One way investors borrow funds from brokerages is through margin accounts, and it is the interest charges on these accounts that allow them to charge such low commission rates.

How do we calculate the interest charges? Well, each brokerage has a different method of calculation, so you should speak to your broker directly. However, you can use this formula as a general rule:

Interest=(Rate365)×Principal×Termwhere:Rate=Interest rate per yearPrincipal=Amount borrowedTerm=Number of days borrowing\begin{aligned} &\text{Interest} = \left ( \frac { \text{Rate} }{ 365 } \right ) \times \text{Principal} \times \text{Term} \\ &\textbf{where:}\\ &\text{Rate} = \text{Interest rate per year}\\ &\text{Principal} = \text{Amount borrowed}\\ &\text{Term} = \text{Number of days borrowing}\\ \end{aligned}Interest=(365Rate)×Principal×Termwhere:Rate=Interest rate per yearPrincipal=Amount borrowedTerm=Number of days borrowing

The easiest way to find out how much you have borrowed is to take the equity in your account and subtract it by the market value. If you have a negative amount, this will be the amount you owe. If it is equal to zero, then you owe nothing, and if it is positive, you will have cash that you should invest somewhere else or take out of the margin account, as it generally doesn't pay much interest.

Once again, this is a general approach and does not necessarily reflect the policy of all brokerages. If you want to find out the exact calculations, you're going to have to give them a call.

For further reading on this subject, see our tutorial on Margin Trading.