An interest rate floor is a financial term that is used to describe the minimum rate of interest that is applied to a business transaction. Setting this type of minimum limit on the interest rate works to the benefit of both consumers and the businesses that choose to offer various types of services to those customers in return for assessing interest on the transaction. Typically, setting an interest rate floor will help to prevent either party from experiencing a loss due to fluctuations in the interest rate, while also making it possible to still generate some sort of return from the transaction.
One of the easiest ways to understand how an interest rate floor can be helpful is to consider a loan arrangement that includes the use of a floating or variable rate of interest as part of the terms and conditions. That rate of interest will fluctuate in response to changes in the average interest rate. This allows the borrower to benefit from shifts in which the average rate drops very low, although the stated interest rate floor may remain higher than that average. At the same time, the lender is guaranteed to receive interest payments that are at least equal to the floor amount specified in the loan contract, which means there is still the opportunity to earn a return from the extension of that loan.
The concept of the interest rate floor is also common with investments. This is especially true when an investor is borrowing funds for the specific purpose of acquiring some asset, such as shares of stock, or even bond issues. In this scenario, the floor seller will extend protection to the buyer by promising to offset the loss that occurs when the interest rate referenced in the purchase arrangement should fall below the current strike rate in the market. The end result is that if the strike rate should be higher than the interest rate floor, the seller or the floor will cover the difference.
In any application, the use of an interest rate floor serves the interests of all parties concerned. The buyer can rest assured that the rate applied will never be less than that minimum amount, making it easier to budget the expense of the transaction involved. The seller benefits in that while shifts in the average rate of interest may drive down the return generated by the loan granted to the buyer, there is still that minimum return to be earned on the transaction.