financial decisions you make.

How Do Variable Interest Rates Work?

A variable interest rate’s underlying index differs depending on the type of loan or investment involved. Still, typically, the basis is the London Inter-Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR) or the federal funds rate.

You may use a benchmark rate, such as a country’s prime rate, to calculate variable interest rates on cars, credit cards, and mortgages.

What Are Variable-Interest-Rate Bonds and Securities?

The LIBOR is a standard benchmark rate for variable-rate bonds, but there are also five-year, ten-year, and thirty-year U.S. Treasury bonds that use the LIBOR. This yield on treasury bonds is used as a benchmark interest rate.

Variable rates are also possible in fixed-income derivatives. Interest rate swaps normally include exchanging a fixed interest rate for a floating rate or vice versa to lessen or enhance exposure to interest rate fluctuations.

What Are Variable-Interest-Rate Credit Cards?

Credit cards with variable interest rates feature an annual percentage rate (APR) linked to a certain index, such as the prime rate. When the Federal Reserve alters the federal funds rate, the related credit card’s prime rate is also affected. It means that variable-interest-rate credit cards can change without the cardholder’s knowledge.

Credit cards with variable interest rates might adjust their rates without notifying their clients.

The interest rate is usually presented as the prime rate plus a specific percentage in the credit card’s terms and conditions.

What Are Variable-Interest-Rate Loans and Mortgages?

Variable-interest-rate loans work similarly to credit cards aside from their payment periods. Even though credit cards and lines of credit are types of credit, most loans are referred to as “installment loans,” with a set number of payments before being fully paid by a particular date.

As interest rates fluctuate, the amount of money required to complete the loan will increase or decrease depending on the rate change and the number of payments that you must make.

An excellent example is an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), a variable interest rate. The majority of ARMs start with a low fixed interest rate for the first few years of the loan and only adjust over time.

Online calculators are available for you to get an idea of current interest rates on adjustable-rate mortgages. There usually are limits on how much the interest rate can move up or down as it changes.

Additionally, a significant mortgage index, such as the 11th District Cost of Funds Index (COFI), the LIBOR, or the Monthly Treasury Average Index (MTAI), is used to alter the rates of ARMs. For example, If someone takes up an ARM with a 2 percent LIBOR margin and the LIBOR is at 3 percent when the mortgage rate adjusts, the rate resets to 5 percent once the LIBOR reaches 3 percent again.


Many prefer variable interest rates over fixed ones because the former is lower. As with any financial mechanism, though, you have to consider all their pros and cons to help you make the best possible decision.

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