What is Foolsaurus?

It's a glossary of investing terms edited and maintained by our analysts, writers and YOU, our Foolish community.

Prime rate

The prime rate is the interest rate banks charge on loans to their most credit-worthy borrowers, usually large, stable businesses. The rate is almost always the same among major banks.

Expanded Definition

A prime rate by any other name might be a prime lending rate, the U.S. prime rate, or The Wall Street Journal prime rate. Check the Journal or other financial publications to find the day's rate, a benchmark that serves as the starting point for interest rates charged on things such as home-equity loans and credit cards. Here's some wonkery on why the venerable Journal gets to claim the rate: The WSJ keeps track of the interest rates that the 30 largest U.S. banks are charging their most credit-worthy customers. The lenders generally have the same prime rate -- based on the federal funds rate -- and the Journal changes the rate when at least three-quarters of the banks polled change their rates.

Borrowers want to pay attention to the 'prime plus' phrases. A sirloin steak deemed prime + 10 might perk up your taste buds more than one rated just prime + 3, but that reasoning is turned on its head when shopping for loans. A loan offered at prime + 2, for instance, would have an interest rate of the prime rate plus 2 percentage points. Loans can be made for interest rates lower than the prime rate.

Related Fool Articles

Related Terms

Recent Mentions on Fool.com