 Basis Points (bps)

What it is:

A basis point is the smallest measure used in quoting yields on fixed income products. Basis points also pertain to interest rates. One basis point is equal to one one-hundredth of one percentage point (0.01%). Therefore, 100 basis points would be equivalent to 1%.

How it works (Example):

An interest rate of 5% is 50 basis points greater than an interest rate of 4.5%. The difference between 12.83% and 12.88% is five basis points.

When you read a headline such as "The Federal Reserve cut interest rates by 25 basis points," this means that Fed lowered rates by 0.25%. In finance, basis points are often written as "bps" and prounounced "beeps" or simply "points."

Why it Matters:

The term basis points avoids the ambiguity in discussions about rates. Confusion could arise in a statement such as, "a 1% increase from a 10% interest rate." The 1% increase could be interpretted as either an increase from 10% to 10.1% (relative) or 10% to 11% (absolute).

Using basis points clarifies the amount in question. The statement, "... a 100 basis point increase" would signal that the rate has increased from 10% to 11%.