The broker’s call — also called “call money rate” or “call loan rate” — refers to the interest rate that brokerage firms pay to banks when they borrow money.
Brokerage firms borrow money from banks in the form of call loans in order to offer loans to traders and investors with margin accounts. As such, the interest rate that brokerages pay banks is what’s referred to as the broker’s call, or call money rate.
Banks can call those loans back from brokerages at any time (hence the name “call loans”), which may cause brokerages to call the money they lent to traders or investors (in the form of margin). That’s one example of what’s referred to as a “margin call.”
Broker Call Rate Definition
The broker call rate is the interest rate that brokerage firms pay banks for borrowing money that they, in turn, loan to traders and investors to pursue margin trades. Since many brokerage firms allow investors to trade “on margin,” the brokerages need to have access to a pool of money that they can borrow from.
In effect, banks lend money to brokerages, and the brokerages lend money to investors — each loan carries a different rate. The broker call rate, again, is the interest rate that the brokerages pay to the banks.
Investors and traders that are using margin to trade will be on the hook for interest payments to the brokerages, and the applicable interest rate for those traders are called margin rates.
But, in terms of a broker call rate, that is only referring to the interest rates that brokerages pay to banks, not the margin rates traders pay to brokerages for their margin accounts.
In addition, although the broker call rate is quoted as an annual rate, these loans are typically for much shorter periods of time. As such, the fees are assessed daily. If the annual rate is 5%, the overnight rate is 5% divided by 365 days or roughly 0.014% per day.
Margin rates, or the rates charged to traders, would be higher.
Recommended: What is Margin Trading and How Does it Work?
Explaining Call Money Rate
Although the terms sound quite different, the broker call rate and the call money rate are essentially the same thing: it’s the interest rate that brokers pay to banks for borrowing money. That typically comprises short-term loans that the brokers then turn around and lend to traders or investors for use in margin accounts.
Brokerages will typically include a service charge, expressed as a percentage, on top of the call money rate to get their margin rates. So, in effect, traders or investors using margin accounts pay a premium, plus interest, to trade with margin loans.
As an investor is deemed capable of borrowing more money, the gap between the broker call rate and the margin rate narrows.
Brokerages drive extra revenue by exploiting the difference in interest rates, just as investors do the same via interest rate options.
The Use of the Term ‘Call’
A quick side note: You may have noticed that the term “call” is a common financial term with various meanings, including:
1. A brokerage issuing a “margin call” requiring a borrower to increase the cash in their account or sell assets to raise cash for their account.
2. A lender “calling a loan” on a borrower, requiring them to repay their debt.
3. Yield to call is another example of the word that in this phrase refers to bonds.
What Is a Call in Options Trading?
A “call” is also a common type of option (the two main types of options are puts and calls), but the sense of the word here is quite different. A call option is a derivative contract that gives investors the right, but not the obligation, to buy a certain number of shares of an underlying asset.
While options trading and margin trading are similar in that they use leverage, margin trading specifically involves borrowed funds. A margin account is not required for options trading.
How Is the Broker Call Rate Calculated?
The broker call rate in the U.S. fluctuates continuously, but generally increases along with interest rates across the board due to the Federal Reserve lifting benchmark rates. Conversely, as the Federal Reserve cuts rates, the broker call rate falls as well.
The broker call rate and the Federal Reserve funds rates are tightly linked, but they are not required to be the same.
It’s also important to know that the broker call rate fluctuates on a daily basis, much like other interest rates. With that in mind, the broker call rate’s calculation is less of a calculation, and more based on a benchmark, such as the London InterBank Offered Rate, or LIBOR rate.
LIBOR serves as a benchmark interest rate that lenders around the world use when they lend to another financial institution on a short-term basis. As such, it makes sense that it would serve as the benchmark for the broker call rate.
But LIBOR is being phased out as of the beginning of 2022, and is being replaced in most instances by the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR). The transition won’t fully replace LIBOR until 2023, however.
How Does It Affect Margin Traders?
Margin traders utilize leverage to attempt to supercharge their returns. That is, they’re borrowing more money than they actually have in order to make bigger trades. This increases their investing risk, but can also increase their gains.
And, as discussed, it’s pretty obvious how the broker call rate can affect margin traders. Since brokerages need to borrow money from banks, and pay the associated costs for doing so (in the form of interest), they need to turn a profit through their own lending activities. Lending to margin traders, by charging interest plus a service fee or other related cost, helps them cover those costs.
So, the higher the broker call rate, the more interest brokerages need to pay banks in interest charges. That gets passed down to margin traders, who, in turn, end up paying more in interest charges to brokerages when they use margin. This is one of the drawbacks when using a cash account versus a margin account — there are additional costs to consider for using margin, which can eat into returns.
Broker Call Rate Example
Here’s an example of how the broker’s call rate may come into play in the real world:
Brokerage X needs to offer margin funds for its clients with margin accounts, but doesn’t have the money to cover its needs. So, it borrows the money from Bank Y at a predetermined broker call rate. Bank Y decides that the rate will be the current LIBOR rate, plus 0.1%. So, if the LIBOR rate is 3%, for example, the broker call rate is 3.1%.
Brokerage X then uses the borrowed funds to offer margin funds to its clients, for which it charges a margin rate of 4%, plus a $10 service fee. By doing so, Brokerage X drives a little extra revenue through its lending activities, and when the traders pay the margin funds back, it can return them to Bank Y, paying the 3.1% broker call rate for the privilege of borrowing.
Current Call Money Rate
The current call money rate is published daily by the Wall Street Journal, and others. As it fluctuates often, margin traders, or others who may be subject to those fluctuations, can or should make a habit of looking at the current rate in the event that it changes their strategy.
Due to the Federal Reserve raising benchmark rates in an effort to blunt high inflation, the call money rate has seen rapid increases throughout 2022. As recently as June 2021, for instance, the call money rate was only 2%.
Margin Trading With SoFi
The broker call rate is the interest rate that brokerage firms pay banks for borrowing money that they, in turn, loan to traders. Since many brokerage firms allow investors to trade “on margin,” the brokerages need to have access to a pool of money that they can borrow from.
Brokerages typically charge a fee, expressed as a percentage, on top of the call money rate to get their margin rates. So, in effect, investors using margin accounts pay interest to trade stocks with margin loans — plus a little extra.
Leveraged trades are complicated and can be risky. While using borrowed money lets traders place bigger bets, and possibly see bigger gains, they also risk steep losses.
If you’re interested in opening a margin account, you can start by opening a new investing account with SoFi. From there you can apply for a margin loan and start trading. SoFi doesn’t charge commission, and SoFi members have access to complimentary financial advice from professionals.
Who decides the call rate for margin trading?
A brokerage ultimately decides the costs associated with margin trading for investors. But as far as what determines the broker call rate, it goes back to the rate as determined by the prevailing benchmark interest rate, such as LIBOR, or the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), which is taking precedence as LIBOR is phased out.
What is the overnight call rate?
The overnight call rate refers to the interest rate that banks use when lending or borrowing overnight. Again, since the call money rate is constantly fluctuating, the overnight call rate may or may not be different from the call money rate during normal trading hours.
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