Basis Points (BPS) in Finance: What They Mean

Understanding the meaning, definition, and explanation of basis points (bps) in finance

What are Basis Points (BPS) in Finance?

Basis Points, often abbreviated as BPS, are a unit of measure used in finance to describe the percentage change in the value or rate of a financial instrument. One basis point is equivalent to 0.01% or 0.0001 in decimal form. This term is commonly used in the finance industry, particularly in areas such as interest rates, equity indexes, and fixed income trading.

Origins and Use of Basis Points

The term “basis point” originated to minimize confusion in financial discussions and provide a clear, standardized way to discuss small changes in interest rates or yields. The use of basis points in finance helps to avoid ambiguity in discussions and calculations, especially when dealing with very small numbers.

Application in Interest Rates

In the context of interest rates, a change of 50 basis points, for example, would mean an increase or decrease of 0.50%. If a central bank announces a rate cut of 25 basis points, it means the interest rate has been reduced by 0.25%. This is a common language used by central banks and financial institutions worldwide.

Application in Investment Performance

Basis points are also used to measure investment performance. For instance, if a portfolio manager says a fund has outperformed its benchmark index by 100 basis points, it means the fund has performed 1% better than the index.

How Basis Points Work

The calculation of basis points is straightforward. As mentioned earlier, one basis point is equal to 0.01%. Therefore, to convert a percentage change to basis points, the percentage is multiplied by 100. For example, a 1% change is equivalent to 100 basis points.

Example of Basis Points Calculation

Let’s say the interest rate on a loan increases from 2.5% to 2.75%. The difference, 0.25%, is equivalent to 25 basis points. This provides a standardized way to discuss the rate change, regardless of the initial interest rate.

Why Basis Points are Important

The use of basis points is crucial in finance for several reasons. Firstly, they provide a standardized language that allows for clear communication across different regions and financial sectors. Secondly, they allow for precise measurement of changes in values, which is particularly important when dealing with large sums of money where even a small percentage change can equate to a significant amount of money. Lastly, basis points allow for easy comparison between different financial products, rates, and changes over time.


Understanding the concept of basis points in finance is essential for anyone involved in financial markets, whether as a professional or an investor. They provide a clear, standardized way to discuss and compare changes in financial values, making them a fundamental part of financial communication and analysis.


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