What is 'Refinance'

A refinance occurs when a business or person revises a payment schedule for repaying debt. Mechanically, the old loan is paid off and replaced with a new loan offering different terms. When a company refinances, it typically extends the maturity date. Companies or individuals refinancing loans may have to pay a penalty or fee.


The most common forms of consumer debt are mortgages, car loans and student loans. The borrower agrees to make certain payments based on a rate of interest. Companies operate the same way. The most common types of corporate loans are term loans, bonds and lines of credit. The company agrees to the terms of each loan type, and the bank lends it money. Terms provide the details of the loan and specify the interest rate, payment amount and payment date(s).

When the terms of the loan are revised in a way that changes the payments associated with the loan, the loan has been refinanced. In a refinanced loan, the old loan is paid off with the new loan, and the old terms are replaced with new terms. Some loan terms come with fees associated with prepaying, which makes refinancing less rewarding. The most common changes in loan terms are maturity date and interest rate.

Why Refinance

Borrowers refinance for myriad reasons. A common goal is to pay less interest over the life of the loan. Borrowers may also want to change the duration of the loan or switch from a fixed-rate to an adjustable-rate mortgage, or vice versa. The reasons and motivations behind refinancing a loan are as varied as the loan types offered.

Refinance Loan Types

There are several different types of refinancing options. The type of loan a borrower decides on is dependent on the needs of the borrower. The most common type of refinancing is called the rate-and-term. This occurs when the original loan is paid and replaced with a new loan. Another type of refinancing is the cash-out. Cash-outs are common when the underlying asset collateralizing the loan increases in value. The transaction involves withdrawing the value or equity in the asset in exchange for a higher amount. In other words, when an asset increases in value on paper, you can gain access to that value with a loan rather than selling it. This option increases the total loan amount but gives the borrower access to cash immediately while still maintaining ownership of the asset. Another refinancing option is referred to as the cash-in. The cash-in refinance allows the borrower to pay down the loan for a lower loan-to-value ratio or smaller loan payments.