How Does an Amortizing Loan Work?

By Timothy Moore · March 06, 2023 · 8 minute read

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How Does an Amortizing Loan Work?

An amortizing loan requires monthly payments that go toward the principal and interest for a set period of time. In the early years, payments go mostly toward the loan interest.

Amortizing loans are common in personal finance. If you have a home loan, auto loan, personal loan, or student loan, you likely have an amortizing loan.

Understanding how your amortizing loan works could be helpful if you’re thinking of refinancing, selling a car or house early, or getting rid of mortgage insurance.

This article covers:

•   What is an amortizing loan?

•   How does a fully amortizing loan work?

•   Types of amortizing loans.

•   Amortization schedules and calculators.

What Is an Amortizing Loan?

An amortizing loan is one in which the borrower makes monthly payments, usually equal, toward the loan principal (amount borrowed) and interest (the financing charge).

An amortization schedule shows borrowers how their payments are spread out over the full term of the loan. This mortgage calculator shows amortization over time for any given loan value.

Typically, early payments are largely directed at the interest, and later payments go toward the principal. Borrowers who make additional payments on the principal, especially early in the loan, can shave time off their repayment schedule and save on total interest paid.

Recommended: How to Pay Off a 30-Year Mortgage in 15 Years

First-time homebuyers can
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with as little as 3% down.

How Does a Fully Amortizing Loan Work?

Borrowers who make payments on a fully amortizing loan consistently and on time can expect their loan to be paid off in the number of months or years originally discussed when taking out the loan.

Mortgage servicers use a complicated calculation to determine how much interest and principal you will pay at each stage of the loan in order to fully pay it off as scheduled.

While it’s not important for borrowers to understand the intricacies of the math, it is important to know that early payments largely cover the calculated interest and that payments closer to the end of the loan term will go more toward the principal.

Most lenders will provide an amortization schedule so you can track how the ratio of interest to principal changes over time.

Types of Amortizing Loans

Installment loans are typically considered amortizing loans. If you make a monthly installment to pay down a fixed amount of debt by a certain time period, you likely have an amortizing loan.


Most home loans — fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgages — are fully amortizing loans.

If you have a fixed-rate mortgage, you will make fixed monthly payments, whose principal and interest composition will change over the life of the loan. (Note that payments can fluctuate slightly based on homeowners insurance, changing property taxes, and the presence of mortgage insurance.)

With an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), you don’t have a complete amortization schedule to review upfront. Principal and interest amounts change at the end of the loan’s fixed-rate introductory period and every time the rate adjusts — once a year in the case of a 5/1 ARM. But the monthly payments are calculated to pay off the loan at the end of the term, which is usually 30 years.

Non-amortizing mortgages include interest-only loans and balloon mortgages: The principal does not get paid until the loan is due. Most lenders don’t offer non-amortizing mortgages.

Recommended: Guide to the Mortgage Loan Process

Auto Loans

A car loan is another type of amortizing loan. Terms are shorter than those of mortgages (which are commonly 30-year loans). With a mortgage, the loan is backed by the house; with an auto loan, the car that you are financing acts as the collateral.

Personal Loans

Borrowers take out personal loans for a variety of reasons: debt consolidation, emergency payments, or home improvements.

And for some, a dream wedding or vacation.

Because these are installment loans, they are considered amortizing loans.

Student Loans

Because student loans are not revolving — you borrowed a lump sum that you’re now making regular payments on — student loans are installment loans, and amortizing loans.

How does student loan amortization work? As with mortgages and auto loans, student borrowers pay more in interest at the start of the loan repayment term; in fact, some borrowers are only paying interest when they start repayment. Over the life of the loan, the balance will shift, and borrowers’ payments will largely be directed to the outstanding principal balance.

What Is an Amortization Schedule?

Lenders may provide borrowers with an amortization schedule, often in the closing paperwork for a house or car but also usually online in the loan account platform. The schedule, displayed as a table, demonstrates how your monthly payments are split between interest and principal over the life of your loan.

An amortization schedule typically shows you:

•   Month: Each month over the life of a loan appears as a table row. A 30-year mortgage will have 360 rows. These tables can get long!

•   Payment details: You’ll typically see how much your monthly payment is, but more specifically, the interest payment and the principal payment. This helps you to track how each changes over time.

•   Balance: This column shows what your remaining balance will look like after each monthly payment.

Your amortization schedule will include information about the amount borrowed, the terms of the loan, and the interest rate.

Your lender may also provide a helpful column that demonstrates how additional payments on your principal balance can affect your remaining payments.

Recommended: Historical 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage Trends

How to Use an Amortization Calculator

Because amortization calculations can be difficult to understand, you may find it helpful to use an online amortization calculator, especially for a home or auto loan. Such calculators can help you visualize:

•   How much money you’ll spend in interest over the life of a loan

•   When you’ll hit important milestones, like 20% paid off for a home loan (that’s when you can typically ask to drop private mortgage insurance)

•   How different interest rates and loan terms can affect your payments (important if considering refinancing)

•   How additional principal-only payments can affect your loan

Again, this mortgage calculator includes a handy-dandy amortization chart. Move your cursor over it to see the breakdown of principal, interest, and remaining loan balance over time.

What You Need to Know About Your Amortizing Loan

Since amortizing loans usually generate fixed monthly payments over the life of the loan, you may feel like it’s something you don’t need to think about. You can simply put the loan on autopay for years and never give it a second thought. But there are several reasons you might want to think twice about your amortizing loan:


If you’re looking for a faster payoff or better interest rate, you may want to refinance your mortgage, auto loan, or student loans. Comparing your current amortization schedule with a proposed schedule with your new rate and terms can help you see if refinancing will actually save you money in the long run.

Short-Term Purchases

If you’re planning to buy a home but know you won’t live in it for long, it’s a good idea to review an amortization schedule (even if it’s an online estimate!) before making an offer.

Since you pay significantly more toward interest than principal at the beginning of most long-term loans, you won’t immediately build significant equity — and if you sell just a couple of years later, you may owe more than you make from the sale.

Recommended: How Rising Inflation Affects Mortgage Interest Rates

Mortgage Insurance

Borrowers usually must purchase private mortgage insurance if they do not put 20% down on a conventional loan. Once you have reached 20% equity, you can ask to have the mortgage insurance removed, reducing your monthly payment. (PMI is automatically terminated when a borrower has gained 22% equity — reaches 78% loan-to-value — and payments are current, or when the loan term has hit its midpoint.)

By using an amortization schedule, you can track when you’ll hit 20%. You may even want to make additional principal payments to reach that date earlier, thus saving you money over the life of the loan.

The Takeaway

With an amortizing loan, borrowers make regular payments consisting of principal and interest over a set number of years. In the early years, borrowers pay more toward the interest, but the balance shifts toward the principal over time.

Are you gearing up to find your dream home? SoFi offers fixed-rate home mortgage loans, with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time buyers.

Find your rate on a SoFi Mortgage with no obligation.


What is amortization in a loan?

Amortization refers to a loan with regular monthly payments over the duration of that loan. Typically, the vast majority of initial payments goes toward the interest of the loan, with a small amount (if any) going toward the principal balance. Over time, payments are more significantly directed toward the principal balance.

What are amortized loan examples?

Amortized loans are common in everyday life. Examples of fully amortizing loans are mortgages, auto loans, personal loans, and student loans.

Can you pay off an amortized loan early?

You can pay off an amortized loan early. For a mortgage, it may be possible to schedule automatic principal-only payments in your lender’s platform; you may also be able to make manual one-time principal-only payments or request a full payoff quote. With shorter-term loans, like personal loans and auto loans, it is possible to pay off the loan early to save money on interest — but it might be better for your credit score to keep the loans open.

Photo credit: iStock/nd3000

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