A Primer on the Prime Rate (2023)

A Primer on the Prime Rate

By Matt Kelley
Portfolio Strategy Manager, ESL Federal Credit Union

In March 2022, the Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed) raised its benchmark federal-funds rate for the first time since 2018. With this rate change, we may have a little understanding of the impact, but we still may be wondering “What does this mean for me?” and “What does this mean for the economy?”


Here are some straight-forward answers, so as rates rise or fall, you’ll know what it means, both for you and the economy.

What are the federal funds rate and the prime rate?

The target federal funds rate, which is set by the Fed, serves as the basis for the prime rate. The federal funds rate is the interest rate commercial banks charge each other for overnight lending. Generally, the prime rate is about 3 percent higher than the federal funds rate. That means that when the Fed raises interest rates, the prime rate also goes up.

The prime rate is the rate at which individual banks and credit unions lend to their customers, including large corporations. It is often used as a benchmark for other loans like credit card and small-business loans.

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The prime rate is generally the lowest rate of interest in which money may be borrowed commercially. Here at ESL, we use the prime rate as a basis to calculate the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on variable rate products including Home Equity Lines of Credit, Credit Cards, and variable rate Business Loans. ESL uses the prime rate as provided in the Eastern print edition of the Wall Street Journal.

How does ESL choose their prime rate?

As the Fed changes rates, the prime rate adjusts with it. ESL uses a widely accepted index, The Wall Street Journal, to determine our prime rate. The Wall Street Journalis the most common source for the Prime Rate index and publishes its rate based on what the top 30 banks in the U.S. list as their prime rate. You can find the current prime rate on the Wall Street Journalwebsite.

Why does the prime rate change?

The Fed sets interest rate targets to manage the economy. As of March 2022, with U.S. unemployment rates at their lowest levels since pre-pandemic and inflation the highest it has been since the early 80s, the Fed is raising rates in an effort to cool the economy and combat inflation. As the U.S. economy irons out supply chain issues, fallout from the Ukraine crisis and faces a tight labor supply, raw material costs, shipping costs and wage pressure are driving up the costs of goods and services (otherwise known as inflation).

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What does it mean for the economy when the federal funds rate and the prime rate go up?

Because the prime rate is so closely tied to the Federal Funds Rate, changes in the prime rate are reflective of the Fed’s position on the economy. Increases in the Federal Funds Rate (and indirectly the prime rate) is seen as monetary “tightening” or “contractionary” policy. This action is consistent when the Fed is attempting to slow the economy and control inflation.

What does it mean for the economy when the prime rate goes down?

When the Fed lowers the Federal Funds Rate, they are lowering the cost in which banks borrow funds from each other. This translates to the rates at which businesses and consumers borrow from banks and the interest rates that banks and other financial institutions pay on deposits. When the Fed lowers the Federal Funds Rate it is attempting to stimulate the economy.

Lowering the Federal Funds Rate is referred to as monetary “easing” and tends to increase aggregate demand for goods and services as well as the employment rate. This can be viewed as inflationary as increased demand and employment lead to higher wage growth and higher prices for goods and services.

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What does this mean for me and my finances?

An increase in the prime rate may increase loan rates for businesses and consumers. At ESL, the Credit Cards, Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC), Business Line of Credit, and Variable Rate Business Term Loan rates are tied to the prime rate, which means as the prime rate increases the rates on these loans will also increase.

Please visit the following pages to see how the prime rate affects ESL loan rates:

(Video) Prime Rate Explained in 1 Minute


What is the prime rate quizlet? ›

What is the prime rate? a. The prime rate is the best interest rate that banks offer their most creditworthy customers.

What is an example of a prime rate? ›

The prime lending rate is usually set 300 basis points above the federal funds rate. For example, if the federal funds rate is 2%, the prime interest rate would be 5%.

How do you explain prime rate? ›

The prime rate is an interest rate determined by individual banks. It is often used as a reference rate (also called the base rate) for many types of loans, including loans to small businesses and credit card loans.

What is the prime rate The prime rate is the best? ›

The prime rate is one of the main factors banks use to determine interest rates on loans. The prime rate is 7.75% today.

What is the prime rate also known as? ›

The prime rate is also referred to as the prime interest rate, prime lending rate or simply prime. You may hear this term thrown around a lot in the financial news or when reading up on loans and mortgages.

What does the prime interest rate affect quizlet? ›

The prime interest rate: affects investment spending while the Federal funds rate affects overnight borrowing of bank reserves.

Is the prime rate a good rate? ›

In effect, the prime rate is the best possible mortgage rate that these financial providers are willing to offer borrowers on any sums lent. However, it's not generally available to average everyday consumers.

What are prime numbers give 5 examples? ›

A prime number is a number that can only be divided by itself and 1 without remainders. What are the prime numbers from 1 to 100? The prime numbers from 1 to 100 are: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59, 61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97.

What happens when the prime rate is high? ›

As prime rates continue to increase, borrowing money becomes more expensive. Individuals trying to get approved for a mortgage, a small business loan, or auto financing will have to take out higher-interest loans.

What is prime short answer? ›

Prime numbers are numbers that have only 2 factors: 1 and themselves. For example, the first 5 prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, and 11. By contrast, numbers with more than 2 factors are call composite numbers.

What is the US prime rate today? ›

The current Bank of America, N.A. prime rate is 7.75% (rate effective as of February 2, 2023).

What does it mean when an answer is prime? ›

This means these numbers cannot be divided by any number other than 1 and the number itself without leaving a remainder. Numbers that have more than 2 factors are known as composite numbers.

What is the interest rate today? ›

Today's national mortgage interest rate trends

For today, Thursday, March 09, 2023, the current average interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage is 7.13%, rising 7 basis points from a week ago.

How often does prime rate change? ›

Every six weeks, the Federal Reserve evaluates the economy and determines if the rate should go up, down, or remain the same. A change in the prime rate can affect credit cards, home equity lines of credit, student loans, and savings accounts.

What is the projected prime rate for 2023? ›

Percent Per Year, Average of Month.
MonthDateForecast Value
0Feb 20237.74
1Mar 20237.81
2Apr 20238.00
3May 20238.23
5 more rows
7 days ago

What affects prime rate? ›

How is the prime rate determined? The prime rate isn't determined by the Fed, but instead by individual banks. However, the prime rate is influenced by something called the federal funds rate, which is set by the Federal Open Market Committee consisting of twelve Fed members.

Who controls the prime rate? ›

How Is the Prime Rate Determined? The Federal Reserve doesn't determine the prime rate directly. Instead, it is set by individual banks with influence from what's known as the federal funds target rate, which is the target for the interest rate banks charge each other for short-term loans.

Why is the prime rate rising? ›

The Federal Reserve can raise the fed funds target rate to temporarily curb economic growth, which can serve to lower inflation over time. A rise in the fed funds rate causes a rise in the prime rate as well, which negatively affects the ability of all businesses and consumers to obtain credit at a low rate.

How does raising the prime interest rate affect inflation? ›

Even so, interest rate hikes are known as the central bank's one major tool to lower inflation, which it does by raising the cost of borrowing money to curb the demand for goods and services. Economists won't know until later if the Fed's moves were successful or not.

Why does raising the prime interest rate help inflation? ›

“Raising interest rates helps to reduce the overall level of demand and therefore, hopefully, reduces the upward pressure on prices,” says Gapen. So why might this cause a recession? In the long run, businesses may respond to consumers purchasing fewer goods and services by reducing production, explains Gapen.

How does the prime rate affect the economy? ›

The prime rate also affects liquidity in the financial markets. A low rate increases liquidity by making loans less expensive and easier to get. 5 When prime lending rates are low, businesses expand, and so does the economy. Similarly, when rates are high, liquidity dries up, and the economy slows down.

What is the highest prime rate has ever been? ›

What was the highest prime rate? The highest prime rate was 21.5%, reached on December 19, 1980.

Will interest rates go down in 2023? ›

The economy is likely to slow over the coming months, and as a result, mortgage rates will still end up lower than what they currently are by the end of 2023, Channel said. They aren't likely to plummet, but Channel said he expects they'll land somewhere closer to 5.5% than 6.5%.

Are prime rates going up? ›

The prime rate will rise by a quarter of a percentage point to 7.75%. Interest rates tied to the prime rate, including those for home equity lines of credit, will go up by 0.25%, too. But mortgage rates won't necessarily follow.

How to find a prime number? ›

How do you know a prime number? If a number has only two factors 1 and itself, then the number is prime. Hence, by prime factorisation of the given number, we can easily determine a prime number.

What are the main prime numbers? ›

A prime number is a whole number greater than 1 whose only factors are 1 and itself. A factor is a whole number that can be divided evenly into another number. The first few prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23 and 29. Numbers that have more than two factors are called composite numbers.

How many prime numbers are? ›

All these numbers are divisible by only 1 and the number itself. Hence, these numbers are called prime numbers. Also, these are the first 25 prime numbers.
Prime Numbers between 1 and 100
Prime numbers between 1 and 102, 3, 5, 7
Prime numbers between 30 and 4031, 37
Prime numbers between 40 and 5041, 43, 47
7 more rows

What happens when the prime rate drops? ›

A decrease in the prime rate encourages more consumers to borrow money by making borrowing cheaper. Increases in the rate, however, raise the cost of consumer loans unless banks reduce their profit margins enough to make up the difference.

Why is it called a prime? ›

This is one of the standard meanings of our 'prime' or 'primary. ' In fact the English word 'prime' is from the Latin word for first: 'primus. ' In a multiplicative sense prime numbers are thus the first numbers, the numbers from which the other numbers all arise (through multiplication).

What is prime used for? ›

Primes are used in several routines in information technology, such as public-key cryptography, which relies on the difficulty of factoring large numbers into their prime factors. In abstract algebra, objects that behave in a generalized way like prime numbers include prime elements and prime ideals.

What is a prime and why is it important? ›

Prime numbers are one of the most basic topics of study in the branch of mathematics called number theory. Primes are numbers that can only be evenly divided by themselves and 1. For example, 7 is a prime number since I'm left with a remainder or a fractional component if I divide 7 by anything other than itself or 1.

What was the highest interest rate in US history? ›

Interest Rate in the United States averaged 5.42 percent from 1971 until 2023, reaching an all time high of 20.00 percent in March of 1980 and a record low of 0.25 percent in December of 2008.

What was the highest mortgage rates in history? ›

The Federal Reserve combated inflation by increasing the federal funds rate, an overnight benchmark rate that banks charge each other. Continued hikes in the fed funds rate pushed mortgage rates to an all-time high of 18.45% in 1981.

What was the prime rate last month? ›

Basic Info. Bank Prime Loan Rate is at 7.74%, compared to 7.50% last month and 3.25% last year.

Does prime mean before or after? ›

7. Prime, primeval, primitive have reference to that which is first. Prime means first in numerical order or order of development: prime meridian; prime cause.

How do you answer prime factors? ›

The simplest algorithm to find the prime factors of a number is to keep on dividing the original number by prime factors until we get the remainder equal to 1. For example, prime factorizing the number 30 we get, 30/2 = 15, 15/3 = 5, 5/5 = 1. Since we received the remainder, it cannot be further factorized.

Is prime positive or negative? ›

Answer One: No.

By the usual definition of prime for integers, negative integers can not be prime. By this definition, primes are integers greater than one with no positive divisors besides one and itself.

How long will interest rates stay high? ›

However, many industry experts believe within 18 to 24 months rates will be back to a more 'palatable' level. Somewhere like 2.5% to 3.5% for example.

Will interest rates keep going up? ›

Bottom line. The Federal Reserve is continuing to raise its benchmark interest rate. That means rates for mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, and savings accounts are likely to continue increasing.

Who has the cheapest mortgage rates? ›

Best conventional mortgage rates
  • Bank of America: 2.79%
  • Better Mortgage: 2.86%
  • AmeriSave: 2.91%
  • Citizens Bank: 2.99%
  • Home Point FInancial: 3.01%
  • Chase Bank: 3.01%
  • loanDepot: 3.01%
  • Rocket Mortgage: 3.03%
Aug 12, 2022

Can you negotiate prime rate? ›

If the prime rate is set to increase steadily, it may be best to lock into a fixed-rate mortgage. The key thing to remember is that you have options. No matter how mortgage rates are determined, you can negotiate for better terms to ensure you get the home financing that is best for you.

What will prime rate be next year? ›

Basic Info. US Prime Rate Forecast is at 5.75%, compared to 5.75% last quarter and 5.75% last year. This is lower than the long term average of 5.82%.

How high will interest go in 2023? ›

Markets now view it as probable that the Fed Funds rate reaches 5.25% to 5.50% in 2023.

What will interest rates be in September 2023? ›

Yes, as expected, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted for a 0.5% increase, taking rates to 3.5%. This slows the pace of tightening from their 0.75% hike in November.

How high could interest rates go in 2023? ›

In its fiscal forecast, published in November 2022, the OBR predicted that the Bank Rate would rise from 1.6% in Quarter 3 2022 to 4.8% in Quarter 3 2023 and 4.5% in Quarter 3 2024.

What is the prime rate in economics? ›

What Is the Prime Rate? The term prime rate refers to the interest rate that commercial banks charge their most creditworthy customers. The Federal Reserve (Fed) sets the federal funds overnight rate which serves as the basis for the prime rate, which is the starting point for other interest rates.

What is prime rate vs Fed rate? ›

The target federal funds rate, which is set by the Fed, serves as the basis for the prime rate. The federal funds rate is the interest rate commercial banks charge each other for overnight lending. Generally, the prime rate is about 3 percent higher than the federal funds rate.

What is prime rate vs interest rate? ›

The prime rate represents the base interest rate that a bank will lend money for in order to cover the overnight rate as well as account for their own operating costs. This does not mean that this rate is the actual rate that customers will be offered, but it serves as the basis for the interest rate they are offered.

What is the prime plus rate? ›

Prime Plus Rate means (a) a rate which is two percent (2%) above the annual rate of interest published daily in The Wall Street Journal as the “Prime Rate (base rate on corporate loans posted by at least 75% of the nation's 30 largest banks)” or if such publication or reference is no longer published, (a) such other ...

Why is prime rate important? ›

Serving as a helpful financial benchmark for lending institutions, the prime rate is used as an underlying index to determine consumer interest rates and the costs associated with borrowing money via credit cards, lines of credit, car loans, home equity loans and home mortgages.

What is the highest the prime rate has ever been in the United States? ›

The highest prime rate in history was on December 19, 1980, standing at a record-breaking 21.5%. The Federal Reserve set the federal funds rate guidance to sustain the 21.5% prime rate until January 1, 1981. By contrast, the lowest prime rate in history was set on March 16, 2020, at 3.25%.

Why do banks use prime rate? ›

The prime rate, in turn, is based on the federal funds rate. Also known as The Wall Street Journal prime rate or the U.S. Prime Rate, it's a benchmark set and used by financial institutions to determine how much interest to charge a bank's customers on loans. Typically, it's about 3% higher than the federal funds rate.

What makes prime interest rates rise? ›

The Federal Reserve can raise the fed funds target rate to temporarily curb economic growth, which can serve to lower inflation over time. A rise in the fed funds rate causes a rise in the prime rate as well, which negatively affects the ability of all businesses and consumers to obtain credit at a low rate.

Is prime a good interest rate? ›

The prime rate is the best interest rate you can get, and it's influenced by the economy. When you apply for a financial product, including credit cards, personal loans and auto loans, lenders will charge you interest based on what kind of risk you pose to them.


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