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Negative Amortization


Negative amortization is a financial term that occurs when a loan’s scheduled payments are insufficient to cover the required principal and interest amounts. As a result, the outstanding loan balance increases instead of decreasing, making the borrower owe more on the loan than the original amount borrowed. This scenario commonly happens with adjustable-rate mortgages or certain student loans and can lead to increased debt and financial strain.


The phonetics of the keyword “Negative Amortization” would be: ˈnɛɡətɪv ˌæmərˈtɪzeɪʃən

Key Takeaways

  1. Negative Amortization occurs when the monthly payments do not cover the complete interest due on a loan, leading to an increased loan balance over time.
  2. It can result in a financial predicament called “underwater mortgage,” where the borrower owes more on the loan than the market value of the property.
  3. It is risky for borrowers and should be pursued with caution, as it can lead to higher interest rates, payment shock when the loan balance is recast, and potentially, a lack of equity in the property.


Negative amortization is an important business/finance term as it refers to a situation where a borrower’s monthly payments on a loan are not enough to cover the interest accrued, ultimately resulting in the principal balance increasing over time. This phenomenon is significant because it increases the overall debt owed by the borrower, leading to a higher financial burden in the long run. Understanding negative amortization is essential for borrowers to make informed decisions regarding credit products, such as adjustable-rate mortgages, that could potentially lead to negative amortization scenarios. Additionally, it helps lenders effectively evaluate credit risk and communicate loan terms and potential outcomes with their clients.


Negative amortization is a unique feature in certain types of loans, primarily used in the context of mortgage financing, which allows borrowers to make lower initial monthly payments. This financial tool aims to provide flexibility to borrowers, particularly those with irregular income or first-time homebuyers who might be financially strained, by temporarily deferring a part of the interest due on their loan. Although the concept may seem counter-intuitive, negative amortization can help borrowers manage their cash flow more effectively in the short term, by reducing their monthly obligations. Lenders also use this mechanism as an incentive to attract borrowers who might be hesitant about committing to a regular amortizing loan, due to concerns about affordability. However, negative amortization comes with its own set of risks and drawbacks. As the name suggests, instead of reducing (amortizing) the principal amount, the unpaid interest is added back to the loan balance, causing the overall debt to increase. This can result in borrowers owing more than they initially borrowed, a situation known as being “underwater” on a loan. Moreover, as the loan transitions from the negative amortization phase to the regular amortizing phase, borrowers may experience a sudden increase in monthly payments – or “payment shock” – as they must now pay the principal and the higher accrued interest. Despite these potential pitfalls, negative amortization may serve as a viable financial tool for borrowers who have a clear understanding of the associated risks and have a concrete plan to manage the financial implications in the later stages of their loan term.


Negative amortization occurs when the borrower’s monthly payment is not sufficient to cover the interest accrued on a loan, causing the outstanding principal balance to increase instead of decrease. Here are three real-world examples related to negative amortization: 1. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs): Some adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) may have provisions for negative amortization, specifically those with payment options that allow borrowers to choose their monthly payment. If a borrower chooses a minimum payment that does not cover the interest due, the unpaid interest is added to the loan balance, leading to negative amortization. This can result in an increased loan amount, even if the borrower makes regular payments. 2. Graduated Payment Mortgages (GPMs): Graduated Payment Mortgages are designed to help borrowers with limited current income but expecting higher income in the future. In the initial years of the loan, monthly payments are lower than what is required to cover the interest accrued, resulting in negative amortization. The difference between the payments made and the interest due is added to the outstanding loan balance. Eventually, as the borrower’s income increases and the payments escalate over time, the loan payments cover both the interest and principal, allowing the loan to amortize fully by its maturity. 3. Student Loans with income-driven repayment plans: Certain student loans with income-driven repayment (IDR) plans may lead to negative amortization if the borrower’s monthly payment does not cover the interest accrued. Under IDR plans, the monthly payment is a percentage of the borrower’s discretionary income, which can sometimes be lower than the interest due on the loan. In such cases, the loan balance may increase, causing negative amortization. However, some IDR plans may offer loan forgiveness after a specific period, which can help borrowers in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is negative amortization?
Negative amortization occurs when the monthly payments on a loan are not sufficient to cover the interest accrued during that period, causing the principal balance to increase instead of decrease over time.
What causes negative amortization?
Negative amortization usually occurs when a borrower’s monthly payments on a loan are too low, often due to an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), interest-only payments, or minimum-payment options.
Is negative amortization harmful to the borrower?
Yes, negative amortization can delay the repayment of a loan and increase the borrower’s overall debt, which could lead to financial hardship or difficulty in obtaining financing in the future.
How can a borrower avoid negative amortization?
To avoid negative amortization, a borrower should always make monthly payments sufficient to cover the interest, and ideally pay down the principal as well. Borrowers considering adjustable-rate mortgages or interest-only loans should thoroughly understand the terms and potential risks.
Are there any advantages to negative amortization loans?
While generally not advisable, negative amortization loans can provide initial lower monthly payments, which may be beneficial for borrowers who anticipate a significant increase in income over time. However, they should be fully aware of the long-term financial implications.
How can borrowers identify if their loan has negative amortization?
A loan document will usually disclose if it has a negative amortization feature. If unsure, borrowers should consult with their lender or a financial professional for clarification.
Can negative amortization affect credit scores?
Yes, negative amortization can negatively impact credit scores if the loan balance increases to the point where the borrower’s credit utilization ratio rises or if the borrower struggles to make payments on the increased principal amount.
If negative amortization has occurred, how can a borrower improve their situation?
If a borrower finds themselves in a negative amortization situation, they should work on increasing their monthly payments to cover the interest and reduce the principal balance. They might also consider refinancing into a fixed-rate loan or a loan without negative amortization features.

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