APY vs Interest Rate

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · February 27, 2024 · 9 minute read

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APY vs Interest Rate

Interest rates and APY, or annual percentage yield, are likely words that you’ll hear throughout your financial life. If you are opening an interest-earning bank account, you’ll likely want to earn the highest return on your money that you can find. Conversely, if you are borrowing money (say, taking out a home loan), you’ll probably want to snag the lowest rate on your mortgage.

While you may see the terms interest and APY used interchangeably, they are not identical. APY expresses how much you will earn on your cash over the course of a year. Interest rate, however, is the interest percentage that you’ll earn or that a lender will change you.

Ready to learn more about APY vs. interest rate and how each impacts your finances

Key Points

•   APY (Annual Percentage Yield) and interest rate are two different concepts that are often used interchangeably but have distinct meanings.

•   APY represents the amount of money you will earn on your deposits over the course of a year, taking into account compound interest.

•   Interest rate, on the other hand, is the percentage at which your money will accrue interest, without considering compounding.

•   APY is higher than the interest rate because it includes the effect of compounding, which allows your money to grow faster.

•   Understanding the difference between APY and interest rate is important when opening a bank account or taking out a loan.

APY and Interest Rate Defined

If you deposit money into an interest-bearing account, you will earn an annual percentage yield (APY) on that money. The APY is a useful number because it tells you how much you’ll earn on your deposits over the course of a year, expressed as a percentage. The APY calculation takes into account the interest rate being offered, then factors in whether or not the financial institution offers compounded interest.

Compound interest is the interest you earn on the interest you’ve already earned. Depending on the bank or credit union, interest may compound daily, monthly, quarterly, or annually. The more frequently interest compounds, the faster your money grows.

💡 Quick Tip: An online bank account with SoFi can help your money earn more — up to 4.60% APY, with no minimum balance required.

What Is APY?

APY expresses how much money your cash will earn over the course of a year when it’s in an interest-bearing account.

APY is often confused with APR, which stands for annual percentage rate and comes into play when you take out a loan. A loan’s APR factors in the loan’s interest rate, as well as any additional fees and costs. It tells you how much you will pay for the loan over one year.

What Is an Interest Rate?

An interest rate is typically either the money you earn for keeping your cash at a financial institution or the cost that lenders charge you when they extend credit.

For example, if you put your money in a high-interest savings account, you might earn 4.50% for keeping your funds there. But if you take out a mortgage, you might be charged 7.00% interest for the privilege of borrowing that money to buy a house and paying it back over time.

Incidentally, the difference between the interest rates that banks pay depositors and charge borrowers is one of the ways these financial institutions earn money.

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APY vs. Interest Rate Explained

So what is the difference between APY and interest rate? And why does interest rate vs. APY matter anyway? When you are opening a bank account, it can make a difference as one can give you a better picture of how your money will grow while on deposit.

The interest rate tells you the basic rate at which your money will accrue interest. The APY, however, gives you great insight to what you will have earned at the end of a year because it factors in the boost that compound interest can deliver.

Recommended: Different Ways to Earn Interest

The APY Formula

For those who want to delve in a bit deeper, the actual formula for APY calculation is as follows: (1 + r/n)ⁿ – 1.

•   The “r” stands for the interest rate being paid.

•   The “n” represents the number of compounding periods within a year.

If, for example, the interest rate is 3.50%, then that’s what you’d use for the “r.” If interest is compounded quarterly, then “n” would equal four.

Compounding frequency can cause two different savings accounts with the same interest rates to have different APYs. For example, if two different banks offer a certificate of deposit (CD) with the same interest rate and one of them compounds annually, that institution would have a lower APY than the institution that compounds quarterly or daily.

Fortunately, if you want to compare savings rates from one bank or credit union to another, you don’t need to perform these in-depth calculations.

Financial institutions are required to provide information on APY as part of the Truth in Savings Act. And, here’s the heart of it all: The higher the APY, then the more quickly the money you deposit can grow.

Recommended: Use the APY calculator below to see how much interest you can earn on your investments.

Calculating APR

The APR vs. interest rate of a loan tells you how much the loan will cost you over one year, including both the loan’s interest rate and fees, and is expressed as a percentage. A loan’s APR gives you a better sense of the true cost of the loan than the loan’s interest rate, since it includes fees. The higher the APR, the more you’ll pay over the life of the loan.

Thanks to the federal Truth in Lending Act, lenders must provide the APR of a loan. This allows you to compare loans apples to apples. A loan with a low interest rate but high fees may not be a good deal. In fact, you may be better off with a loan that charges a higher interest rate but no or lower fees. APR allows you to be a savvy consumer.

APR can be calculated with this formula: APR = ((Interest + Fees / Principal or Loan amount) / N or Number of days in loan term)) x 365 x 100. Lender’s will tell you the APR of a loan and you won’t need to perform any complicated calculations.

How Simple and Compound Interest Differ

Another dimension of interest rate vs. APY is seen when you consider how simple and compound interest differ. With simple interest, no compounding is involved. If you were to deposit $10,000 in an account earning 4.00% simple interest, at the end of three years, your money would earn $1,200 for a total of $11,200.

If, however, the interest were compounded daily, you would earn $408 the first year. The second year, interest would accrue on the principal and the interest ($10,408), and you would earn $425 the next year (for $10,833), and then $442 the year after that, for a total of $11,275.

While the dollar amount may not seem earth-shattering in this example of a few years, when you are talking about your decades-long financial life, it can really add up. Your money will grow faster with compound interest, helping you reach your financial goals.

Types of High-Interest Accounts for Savings

If you’re looking to earn a competitive rate on your savings, you’ll want to compare accounts by looking at APYs, as well as account fees and minimums. Generally, you can find competitive rates by looking at high-yield savings accounts, money market accounts, and CDs.

•   High-yield savings accounts, typically offered by credit unions and online banks, are accounts that typically pay a substantially higher APY than the national average of traditional savings accounts. They generally also have low or no fees.

•   Money market accounts are savings accounts that offer some of the features of a checking account, such as checks or a debit card. They often come with a higher APY than a traditional savings account, but typically require a higher balance, such as $1,000 or more, to avoid monthly fees.

•   Certificates of deposits (CDs) also tend to pay a higher APY than a regular savings account but require you to leave your money untouched for a certain period of time, called a term. If you take money out before then, you’ll likely pay an early withdrawal penalty. CD terms typically range from three months to five years. Generally, the longer the term, the higher the APY.

High-Interest Checking Accounts

Checking accounts work well for everyday spending but typically offer no interest or very little. A high-yield checking account is a special type of account offered by some financial institutions (such as traditional and online banks, and credit unions) that offers a higher-than-average APY. These are accounts designed to give you the flexibility of a traditional checking account (with checks and/or a debit card) but with higher-interest returns.

A few points to note:

•   Often, to qualify for the highest rate the checking account has to offer, you need to meet certain criteria. This might be making a certain number of debit card transactions in a month, having at least one direct deposit or automated clearing house (ACH) payment each month, or choosing to receive paperless statements.

•   Some high-interest checking accounts will offer different APY tiers, with higher account balances earning a higher APY than lower account balances.

Creating a SoFi Savings Account

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


Why is APY higher than the interest rate?

There is a difference between APY and interest rate: The APY is higher than the interest rate because it reflects the effect of compounding, in which your money earns interest on its interest.

What does it mean to earn 5.00% APY?

If an account says it earns 5.00% APY, that means at the end of the year, your money on deposit will earn 5.00% (say, $500 on $10,000 on deposit). The interest rate may be lower, because the APY reflects the impact of compounding interest.

Why do banks use APY instead of APR?

When a bank tells you its APY, or annual percentage yield, it’s sharing how much your money can grow when on deposit for a year. On the other hand, APR stands for annual percentage rate, which is the amount charged if you borrow money. If you are interested in taking out a loan from the bank, you would be told the APR.

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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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