For borrowers, understanding the distinctions between APR vs. interest rate can mean the difference between securing an affordable loan or spending too much in the long run. Both APR and interest rates determine how much a loan will cost. However, they encompass diverse aspects of that total cost.

    When comparing APR and interest rate, it’s important to know what they each mean and how they can affect the total cost of borrowing. Is APR the same as the interest rate? While they’re similar, they measure different financial factors, with the APR being arguably more important because it provides a holistic view of the cost of a loan.

    Many use interest rate and APR interchangeably, but they’re different from one another. So, what is the difference between interest rate and APR? Keep reading to learn about the disparities between these two rates and how you can use these numbers to determine the total cost of borrowing.


    • APR and interest rate provide an understanding of loan costs, but APR offers a broader picture by including fees and other charges. 
    • The interest rate directly reflects the cost of borrowing the principal loan amount. 
    • Borrowers should pay close attention to APR to better understand a loan’s true cost. 
    • APR and interest rates, though related, serve different purposes in loan calculations.

    What Is APR?

    Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a comprehensive reflection of the cost of borrowing. The APR on a mortgage loan encompasses the interest rate plus other fees associated with the loan. Therefore, the APR on a loan provides a more accurate representation of the loan’s total annual cost.

    For instance, consider two loans, both of which offer a 5% interest rate. However, one has additional fees and the other doesn’t. While their interest rates are identical, their APRs will differ. The loan with fees will have a higher APR, indicating to borrowers that it may be more expensive.

    How is APR calculated?

    APR is calculated by multiplying the monthly (or periodic) interest rate by the number of periods in a year before loan fees are added.

    For instance, say you have a loan with a monthly interest rate of 1%. The yearly rate would be 12% (the periodic rate multiplied by the number of months in the year = 1% x 12). If annual fees amount to 2% of the loan, the APR would be 14% (12% interest + 2% fees).

    While an interest rate on a loan might seem attractive, the APR accounts for fees and other charges to help borrowers understand the actual cost of their loan.

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    What Is Interest Rate?

    The interest rate is the primary cost associated with borrowing money, representing the expense of borrowing the principal amount of a loan or the return on investment for savings accounts and other assets.

    In mortgage lending, the interest rate is the percentage of the principal loan amount lenders charge for the privilege of borrowing money.

    How are interest rates calculated?

    Interest rates are calculated on an annual basis. Depending on the loan’s terms, interest might be compounded, affecting the total amount of interest paid. The interest rate is applied to the principal amount, which is the initial amount borrowed.

    The interest for a specific period is added to the principal, increasing the total amount owed unless payments are made to reduce the principal.

    Let’s say you take out a loan of $1,000 with an annual interest rate of 10%. If the interest rate is simple (doesn’t compound) at the end of the year, you would owe $100 ($1,000 x .10). Therefore, without making payments toward the principal, you would owe $1,100 (the principal + interest).

    The calculation is more complex when dealing with compounding interest. The interest is added to the principal at regular intervals, making the principal grow larger as interest grows.

    APR vs. Interest Rate: How They Affect Your Mortgage Loan

    When researching mortgage loans, interest rate vs. APR are two of the most important terms to understand because they affect the actual cost of borrowing. This is true whether you’re looking at conventional mortgages, VA loan rates, or other specialized mortgage products.

    The interest rate and APR can affect how much your loan will cost throughout its life while determining your monthly mortgage payment. The main difference between APR and interest rate is that APR represents the cost over the life of the loan, including the interest rate. In contrast, the interest rate is simply the cost of borrowing that influences your monthly payments.

    The interest rate primarily determines how much you pay monthly toward the loan, whether it’s a credit card purchase or a home equity loan. If you’re considering your immediate monthly expenses, the interest rate is what you might choose to focus on. A higher interest rate means a higher monthly payment, and vice versa. It also means paying more over the life of the loan.

    APR and interest rates also impact long-term costs. While the interest rate determines monthly payments, the APR provides a more comprehensive view of the mortgage’s total cost over the loan’s entire life. APR includes the interest rate, broker fees, discount points, and other charges to help you understand what you’ll pay for a particular loan.

    Cheerful millennial couple assessing APR vs. interest rate.

    If you want to comprehend the entire mortgage cost, APR is typically the better measurement for providing a bigger picture. This number is especially important if you plan to stay in your home for a long time. Over the span of 30 years, even a small difference in APR can result in significant cost differences.

    On the other hand, the interest rate is typically used for determining monthly budgets and short-term planning. However, you should look at both numbers when comparing lenders and mortgage programs. Some lenders might offer a low-interest rate but compensate with higher fees, increasing the APR. Conversely, a higher interest rate with minimal fees might result in a lower APR. Using both numbers can help you accurately assess the difference between your options and balance short- and long-term costs.

    Keep in mind that adjustable-rate and fixed-rate mortgages have different interest dynamics over the life of the loan. The interest rate and APR can affect how much your loan will cost throughout its life while determining your monthly payment. However, a fixed-rate mortgage will make your monthly payments more predictable, allowing for better budgeting.

    Secure Competitive Mortgage Rates with Griffin Funding

    Securing a mortgage is a significant decision that can affect your financial health. By understanding interest rate and APR, borrowers can make more informed choices.

    Speak with mortgage experts from Griffin Funding to become a homeowner. We offer solutions tailored to your unique needs while providing unmatched transparency. With clarity on interest rates and APR, we ensure you understand and are comfortable with your mortgage decisions. Apply online today or contact us to learn more.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Are APRs more important than interest rates?

    While interest rates demonstrate the immediate cost of borrowing, APRs offer a more comprehensive view of the total cost of the loan by encompassing interest rates and other associated fees. APRs are typically better for a more detailed understanding of a loan's true cost. However, APRs and interest rates should be considered when assessing a mortgage loan's impact on your finances.

    Are APRs higher than interest rates?

    Yes, APRs are higher than interest rates because they account for interest rates and other costs associated with the loan. This provides a more comprehensive view of the total cost of the loan over its life. Factoring fees like broker charges, loan origination fees, and other transaction charges increase the percentage, so APR is often considered a more accurate representation of a loan's cost.

    How do you get the best APR and interest rate?

    Getting the best APR and interest rate can minimize borrowing costs. One factor that affects interest rates is credit score. Lenders reserve competitive interest rates for those with the highest credit scores because it indicates reliability and a lower risk of default. Regularly checking your credit report, ensuring timely payments on credit accounts, and reducing your outstanding debts can increase your credit score to help you get the best rates. 

    Of course, interest rate and APR aren't the only cost factors to consider. The terms of the loan can also influence how much you pay over the life of the loan and every month. For instance, a lower rate for a longer period might cost more than a slightly higher rate for a shorter term. 

    Finding the right balance between loan terms, interest rates, and APR can help you make the right decision based on your unique circumstances.
    Bill Lyons

    Bill Lyons is the Founder, CEO & President of Griffin Funding. Founded in 2013, Griffin Funding is a national boutique mortgage lender focusing on delivering 5-star service to its clients. Mr. Lyons has 22 years of experience in the mortgage business. Lyons is seen as an industry leader and expert in real estate finance. Lyons has been featured in Forbes, Inc., Wall Street Journal, HousingWire, and more. As a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association, Lyons is able to keep up with important changes in the industry to deliver the most value to Griffin's clients. Under Lyons' leadership, Griffin Funding has made the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies list five times in its 10 years in business.