Basis PointsWhat are Bps? How Does Basis Point Calculation Affect Your Bottom Line?

September 12, 2023 | 7 min read

This image was created by artificial intelligence using the following prompts:

One-one hundredth of a percent, or 0.01%, of the subject being measured. In the style of red and teal.

Basis Points

In a Nutshell

If you’re looking for clarity regarding yield spreads or interest rates, you need to understand basis points: the smallest possible unit of measurement used by banks and financial institutions. Read on to discover how basis points help eliminate ambiguity and enhance accuracy in finance.

Calculating Rates: How Basis Points Determine Your Business’s Financial Health

In finance, basis points, or bps, serve as a metric for quantifying changes in the value of financial assets or shifts in indexes and other benchmarks. 

A single basis point equals 0.01% of whatever is being measured, or 0.0001 when expressed as a decimal. We’ll explain this in more detail below.

Basis points are a crucial increment of measurement in finance. However, this unit of measurement is used in other areas, too. Chargeback rates, for instance, are often expressed in bps.

What are Basis Points?

Basis Points

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A basis point, frequently abbreviated as “bp” or “bps,” is a standard unit of measurement in finance. One basis point represents one-one hundredth of a percent, or 0.01%, of the subject being measured.

In simple terms, bps are a unit of measurement. Within personal finance contexts, the unit is often used up in association with:

Basis Points Investments: “Last year saw a 2 basis point reduction in the average expense ratio for mutual funds.”
Basis Points Federal Interest Rates: The Fed declared an interest rate increase of 10 basis points.”
Basis Points Mortgage Rates: “In under a year, mortgage rates experienced a considerable climb of 200 basis points on average.”
Basis Points Fraud Management: “The mean chargeback rate for merchants increased by 5 bps in 2023.”

Bps provide a precise method for communicating minute shifts in financial values. In essence, 100 bps points match up to 1%. 

Why Use Basis Points Instead of Percentage?

Employing basis points allows for a more exact representation of subtle changes. Use of bps also clears up any ambiguity when communicating and distinguishing between relative and absolute interest rates.

Take, for example, a current interest rate of 5% that's slated to go up by 10% next month. This could lead to multiple interpretations. Someone might take 10% of the existing 5% rate and add it; this would mean the new rate will be 5.5%. Or, someone may add 10% and 5% together, leading them to assume that the new interest rate will be 15%.

In contrast, stating that the rate will increase by 1,000 bps leaves no room for misinterpretation. It unequivocally signals that the new rate will jump to 15%, because 1,000 points always equates to 10%.

In financial settings like tracking interest rates or bond yields, basis points offer an enhanced level of precision. They can even be divided into fractions for extra detail. For instance, an increase of 1.5 bps points is essentially the same as a 0.015% increase.

How are Basis Points Used?

Basis points are commonly used to quantify variations in percentage terms. They frequently appear in media reports and discussions concerning financial matters, including shifts in interest rates, political polling, and scientific statistics. 

Bps are used to articulate incremental changes in the value of an asset, especially when the fluctuation in a stock's value is less than 1%. Some financial instruments that are commonly evaluated using bps include:

  • Corporate debt securities
  • Government bonds
  • Lending rates
  • Credit-linked financial products
  • Derivatives such as options and futures
  • Fixed-income securities
  • Equities

Generally speaking, bps offer an easy and accessible method for conveying shifts in yields and interest rates. Given that yields are prone to frequent variations, using bps as a unit of measure becomes very practical.

How to Calculate Basis Points

To take a percentage figure, and render that figure in basis points, you can simply multiply the percentage figure by 100:

0.6% x 100 = 60 bps

On the other hand, to convert bps back into a percentage, you should divide the number of basis points by 100:

60 bps ÷ 100 = 0.6%

Here's a handy conversion guide for transitioning between bps and percentages:

Basis PointsPercentage

Impact of Basis Points on Financial Markets

Basis points play a pivotal role in financial markets, primarily in the measurement of interest rates. These rates are a cornerstone of the financial infrastructure, and their shifts can substantially affect the economy and financial markets.

A rise in interest rates makes borrowing more costly for individuals and businesses. This often results in reduced consumer expenditures and lower levels of business investment. These factors can collectively decelerate economic growth.

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On the flip side, a decrease in interest rates makes borrowing more affordable. This may spur economic activity and growth, but can also lead to inflation.

The fluctuations in interest rates also significantly impact various financial assets, such as bonds. For instance, an increase in interest rates generally leads to a decline in bond prices. This happens because the newly elevated rates make older bonds less attractive, given that investors could get higher returns from newly issued bonds. Conversely, a drop in interest rates usually triggers an increase in bond prices.

Given everything at stake, it’s important to have a consistent, easy-to-read unit of measurement. The misinterpretation of a percentage figure could have disastrous consequences. Using basis points, however, ensures that this can be avoided.

Basis Points, Fraud, & Chargebacks

Basis points play a crucial role in understanding and tracking the severity of card fraud, as well.

Data regarding payment fraud tends to be very opaque. It relies largely on self-reporting by businesses and institutions, who may not always be forthcoming with information, and may not always have a clear understanding of their situation. Attempting to render different data points in percentages can add another layer of complexity and confusion.

Merchants typically think about chargeback chargeback rates in percentage terms. However, big players like Visa and Mastercard often use bps as their unit of measure. 

Visa, for instance, determines a merchant’s chargeback ratio by dividing the number of chargebacks a merchant receives in a given month by the number of sales in the prior month. Remember that any chargebacks that have undergone the representment process are not used to adjust these thresholds or assessments. The goal is to keep one’s monthly figure under the Visa chargeback limit, expressed as 0.9%, or 90 basis points.

The network will alert the acquirer involved if a specific merchant ID crosses the compliance threshold. Merchants who consistently overshoot these set limits by accumulating too many monthly chargebacks will automatically be funneled into the Visa Dispute Monitoring Program.

As we see here, the use of basis points provides a more nuanced and precise measurement.

Have Additional Questions?

Still unsure why financial institutions would measure chargebacks and fraud using basis points? Or, maybe you’re looking to take control of your chargeback situation? Not to worry: we’ve got answers.

Get in touch with one of our experts today, and get the help you need.


What is a basis point in payments?

A basis point, frequently abbreviated as “bp” or “bps,” is a standard unit of measurement in finance. One basis point represents one-one hundredth of a percent, or 0.01%, of the subject being measured.

Why do banks use basis points?

As compared to percentages, using basis points offers a more precise method for detailing minor shifts in value. Bps help eliminate confusion when specifying differences between relative and absolute interest rates. 

Are basis points good or bad?

Basis points themselves are neither good nor bad. They are simply a unit of measurement used to describe changes in financial metrics, such as interest rates or investment yields. Whether an increase or decrease in basis points is beneficial or detrimental depends on the context, such as the economic climate, investment goals, or the financial product being discussed.

How much is 100 basis points?

100 basis points can be represented as 1% of a figure.

Why is it called basis points?

The term "basis points" comes from the word "basis," which in financial contexts means the foundational or starting point for calculations. A basis point is one one-hundredth of a percentage point, providing a standardized way to discuss small changes in rates or percentages without ambiguity.

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