The term annual percentage rate (APR), also called nominal APR, and the term effective APR, also called EAR, describes the interest rate for a whole year (annualized), rather than just a monthly fee/rate, as applied on a loan, mortgage loan, credit card, etc.
It is a finance charge expressed as an annual rate. Those terms have formal, legal definitions in some countries or legal jurisdictions, but in general:
- The nominal APR is the simple-interest rate (for a year).
- The effective APR is the fee+compound interest rate (calculated across a year).
In some areas, the annual percentage rate (APR) is the simplified counterpart to the effective interest rate that the borrower will pay on a loan. When not using the term "effective APR", the use of "APR" is an early term for nominal APR. In many countries and jurisdictions, lenders (such as banks) are required to disclose the "cost" of borrowing in some standardized way as a form of consumer protection. APR is intended to make it easier to compare lenders and loan options. The APR is likely to differ from the "note rate" or "headline rate" advertised by the lender, due to the addition of other fees that may need to be included in the APR. APRs can be found by asking the lender or by reading the appropriate section in the contract.
In the U.S. and the UK, lenders are required to disclose the APR before the loan (or credit application) is finalized (although the definition of "APR" is not the same in the two countries-–see below). Credit card companies can advertise monthly interest rates, but they are required to clearly state the annual percentage rate before an agreement is signed. APR is a term used with regard to deposit accounts as well. However, when dealing with deposit accounts, the annual percentage yield (APY) or annual equivalent rate (AER) is quoted to consumers for comparison purposes.
There are at least three ways of computing effective annual percentage rate:
- by compounding the interest rate for each year, without considering fees;
- origination fees are added to the balance due, and the total amount is treated as the basis for computing compound interest;
- the origination fees are amortized as a short-term loan. This loan is due in the first payment(s), and the unpaid balance is amortized as a second long-term loan. The extra first payment(s) is dedicated to primarily paying origination fees and interest charges on that portion.