What is the 'Bank Discount Rate'

The bank discount rate is the interest rate for short-term money-market instruments like commercial paper and Treasury bills. The bank discount rate is based on the instrument's par value and the amount of the discount.

The bank discount rate is the required rate of return of a safe investment guaranteed by the bank.

BREAKING DOWN 'Bank Discount Rate'

Some securities are issued at a discount to par, meaning that investors can purchase these securities at a price lower than the stated par value. For example, Treasury bills, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, are pure discount securities. These short-term non-interest bearing money market instruments do not pay coupons, but investors can purchase them at a discount and receive the full face value of the T-bill at maturity. For example, a Treasury bill is issued for $95. At maturity, the debtholders will receive the face value of $100. The difference between the discount purchase price and the par value is the dollar rate of return. This is the rate at which the central bank discounts Treasury bills, and it is referred to as the bank discount rate.

The bank discount rate method is the primary method used for calculating the interest earned on non-coupon discount investments. It is important to note that the bank discount rate factors in simple interest, not compound interest. In addition, the bank discount rate is discounted relative to the par value, and not relative to the purchase price. For example, assume a commercial paper matures in 270 days with a face value of $1,000 and a purchase price of $970.

First, divide the difference between the purchase value and the par value by the par value.

($1,000 - $970)/$1,000 = 0.03, or 3%

Next, divide 360 days by the number of days left to maturity. To simplify calculations when determining the bank discount rate, a 360-day year is often used.

360/270 = 1.33

Finally, multiply both figures calculated above together.

3% x 1.33 = 3.99%

The bank discount rate is, therefore, 3.99%.

Following our example above, the formula for calculating the bank discount rate is:

Bank Discount Rate = (Dollar Discount/Face Value) x (360/Time to Maturity)

Since the formula uses 360 days instead of 365 days or 366 days in a year, the bank discount rate calculated will be lower than the actual yield you receive on your short-term money market investment. The rate should, therefore, not be used as an exact measurement of the yield that will be received.

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