What is the Difference Between Principal and Interest?

What is the Difference Between Principal and Interest?

If you have come across loans before, then you have probably come across specialized expressions that may not be clear to everyone. The loan agreement contains many definitions and terms studied only at the Faculty of Economics.

For an ordinary person, there is no instant answer to the question: “what is the difference between principal and interest?”. So let’s deal with these and other terms in this article.

Brief Glossary of Terms

Shania Brenson, co-founder & financial expert at 15M Finance, says not everyone who deals with loans needs to understand the terminology. Instead, the task of a good service is to explain to your client all the details and answer questions, as they do at 15M Finance.

However, it will be good if you understand the terms by reading your loan agreement before you sign it, and you do not have to waste time asking questions and clarifications.

So, what is principal vs. interest, and what is the difference between them?


The principal in finance means the amount of money you initially borrowed or received in your hands or your bank account. The principal is the amount you will need to pay back; however, you will not have to pay it alone, taking into account interest.

How to find the principal amount? P = I / (RT), or the interest amount divided by the interest rate times, is the formula for determining the principal amount when there is simple interest.


Interest is essentially your payment for using someone else’s money.

There are zero-interest loans, and you can borrow money from friends or colleagues at no interest rate, but banks, credit unions, and direct lenders always have an interest rate in a loan.

The amount of interest depends on many factors, including the amount of the loan, the term of the loan, and the level of your credit score. Borrowers with bad credit have to pay higher interest rates.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

When you borrow money, you may come across the term APR, which stands for annual percentage rate. For example, if your loan had a 10% APR, you would pay $10 for every $100 you borrowed yearly.

Interest Payment

The sum of money included in your monthly payment that is allocated to cover interest costs is referred to as the interest payment.

Principal Payment

A principal payment is a payment that reduces your debt, the original amount you borrowed.

In accounting, every payment that actively lowers the balance owed on loan is referred to as a “principal payment.” A principal payment entails lowering the amount owing owed, as opposed to certain payments that just manage the interest paid on loan.

Principal Balance

The whole outstanding balance of this sum, excluding interest, is referred to as the principal balance. The principal is the amount you initially borrowed.

What Else Is Included In Your Monthly Payment

Principal and interest payments are the basis of your payment. However, keep in mind that in the case of large loans, such as mortgages, payments may also consist of other components, such as taxes and insurance, as well as an escrow.


First of all, this applies specifically to mortgage payments, but it is important to mention them as well since mortgage debt is paid off for many years, sometimes decades, and it is important not only to be able to calculate its final cost but also to understand what it will consist of.

You don’t pay property taxes to the lender but to the government, thereby funding life-essential things like roads, schools, green spaces, and keeping the streets clean.

Taxes can make up a huge percentage of your monthly payment and should not be ignored when entering into a mortgage agreement.

The value of your house and the local amenities that your neighborhood provides determine how much you pay in property taxes. Getting an estimate when buying a home is essential so that the local government can accurately determine your taxes. Taxes might change from year to year, and depending on your county, you might need to acquire an updated assessment every few years.


Legally speaking, you are not required to have insurance in order to own a house. However, most mortgage lenders won’t give you a loan without insurance, and it’s not just about making more money.

Having insurance protects you from a lot of unforeseen circumstances that can happen. Of course, we all hope that a fire or flood will never affect us, but if this happens, it is better to be insured and get rid of the headache later.

There are many factors that affect the cost of your insurance and, as a result, the size of your monthly mortgage payment.

While prices vary by state, you should anticipate spending $3.50 for every $1,000 of the value of your property in insurance expenses annually. For instance, the annual cost of homeowners insurance for a property valued at $250,000 is roughly $875. The annual total may rise according to location, the age of the house, and extra risk factors like owning a pool.

Mortgage Amortization

Your main balance and the amount of interest you owe will gradually decrease as a result of the monthly mortgage payment you make. This procedure, known as “mortgage amortization,” gradually lowers your mortgage principal balance and the amount of interest you repay.

Even when their loan balance decreases, borrowers can make fixed payments by amortizing their mortgage. Early on, the majority of your monthly payment is spent on interest, with only a small portion going toward principal reduction.

At the conclusion of repayment, this changes; a larger portion of your monthly payment goes toward paying off the remaining debt, and just a tiny portion goes toward interest.

Even if you overpay only a little every month, in the end, it will save you a significant amount.

To better understand your specific depreciation, you can use the special Mortgage Calculator, which will greatly simplify the calculation process.

Why is it Important to Pay Off your Principal Balance

Previously, we have already found out what is the principal of a loan; now, let’s see why it is so important to repay the principal balance using principal payments and not just interest payments.

Regardless of the size of the loan received, in most cases of personal loans, you have the opportunity to pay back the loan ahead of schedule. Some lenders charge a fee for this, but it will still be cheaper than making monthly interest payments.

Of course, if you do not have the opportunity to pay more now, you can simply extinguish interest, so there are no problems with the creditor and collection agencies.

However, the correct tactic is to try every month to pay not only the interest payment but also the principal payment, which will allow you to pay off the principal balance of the loan and get rid of debt faster.

For example, if you owe a lender $100 per month in interest payments and pay off $200 a month in total, then $100 of your payment goes toward settling your principal debt, thereby reducing it.

The main thing is to make sure that you warn the creditor that the excess payment should go towards paying the principal balance of the debt.

Refinancing Multiple Debts

If you have several different loans and debts, regular monthly payments can snowball, making paying for a long time an impossible and daunting mission. Many people give up at this stage, stop paying their debts altogether, and find themselves in a debt hole, falling under the scope of collection agencies.

To avoid this, you can carry out debt consolidation, thereby reducing the annual interest rate and simplifying the repayment process for yourself.

Let’s take a look at the example of credit cards:

When you refinance a credit card, the debt is transferred to a balance transfer credit card, which frequently offers a promotional interest rate free term of between 12 and 18 months. You must have strong to exceptional credit to use the majority of debt transfer cards (a 690 score or higher).

Before choosing a balance transfer card, determine if the interest you would save over time will be greater than or equal to the cost of the fee, as many issuers will impose a balance transfer fee of 3% to 5% of the amount transferred.

The Bottom Line

Loans, mortgages, and other banking products can seem intimidating at first glance when you see many new terms and don’t understand what they mean. Someone might just sign and close the page, choosing not to go into details, but you shouldn’t. Financial matters need to be as clear and transparent as possible so that this does not create problems in the future. You must understand what exactly you sign and what you will pay money for.

Forewarned is forearmed, right?

Now you know what is the difference between principal and interest, what your monthly payment consists of, and why it is important to repay the principal of the loan and not just its interest.


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