What Is Yield to Call? Formula & Examples

By Samuel Becker · September 08, 2023 · 7 minute read

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What Is Yield to Call? Formula & Examples

An investor calculating yield to call is getting an idea of how much their overall bond returns will be. Specifically, yield to call refers to the total returns garnered by holding onto a bond until its call date. That doesn’t apply to all bonds, naturally, but can be very important for many investors to understand.

For investors who utilize bonds — callable bonds, in particular — as a part of their investment strategy, having a deep understanding of yield to call can be critical.

What Is Yield to Call?

As mentioned, yield to call (often abbreviated as “YTC”) refers to the overall return earned by an investor who buys an investment bond and holds it until its call date. Yield to call only concerns what are called callable bonds, which are a type of bond option.

With callable bonds, issuers have the option of repaying investors the value of the bond before it matures, potentially allowing them to save on interest payments. Callable bonds come with a call date and a call price, and the call date always comes before the bond itself matures.

A little more background: in a YTC scenario, ”yield” refers to the total amount of income earned over a period of time. In this case, the yield is the total interest a bond purchaser has accrued since purchasing the bond.

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How Yield to Call Works

If an investor buys a callable bond, they’ll see interest payments from the bond issuer up until the bond reaches maturity. The callable bond also has a call date, and the investor can choose to hold onto the bond until that date. If the investor does so, then YTC amounts to the total return the investor has received up until that date.

Yield to call is similar to yield to maturity, which is the overall interest accrued by an investor who holds a bond until it matures. But there are some differences, especially when it comes to how YTC is calculated.

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Yield to Call Formula

The raw yield to call calculation formula looks like this:

Yield to Call Formula:

Yield to call = (coupon interest payment + ( The call price – current market value ) ÷ time in years until call date ) ÷ (( call price + market value ) ÷ 2)

An investor should have all of the variables on-hand to do the calculation. Before we run through an example, though, here’s a breakdown of those variables:

•   Yield to call: The variable we are trying to solve for!

•   Coupon interest payment: How much the bondholder receives in interest payments annually.

•   Call price: The predetermined call price of the callable bond in question.

•   Current market value: The bond’s current value.

•   Time until call date: The number of years until the bond’s first call date arrives

The yield-to-call calculation will tell an investor the returns they’ll receive up until their bond’s call date. A bond’s value is roughly equal to the present value of its future earnings or cash flows — or, the return, at the present moment, that the bond should provide in the future.

How to Calculate Yield to Call

It can be helpful to see how yield to call looks in a hypothetical example to further understand it.

Yield to Call Example

For this example, we’ll say that the current face value of the bond is $950, it has an annual coupon interest payment of $50, and it can be called at $1,000 in four years.

Here’s how the raw formula transforms when we input those variables:

Yield to call = ($50 + ( $1,000 – $950 ) ÷ 4 ) ÷ (( $1,000 + $950 ) ÷ 2)

YTC = $25 ÷ $975

YTC = 0.0256 = 2.56%

Interpreting Yield to Call Results

Once we know that our hypothetical, callable bond has a yield to call of 2.56%, what does that mean, exactly? Well, if you remember back to the beginning, yield to call measures the yield of a bond if the investor holds it until its call date.

The percentage, 2.56%, is the effective return an investor can expect on their bond, assuming it is called before it matures. It’s important to remember, too, that callable bonds can be called by the issuer at any time after the call date. So, just because there is an expected return, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what they’ll see.

Yield to call calculations make a couple of big assumptions. First, it’s assumed that the investor will not sell the bond before the call date. And second, the calculation assumes that the bond will actually be called on the call date. Because of these assumptions, calculations can produce a number that may not always be 100% accurate.

Yield to Call Comparisons

Two calculations that are similar to YTC are “yield to maturity,” and “yield to worst.” All three calculations are related and offer different methods for measuring the value that a bond will deliver to an investor.

A different type of yield calculation would be needed if you wanted to try and measure the overall interest you’d earn if you held a bond to maturity. That’s different from measuring the overall interest you’d earn by simply holding the bond until its call date.

Yield to Call vs Yield to Maturity

YTC calculates expected returns to a bond’s call date; yield to maturity calculates expected returns to the bond’s maturity date. Yield to maturity gives investors a look at the total rate of return a bond will earn over its entire life, not merely until its call date (if it has one).

Yield to Call vs Yield to Worst

Yield to worst, or “YTW,” measures the absolute lowest possible yield that a bond can deliver to an investor. Assuming that a bond has multiple call dates, the yield to worst is the lowest expected return for each of those call dates versus the yield to maturity. Essentially, it gives a “worst case” return expectation for bondholders who hold a bond to either its call date or for its entire life.

If a bond has no call date, then the YTW is equal to the yield to maturity — because there are no other possible alternatives.

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The Takeaway

Learning what yield to call is and how to calculate it, can be yet another valuable addition to your investing tool chest. For bond investors, YTC can be helpful in trying to figure out what types of returns you can expect, especially if you’re investing or trading callable bonds.

It may be that you never actually do these calculations, but having a cursory background in what the term yield to call means, and what it tells you, is still helpful information to keep in your back pocket.

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What is the advantage of yield to call?

Yield to call helps investors get a better idea of what they can expect in terms of returns from their bond holdings. That can help inform their overall investment strategy.

How do you calculate yield to call in Excel?

Calculating yield to call can be done the old fashioned way, with a pen and paper, or in a spreadsheet software, of which there are several. An internet search should yield results as to how to calculate YTC within any one of those programs.

Is yield to call always lower than yield to maturity?

Generally, an investor would see higher returns if they hold a bond to its full maturity, rather than sell it earlier. For that reason, yield to call is generally lower than yield to maturity.

Photo credit: iStock/MicroStockHub

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