What Is a Bullet?

A bullet is a one-time lump-sum repayment of an outstanding loan, typically made by the borrower. This term can also refer to a loan that requires a disproportionately substantial portion, or all of the loan to be repaid at maturity. A bullet is also the name of an investment strategy for corporations and governments to issue bonds in a variety of maturities.

Finally, a bullet is also slang for a letter of rejection sent to job applicants. 

Breaking Down Bullet

A bullet, in the context of mortgages, is an unofficial term. Other terms for the bullet loan structure include balloon loans or balloon payments. A bullet loan requires the principal of the loan to be paid in full when the loan matures. With this type of loan, borrowers may have the option to make no payments during the life of the loan. Alternately, they could make interest-only payments, thus reducing the lump-sum amount due at maturity.

Loans can also have provisions built into them upon issuance to allow borrowers to make a one-time lump-sum repayment of the loan at their discretion. This option can prove useful for borrowers, especially if their financial situation significantly changes for the better shortly after the issuance of the note. For example, an early lump-sum repayment can considerably lower the interest expense accrued over the course of the loan.

Bullet Loans Versus Amortizing Loans

Bullet loans differ from amortizing loans in both the terms of interest and in the method of payments. With amortization, regular, scheduled submissions include both interest and principal. In this way, the loan is entirely paid off at maturity. 

In contrast, bullet loans may require extremely inexpensive, interest-only payments, or no payments at all, until maturity. At maturity, the entire loan requires repayment. The monthly payments on an amortized loan may be higher. However, the interest accrued on the note is often much lower than it would be with a bullet loan.

Bullet as a Bond Issue

A bullet bond is a debt instrument whose entire principal value is paid all at once on the maturity date, as opposed to amortizing the bond over its lifetime. Bullet bonds cannot be redeemed early by an issuer, which means they are non-callable. Because of this, bullet bonds may pay a relatively low rate of interest due to the issuer's interest rate exposure.

A bullet bond is considered riskier than an amortizing bond because it gives the issuer a large repayment obligation on a single date rather than a series of smaller repayment obligations. 

The Rejection Letter Bullet

In the slang context, companies typically send out bullet letters once they have filled the position they had available. In cases where the bullet letter denies an interview, it is once the company has chosen its interview pool. In other cases, a company may state in the job advertisement that it will only contact applicants selected for an interview.