Deferred Interest: What It Is, How It Works, and Pros & Cons


Deferred interest is a financial arrangement where interest payments are delayed for a specified period. If the loan isn’t paid off by the end of this period, interest begins to accumulate. This concept is prevalent in credit cards, retail financing, and even mortgages. In this article, we’ll delve into the nuances of deferred interest, its applications, and why it’s essential to understand the terms and potential risks involved.

What is deferred interest?

Deferred interest is a financial concept where interest payments on a loan are postponed for a specific period. During this period, borrowers don’t have to pay any interest, provided they clear the entire loan balance before the specified timeframe expires. However, if the loan isn’t paid off within this grace period, interest charges will start accruing.

Understanding deferred interest

Deferred interest options are typically offered by retailers for big-ticket items, such as furniture and home appliances. It’s an appealing option for consumers, making these purchases more accessible than paying the full amount upfront or taking out a traditional loan with interest, which could significantly increase the purchase cost.

Deferred interest options usually have a specified period during which no interest is charged. However, if the loan balance remains unpaid after this period, interest charges start accruing, sometimes at high rates. It’s crucial for consumers to be aware of the deferred interest period and thoroughly read the offer’s terms and conditions. Ensuring that they can pay off the loan before the interest-free period ends is essential.

Retailers typically provide deferred interest or “no interest” deals through their retail credit cards or in-house financing options.

Deferred interest loans are also offered on credit cards as a marketing tactic to attract new cardholders. These credit cards operate similarly to deferred interest loans provided by retailers, offering zero interest charges on the card’s balance for a specific period. Once this grace period expires, interest is applied to the remaining balance or any future balances. If you’re contemplating switching to a credit card with a deferred interest rate or no interest rate, make sure to select one of the best balance transfer cards available.

Usually, on deferred interest loans, if the balance isn’t fully paid off before the grace period ends, interest is backdated and charged on the entire original balance, regardless of the remaining balance amount.

Deferred interest on mortgages

Deferred interest features in mortgages work differently from other types of loans. The interest not paid on a mortgage’s monthly payment is added to the principal balance of the loan. This process is known as negative amortization. For example, payment option ARMs (adjustable-rate mortgages) and fixed-rate mortgages with a deferrable interest feature carry the risk of substantially increased monthly payments at some point during the mortgage term.

Before the mortgage crisis of 2008, programs like payment option ARMs had low introductory payments for the first 2-3 years, after which payments increased significantly. Mortgagors could choose from different payment options, including fully amortizing 30-year or 15-year payments, interest-only payments, or minimum payments that didn’t even cover the interest due. The difference between the minimum payment and the interest due was the deferred interest, or negative amortization, which was added to the loan balance.

For instance, consider a mortgagor who received a $100,000 payment option ARM at a 6% interest rate. The borrower could choose from four monthly payment options:

  • A fully amortizing 30-year fixed payment of $599.55
  • A fully amortizing 15-year payment of $843.86
  • An interest-only payment of $500
  • A minimum payment of $321.64

Choosing the minimum payment meant that the deferred interest of $178.36 was added to the loan balance every month. After five years, the loan balance with deferred interest was recast, resulting in significantly higher required payments. This could lead to difficulties in repayment, potentially leading to foreclosure.

Due to the risks involved, loans with deferred interest are prohibited in some states and considered predatory by the federal government. These mortgages can increase the overall cost of the loan and pose potential dangers to borrowers.

Weigh the risks and benefits

Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Deferred interest provides a grace period without interest charges, making it easier to purchase big-ticket items.
  • It can be a useful financing option if you can pay off the entire loan balance within the deferred interest period.
  • May offer flexibility and convenience for consumers who need some time to clear the loan balance.
  • If the loan balance isn’t paid off within the grace period, high-interest charges may apply retroactively to the original balance.
  • Deferred interest loans, especially on mortgages, can lead to negative amortization and substantially higher future payments.
  • They can be risky and financially burdensome for borrowers who can’t meet the terms and deadlines.

Frequently asked questions

What is the typical duration of a deferred interest period?

The duration of a deferred interest period varies depending on the lender or financing offer. It can range from a few months to several years, with some retail promotions offering interest-free financing for a specific number of months.

Can deferred interest be a cost-effective way to finance a purchase?

Deferred interest can be cost-effective if you can pay off the entire loan balance before the grace period ends. However, if you fail to do so, it can become costly due to the retroactive application of high-interest rates.

Are there any regulatory restrictions on deferred interest loans?

Regulations regarding deferred interest loans vary by location. Some states have banned these loans, and federal authorities have deemed them predatory in certain cases. It’s essential to be aware of the legal framework in your area.

What precautions should borrowers take when considering deferred interest financing?

Borrowers should carefully read the terms and conditions of deferred interest offers. They should also ensure that they have a clear plan to pay off the loan balance before the grace period expires to avoid high-interest charges.

Key takeaways

  • Deferred interest is a financial concept where interest payments are postponed for a specific period. However, interest starts accruing if the loan is not paid off within the grace period.
  • Deferred interest is commonly found in retail financing, credit cards, and mortgages, making it easier for consumers to purchase big-ticket items.
  • Retroactive interest charges can apply to the entire original balance if the loan isn’t paid off within the specified time.
  • Mortgages with deferred interest can lead to negative amortization and substantially higher future payments.
  • Consumers should approach deferred interest cautiously, carefully reading terms and ensuring they can meet the deadlines to avoid high-interest charges.
  • Regulations regarding deferred interest loans vary by location, with some states banning them and federal authorities considering them predatory in specific cases.
View article sources
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  2. Deferred-Interest Credit for What Ails You: A Proposal for Regulation of Healthcare Providers Under the Pennsylvania Credit Services Act – The Pennsylvania State University
  3. I got a credit card promising no interest for a purchase – Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  4. How To Avoid Interest on Credit Card Debt – SuperMoney
  5. Deferred Payment Option: Definition, Benefits, And Examples – SuperMoney