What is prime rate on a loan? | finder.com
financial newspaper

What is prime rate on a loan?

We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. But we may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.

How the Wall Street Journal prime rate can affect the cost of your loan.

You might have come across the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) prime rate when trying to figure out how much a loan costs. Instead of giving a straightforward range of rates, some lenders offer variable interest based on the prime rate plus a range of smaller rates, often between 2% and 5%. The prime rate rises and falls based on the lending market, so there’s the potential that you could pay much less — or much more — in interest compared to a loan with a fixed interest rate.

The WSJ prime rate for November 2018

  • This week: 5.25
  • One month ago: 5.00
  • One year ago: 4.25

What is the prime rate?

The prime rate is the interest rate that most big US banks give to their most creditworthy borrowers, fluctuates based on the state of the lending market and overall economy. If you have strong credit and overall personal financials, you could qualify for a loan based on the prime rate alone. Otherwise, lenders typically treat the prime rate as what’s known as a benchmark or starting rate on a variable-rate loan.

Here’s how it works: Lenders give borrowers a smaller fixed percentage called a margin rate, and then add that number to the ever-changing prime rate. So, if you got a variable-rate loan at 2% margin rate + prime — and the prime rate was 5% — you’d actually pay a 7% interest rate. If the prime rate goes up to 6%, then you’d pay an 8% interest rate.

The prime rate is also called the prime lending rate, WSJ prime rate, the index rate and sometimes even just “prime.” You can learn more about how benchmark and margin rates work by reading our article on fixed-rate and variable-rate student loans.

How is the prime rate calculated?

The Wall Street Journal calculates the prime rate based on the interest that the top 30 largest banks in the country charge their most creditworthy clients. Then it publishes a rate based on the results. The prime rate changes when three-quarters of the banks — or 23 of them — change the most competitive rates they offer.

You can typically get an idea of the prime rate by looking at the federal funds rate, or the interest rate banks charge each other on overnight loans if they don’t have enough cash in their reserve when the day is over. The Federal Reserve sets the federal funds rate to protect against inflation and control economic growth.

The prime rate is typically around 3% higher than the federal funds rate. Currently, the federal funds rate is 2.25% and the prime rate is 5.25%.

What loans use the prime rate?

Any variable-rate personal or business loan might use the prime rate as a benchmark. It’s also common with mortgages and other types of home loans. However, not all variable rates are based on the prime rate. Many lenders that use prime write out the rate as: prime plus the margin rate. Otherwise, a lender might give you a range of current rates and mention what type of benchmark it uses in the fine print.

Private student loans

You might run into the WSJ prime rate if you’re looking for a private student loan or want to refinance your student debt. That’s because most student loan providers offer a choice between fixed and variable rates. However, lenders more commonly use the LIBOR rate on variable-rate student loans, not the prime rate.

Business loans

Fixed-term business loans and lines of credit often come with variable rates — many of which are based on the prime rate. Unlike with student loans, you typically don’t have a choice between fixed or variable rates. The lender usually offers one or the other. Still, many types of alternative business financing — like invoice factoring — rely on other fee structures that don’t involve interest at all.

Personal loans

Prime rate isn’t as common on general-use personal loans — many lenders only charge fixed rates. You’re more likely to find a variable-rate personal loan based on the WSJ prime rate if you apply for a loan with a big bank — and even then it’s more common with unsecured lines of credit.

Car loans

Variable rates are even less common with car loans than personal loans, meaning that you probably won’t have to worry about the prime rate when getting your next set of wheels or refinancing. Like with personal loans, variable-rate car loans that rely on the prime rate are more common with big banks than smaller online lenders.

Home loans

Variable rates are perhaps the most common with home loans. Adjustable-rate mortgages come with a period of fixed interest rates and another with variable rates that might be based on the WSJ prime rate. But it’s more common with home equity loans and lines of credit.

Compare a selection of loans you can apply for today

Rates last updated November 18th, 2018
Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR Product Description
Credible Private Student Loans
Good to excellent credit
Varies by lender
3.69% (As low as ) (variable)
Get prequalified rates from private lenders offering student loans with no origination or prepayment fees.
EDvestinU Private Student Loans
675
$200,000
4.326% to 10.32% (fixed)
Straightforward student loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
CommonBond Private Student Loans
700
$500,000
3.20-7.25% (fixed)
Finance your college education through this lender with a strong social mission and terms that fit your budget.
LendingTree Student Loans
Good to excellent credit
Varies by lender
3% (As low as) (fixed)
Compare multiple student loans and student loan refinancing options in one place.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated November 18th, 2018
Unfortunately, none of the business loan providers currently offer loans for these criteria.
Name Product Product Description Min Loan Amount Max. Loan Amount Requirements
LoanBuilder, A PayPal Service Business Loans
Customizable loans with no origination fee for business owners in a hurry.
$5,000
$500,000
Annual business revenue of at least $42,000, at least 9 months in business, personal credit score of 550+.
Credibly Business Loans
Funding to cover business expenses with daily or weekly repayments.
$5,000
$250,000
500+ personal credit score, 6+ months in business, $15,000+ average monthly deposits
National Funding Small Business Loans
Working capital loans and equipment financing, some high-risk industries may be eligible.
$5,000
$500,000
Be in business at least one year and make at least $100,000 in annual sales. Other loan types have additional requirements.
Lendio Business Loan Marketplace
Submit one simple application to potentially get offers from a network of over 75 legit business lenders.
$500
$5,000,000
Must operate a business in the US or Canada, have a business bank account and have a personal credit score of 560+.
LendingClub Business Loans
With loan terms that vary from 1 to 5 years, enjoy fixed monthly payments and no prepayment penalties through this award-winning lender.
$5,000
$300,000
12+ months in business, $50,000+ in annual sales, no bankruptcies or tax liens, at least 20% ownership of the business, fair personal credit score or better
OnDeck Small Business Loans
A leading online business lender offering flexible financing at competitive fixed rates.
$5,000
$500,000
500+ personal credit score, 1+ years in business, $100,000+ annual revenue
Fora Financial Business Loans
No minimum credit score requirement and early repayment discounts for qualifying borrowers.
$5,000
$500,000
Business age 6+ months. Monthly revenue $12,000+. No open bankruptcies.
LendingTree Business Loans
Multiple business financing options in one place including: small business loans, lines of credit, SBA loans, equipment financing and more.
Varies by lender and type of financing
Varies by lender and type of financing
Varies by lender, but you many require good personal credit, a minimum business age and minimum annual revenue.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated November 18th, 2018

Reveal your potential loan offers and rates

Answer two quick questions to filter the loan offers and get the best one for you.

Select your credit score range

I don't know my credit score

Finally, select where you live.

To get your credit score:

Experian logo

Experian is a leading provider of personal and business credit reporting. Find out your FICO score now for less than the cost of a cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, none of the personal loan providers offer loans for that credit score. If you are in urgent need of a small loan, you might want to consider a short term loan.
Name Product Product Description Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR
Monevo Personal Loans
Quickly compare multiple online lenders with competitive rates depending on your credit score.
550
$100,000
3.34% to 35.99%. (fixed)
Credible Personal Loans
Get personalized rates in minutes and then choose a loan offer from several top online lenders.
Good to excellent credit
$100,000
4.99%–36% (fixed)
LendingClub Personal Loan
A peer-to-peer lender offering fair rates based on your credit score.
660
$40,000
6.95% to 35.89% (fixed)
SoFi Personal Loan Fixed Rate (with Autopay)
No fees. Multiple member perks such as community events and career coaching.
680
$100,000
6.99% to 14.87% (fixed)
NetCredit Personal Loan
Check eligibility in minutes and get a personalized quote without affecting your credit score.
550
$10,000
34%–155% (Varies by state) (fixed)
Marcus by Goldman Sachs Personal Loans
Consolidate your debt or pay off large expenses with competitive rates and no fees.
Good to excellent credit
$40,000
6.99% to 24.99% (fixed)
Even Financial Personal Loans
Get connected to competitive loan offers instantly from top online consumer lenders.
580
$100,000
4.99%–35.99% (fixed)
Avant
Conveniently check your loan options without affecting your credit score.
580
$35,000
9.95%–35.99% (fixed)
OneMain Financial Personal and Auto Loans
An established online and in-store lender with quick turnaround times. Poor credit is OK.
Varies
$30,000
16.05%–35.99%* (fixed)

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated November 18th, 2018

Reveal your potential loan offers and rates

Answer two quick questions to filter the loan offers and get the best one for you.

Select your credit score range

I don't know my credit score

Finally, select where you live.

To get your credit score:

Experian logo

Experian is a leading provider of personal and business credit reporting. Find out your FICO score now for less than the cost of a cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, none of the personal loan providers offer loans for that credit score. If you are in urgent need of a small loan, you might want to consider a short term loan.
Name Product Product Description Min. Credit Score Term of Loan Requirements
car.Loan.com Car Loans
Apply with a simple online application to get paired with a local auto lender. No credit and bad credit accepted.
300
Varies by lender
Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.
Auto Credit Express Car Loans
Get connected with an auto lender near you, even if you have bad credit.
300
Typically 3 to 6 years
Must be employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income of at least $1,500/month and be a current resident of the US or Canada.
LightStream Auto Loans
Quick car loans from $5,000 to $100,000 with competitive rates for borrowers with strong credit.
Good to excellent credit
Flexible terms
Good or excellent credit, enough income or assets to afford a new loan, US citizen or permanent resident, 18+ years old
RateGenius Auto Loan Refinance
Connect with a network of over 150 lenders to refinance your car loan.
510
Varies
Income of $2,000+/month, vehicle has less than 150,000 miles, no older than 10 model years, loan balance is at least $10,000, debt-to-income ratio: less than 50%.
LendingClub Auto Refinancing
Lower your monthly car payments and save on interest through a fast and easy online application process.
Fair or better credit
Minimum of 2 years
Car must be less than 10 years old with fewer than 120,000 miles. Current loan must have a balance between $5,000 and $55,000 and at least 24 months left in its term.
MotoRefi Car Loan Refinancing
A car loan connection service for borrowers looking to refinance.
525
1–6 years
Must have an income of at least $2,000/month and have a vehicle with less than 100,000 miles.
LendingTree Auto Loans
Compare multiple financing options for auto refinance, new car purchase, used car purchase and lease buy out.
Good to excellent credit
Typically 1 to 7 years
Must be a US citizen and 18+ years old. Must have good to excellent credit.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Understanding the prime rate can give you a better idea of how much a variable-rate loan will cost. Since it changes based on the state of the lending market, you could end up either saving or paying a lot more than you would with a fixed-rate loan.

To learn more about how loans work, read our guide to personal loans.

Frequently asked questions

Anna Serio

Anna Serio is a staff writer untangling everything you need to know about personal loans, including student, car and business loans. She spent five years living in Beirut, where she was a news editor for The Daily Star and hung out with a lot of cats. She loves to eat, travel and save money.

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

US Personal Loans Offers

Important Information*
Credible Personal Loans

Get personalized rates in minutes and then choose a loan offer from several top online lenders.

Monevo Personal Loans

Quickly compare multiple online lenders with competitive rates depending on your credit score.

LendingClub Personal Loan

A peer-to-peer lender offering fair rates based on your credit score.

SoFi Personal Loan Fixed Rate (with Autopay)

No fees. Multiple member perks such as community events and career coaching.

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

US Personal Loans Offers

Important Information*
Credible Personal Loans

Get personalized rates in minutes and then choose a loan offer from several top online lenders.

Monevo Personal Loans

Quickly compare multiple online lenders with competitive rates depending on your credit score.

LendingClub Personal Loan

A peer-to-peer lender offering fair rates based on your credit score.

SoFi Personal Loan Fixed Rate (with Autopay)

No fees. Multiple member perks such as community events and career coaching.

Go to site