What Is Call Money (aka Money at Call) in Lending and Banking?

Call Money

NoNo Flores / Investopedia

What Is Call Money?

Call money, also known as money at call, is a short-term financial loan that is payable immediately, and in full, when the lender demands it. Unlike a term loan, which has a set maturity and payment schedule, call money does not have to follow a fixed schedule, nor does the lender have to provide any advance notice of repayment.

Key Takeaways

  • Call money is any type of short-term, interest-earning financial loan that the borrower has to pay back immediately whenever the lender demands it.
  • Call money allows banks to earn interest, known as the call loan rate, on their surplus funds.
  • Call money is typically used by brokerage firms for short-term funding needs.

Understanding Call Money

Call money is a short-term, interest-paying loan made by a financial institution to another financial institution. Due to the short-term nature of the loan, it does not feature regular principal and interest payments, like longer-term loans typically do. The interest charged on a call loan between financial institutions is referred to as the call loan rate.

Brokerages use call money as a short-term source of funding to maintain margin accounts for the benefit of their customers who wish to leverage their investments. The funds can move quickly between lenders and brokerage firms. For this reason, it is the second most liquid asset that may appear on a balance sheet, behind cash.

If the lending bank calls the funds, then the broker can issue a margin call, which will typically result in the automatic sale of securities in a client’s account (to convert the securities to cash) to make the repayment to the bank. Margin rates, or the interest charged on the loans used to purchase securities, vary based on the call money rate set by banks.

Borrowing on margin can increase losses for investors if the stock or security declines in value.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Call Money

Call money is an important component of money markets. It has several special features: as a funds management vehicle over an extremely short period, as an easily reversible transaction, and as a means to manage the balance sheet.

Dealing in call money allows banks the opportunity to earn interest on surplus funds. On the counterparty side, brokerages understand that they are taking on additional risk by using funds that can be called at any time, so they typically use call money for short-term transactions that will be resolved quickly.

The transaction cost is low, in that it is done bank to bank without the use of a broker. It helps to smooth the fluctuations and contributes to the maintenance of proper liquidity and reserves, as required by banking regulations. It also allows the bank to hold a higher reserve-to-deposit ratio than would be possible otherwise, allowing for greater efficiency and profitability.

The call money rate can be found under “Money Rates” in The Wall Street Journal.

Call Money vs. Short-Notice Money

Call money and short-notice money are similar, as both are short-term loans between financial institutions. Call money must be repaid immediately when called by the lender. In contrast, short-notice money is repayable up to 14 days after notice is given by the lender. Short-notice money is also considered to be a highly liquid asset, trailing cash and call money on the balance sheet.

How Does a Margin Account Work?

A margin account is a brokerage account that allows an investor to use cash or securities held in the account as collateral for a loan to purchase an investment. Margin refers to the money borrowed and is the difference between the total value of an investment and the amount of the loan. If the investment suffers a loss, the investor may be subject to a margin call, which means that the securities bought will be liquidated.

What Are Call Loan Rates?

The call loan rate is the short-term interest rate charged on a call loan between financial institutions. The rate typically changes daily and is published in The Wall Street Journal.

Are Call Money and Money at Call the Same?

The terms “call money” and “money at call” mean the same thing. They both refer to short-term loans that a borrower has to pay back in full whenever the lender requests.

The Bottom Line

Call money is any kind of short-term, interest-earning loan that you have to pay back as soon as the lender demands it. Call money helps banks earn a call loan rate on their surplus funds. It's generally used by brokerages for short-term funding needs.

Article Sources
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  1. Bank for International Settlements. “Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems: A Glossary of Terms Used in Payments and Settlement Systems,” Page 10 (Page 12 of PDF).

  2. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. “The Tools and Transmission of Federal Reserve Monetary Policy in the 1920s.”

  3. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “Investor Bulletin: Understanding Margin Accounts.”

  4. Oxford Reference. “Money at Call and Short Notice.”

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