# What Is a Basis Point (BPS)? Definition & Use Cases

By Timothy Moore · July 15, 2024 · 6 minute read

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A basis point is a unit of measure that is primarily used to precisely communicate a change in interest rate. You might hear “basis point” or “bps” (basis points) in reference to a Federal Reserve rate hike or a change in interest rate for a savings account, credit card, or mortgage. Basis points are also used to measure a difference in percentages in political polls and in scientific data.

Whether you want to better understand the news or you’re tracking rates on loans or bank accounts, it’s important to grasp the concept behind basis points. Here’s a simple guide to what basis points are, their uses, and how to quickly convert a bps into a percentage.

## Understanding Basis Points

A basis point is a unit of measure equal to one one-hundredth (1/100) of a percentage point, or 0.01%. That means that 100 basis points equal 1%. Sometimes abbreviated to “bp” or “bps,” basis points are often used to precisely express changes in interest rates, including rates for high-yield savings accounts, credit cards, and consumer loans.

Basis points offer a standardized way to discuss and quantify minor variations in percentages, and they help avoid confusion that might arise from using fractional percentages or decimal points. For example, if an interest rate increases from 4.00% to 4.25%, this change can be described as an increase of 25 basis points. Similarly, a decrease from 3.50% to 3.25% would be a reduction of 25 basis points. This level of precision is particularly useful in financial markets, where even the smallest changes can have substantial effects on investment returns and borrowing costs.

## Converting Between Basis Points and Percentages

Calculating between basis points and percentages is simple once you know the formula.

To convert basis points to a percentage: Divide the number of basis points by 100. For example, 200 basis points is equal to 200 / 100 = 2%.

To convert a percentage to basis points: Multiply the percentage by 100. For example, 10% x 100 = 1,000 basis points.

The table below shows common basis point values and their corresponding percentages:

Basis Points

Percentage

25 0.25%
50 0.50%
75 0.75%
100 1.00%

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## Uses of Basis Points

Basis points are widely used in the world of finance. Understanding the meaning of basis points can help you in the following contexts:

•   Interest rates Banks, central banks, and other financial institutions often use basis points to communicate changes in interest rates. For example, basis points may be used to communicate the change in the annual percentage yield (APY) on a savings account or the annual percentage rate (APR) on a loan product, such as a credit card or mortgage.

•   Bond yields Investors and analysts use basis points to describe changes in bond yields. For example, if a bond has a yield of 2.10% and the yield increases to 2.35%, the yield has risen by 25 basis points. This precise description helps investors compare bonds and understand movements in the market.

•   Spreads In the context of financial markets, spreads between different rates or yields are often expressed in basis points. For instance, the spread between corporate bond yields and government bond yields is commonly measured in basis points to provide a clear comparison.

•   Investment fees Basis points are often used to express fees and expenses in the financial industry. For example, if a mutual fund has an investment management fee of 75 basis points, it has an annualized fee of 0.75%. This standardized way of expressing fees makes it easier for investors to compare costs across different funds

While basis points are popular in finance, they have other applications as well. You may hear talk of basis points when news outlets review the results of a political poll; basis points are also useful in scientific research papers.

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## Examples of a Basis Point Application

Let’s take a look at two examples of how basis points might be used in the financial industry.

### Federal Reserve Interest Rate Hike

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee meets eight times a year to discuss monetary policy, including whether or not to make changes in the federal funds target rate. This benchmark rate influences rates on everything from savings accounts to credit cards. The Fed may raise interest rates when the economy starts overheating and inflation is too high; it may cut rates when the economy is weakening and unemployment is rising. If the Fed decides to change the Federal Funds target rate, this change is described in terms of basis points.

For example, on July 26, 2023, the Fed increased the Federal Funds rate by +25 bps, which made the Federal Funds rate rise from 5.25% to 5.50%.

If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, your interest rate can change during the term of the loan in response to changes in market rates. For example, suppose you learn your mortgage rate, which is currently 3.75%, is increasing by 25 basis points. That means the rate is increasing .25% (25 / 100). Your new interest rate will be 4.00%.

## Importance of Basis Points in Finance

Basis points are an important term in finance because they eliminate ambiguity and provide clarity and precision, which is essential for analysts and policymakers.

Basis points are also important for consumers and investors. Since even minor changes in interest rates or spreads can have significant impacts, understanding bps can help people make informed decisions about where to put their money and manage risk.

Basis points also enhance transparency in finance, since financial institutions often use bps to disclose fees, expenses, and performance metrics. This transparency helps investors make better choices and understand the costs associated with their investments.

## The Takeaway

Basis points are a useful way to talk about how percentages have changed or will change. If you’re confused by bps, some quick math can help: Simply divide basis points by 100 to convert them into percentages, or multiply a percentage by 100 to get the basis point equivalent.

Using basis points helps to ensure more transparent discussions, allowing all parties to have a clear understanding of how a change in interest rate or yield will affect their finances.

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## FAQ

### What is the definition of a basis point?

A basis point (bp) is a unit of measure that represents one one-hundredth of a percent. Thus, 1 basis point is equal to 0.01%.

In finance, basis points (bps) are used to precisely express small changes in interest rates, yields, and other financial percentages. BPS helps avoid confusion that might arise from using fractional percentages or decimals. For instance, a change from 3.00% to 3.25% is a 25 basis point increase.

### How do you convert basis points to percentages?

To convert basis points to a percentage, divide the number of basis points by 100. For instance, 1,000 basis points = 1,000 / 100 = 10%.

Conversely, to convert percentages to basis points, multiply the percentage by 100. For instance, 0.75% is equal to 0.75 x 100 = 75 basis points.

### In what financial contexts are basis points commonly used?

Basis points are used in a variety of financial contexts to ensure precision and clarity. Key areas include:

•   Interest rates Banks and central banks will often use basis points to communicate changes in interest rates.

•   Bond yields Investors and analysts typically describe changes in bond yields in basis points.

•   Spreads The difference between interest rates or yields, such as the spread between corporate and government bond yields, is often expressed in basis points.

•   Fees and expenses Financial institutions often use basis points to describe fees, such as mutual fund expense ratios and advisory fees. This provides a standardized way to compare costs.

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