A:

The difference between a zero-coupon bond and a regular bond is that a zero-coupon bond does not pay coupons, or interest payments, to the bondholder while a typical bond does make these interest payments. The holder of a zero-coupon bond only receives the face value of the bond at maturity. The holder of a coupon paying bond receives the face value of the bond at maturity but is also paid coupons over the life of the bond.

Zero-coupon bondholders gain on the difference between what they pay for the bond and the amount they will receive at maturity. Zero-coupon bonds are purchased at a large discount, known as deep discount, to the face value of the bond. A coupon-paying bond will initially trade near the price of its face value. In other words, a zero-coupon bond gains from the difference between the purchase price and the face value, while the coupon bond gains from the regular distribution of interest.

For example, imagine that you have the choices between a one-year zero-coupon bond with a face value of $1,000, which can be purchased for $952.38 or a one-year 5% semi-annual coupon bond trading at its face value of $1,000. If you bought the zero-coupon bond for $952.38, you would receive $1,000 at maturity, which is a gain of 5% ($47.62/$952.38). If you bought the coupon bond, you would have received two coupon payments of $25 each during the year for a total of $50, which also represents a 5% gain ($50/$1,000). So in this case, no matter which bond you buy, you will get the same return, even though the source of the return is different. This is not always true, as each case is different.

RELATED FAQS
  1. How do debit spreads impact the trading of options?

    A bond's coupon rate is the percentage of its face value payable as interest each year. A bond with a coupon rate of zero, ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do I convert a spot rate to a forward rate?

    Think of the relationship between spot and forward rates in the same way as the relationship between discounted present value ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Do mutual funds invest only in stocks?

    Mutual funds invest in stocks, but certain types also invest in government and corporate bonds. Stocks are subject to the ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What is the relationship between the current yield and risk?

    The general relationship between current yield and risk is that they increase in correlation to one another. A higher current ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How does the bond market react to changes in the Federal Funds Rate?

    The bond market is highly sensitive to changes in the federal funds rate. When the Federal Reserve increases the federal ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How do I use the holding period return yield to evaluate my bond portfolio?

    The holding period return yield formula can be used to compare the yields of different bonds in your portfolio over a given ... Read Full Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Bonds & Fixed Income

    Calculating Yield to Worst

    Yield to worst is the lowest possible yield on a bond that may be called in the future.
  2. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: iShares Cali AMT-Free Muni Bond

    Learn more about the iShares California AMT-Free Municipal Bond exchange-traded fund, a popular tax-advantaged ETF that dominates its category.
  3. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: iShares Floating Rate Bond

    Explore detailed analysis and information of the iShares Floating Rate Bond ETF, and learn how to use this ETF as a defense against rising interest rates.
  4. Term

    Understanding Total Returns

    Total return measures the rate of return earned from an investment over a period of time.
  5. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: Vanguard Intermediate-Term Corp Bd

    Learn about the Vanguard Intermediate-Term Corporate Bond ETF, and explore detailed analysis of the fund's characteristics, risks and historical statistics.
  6. Technical Indicators

    Use Market Volume Data to Determine a Bottom

    Market bottoms often carve out classic volume patterns that let observant traders make fast and accurate calls.
  7. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: iShares National AMT-Free Muni Bond

    Take an in-depth look at the iShares National AMT-Free Municipal Bond ETF, a highly diverse and very popular muni bond fund.
  8. Investing News

    Fund Firm Jolts: Pimco's Isn't The First Or Worst

    When you business is built on prudence and trust, a lot can go wrong to cost you tons of clients and assets. Here are a few examples.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: iShares JPMorgan USD Emerg Markets Bond

    Learn about the iShares JPMorgan USD Emerging Markets Bond fund, which invests in bonds of sovereign and quasi-sovereign entities from emerging markets.
  10. Investing Basics

    What is a Settlement Date?

    A settlement date is the day a security trade must be settled.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Yield To Maturity (YTM)

    The total return anticipated on a bond if the bond is held until ...
  2. Discount Bond

    A bond that is issued for less than its par (or face) value, ...
  3. Credit Rating

    An assessment of the credit worthiness of a borrower in general ...
  4. Long-Term Debt

    Long-term debt consists of loans and financial obligations lasting ...
  5. Accelerated Return Note (ARN)

    A short- to medium-term debt instrument that offers a potentially ...
  6. Next Generation Fixed Income (NGFI) Manager

    A Next Generation Fixed Income (NGFI) manager is a fixed income ...

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!