Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Notional Principal Amount


The Notional Principal Amount refers to a theoretical amount used in financial calculations but never exchanged between parties. It is commonly used in derivatives markets to calculate the payments that will be exchanged between the parties involved. It should be noted that notional principal amount does not change during the life of the agreement.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Notional Principal Amount” is: No-shuhn-ul Prin-suh-puhl Uh-mount

Key Takeaways

<ol> <li>The Notional Principal Amount is a theoretical amount used in financial transactions, particularly in derivative contracts, which is not exchanged between parties but is referenced to calculate interest payments or other cash flows. It serves as the base upon which changes in values are calculated. </li> <li>Notional Principal Amount is key to determining interest payments in swap transactions. In such transactions, it is the underlying value on which the exchanged interest payments are based. Yet, it’s important to note that it is not actually exchanged between the counter-parties but only used for calculation purposes. </li> <li>The Notional Principal Amount doesn’t represent investment risk, because it’s not actually exchanged between parties. However, it plays a critical role in assessing a derivative’s potential profitability or exposure, given it determines the size of payments or outcomes. Thus, it’s an essential concept for understanding and managing financial risk. </li></ol>


The Notional Principal Amount is a crucial business/finance term because it serves as the basis for calculating payments for certain types of financial derivatives such as interest rate swaps or currency swaps. This hypothetical amount does not change hands, but it provides a reference point for determining the interest obligations between parties involved in the contract. Hence, Notional Principal Amount plays a significant role in determining the risk and potential financial return of these derivative contracts. It allows investors, businesses, and financial institutions to manage, evaluate, and hedge their market risks, which thereby aids in sound financial management and planning.


The Notional Principal Amount serves a fundamental role within financial and derivative markets. It’s the presumed value upon which the interest payments or the swap streams are determined. In other words, the notional principal amount is essentially the quantity that the rates of interest in a contract apply to. However, please note that it does not involve any direct exchange between parties and is generally not actually paid or received by either party.One of the primary uses of notional principal amount is within interest rate swaps, forex currency swaps, and equity swaps. For instance, in an interest rate swap, two parties agree to exchange payments based on the notional principal amount: one party might make payments based on a fixed rate of interest, while the other pays at a floating rate. The key point here is that, although the notional principal amount governs the calculation of these payments, the actual principal does not change hands. Consequently, the notional principal amount allows parties to create substantial economic exposure, while limiting the amount of capital that must be placed at risk.


1. Interest Rate Swap: One of the most common examples of notional principal amount is used in an interest rate swap contract. In this financial derivative, two parties agree to exchange interest rate payments. The notional principal amount, in this case, is the hypothetical amount used to calculate these interest payments. It is not exchanged between the parties but only determines the interest amounts. For example, suppose Company A and Company B enter an interest rate swap agreement with a notional principal of $1 million. Company A agrees to pay Company B a fixed interest rate on the notional amount, while Company B agrees to pay Company A a floating interest rate on the same amount.2. Cross-Currency Swap: Another real-world application of the notional principal amount is seen in cross-currency swaps. This is a financial instrument where two companies in different countries borrow each other’s currency for a specific term. The notional principal amount is the amount of these currencies being exchanged. For instance, an American company might agree to a cross-currency swap with a British company. The American company might agree to pay interest on a notional principal amount of $10 million, while the British company might agree to pay interest on a notional principal amount of £7 million. 3. Equity Swap: Consider a scenario where there is an equity swap agreement between two parties. In this agreement, party A agrees to pay the returns on a notional principal amount invested in a stock index, and in exchange, Party B agrees to pay an interest rate on the same notional principal value. Here, the notional principal amount is not actually exchanged, but it’s a hypothetical principle used to calculate the different obligations of both parties involved.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Notional Principal Amount?

The Notional Principal Amount refers to a value determined for the sake of calculating interest payments or other amounts in a derivatives contract. This figure is not exchanged between counterparties, meaning it cannot be lost or gained — it’s simply a figure used for calculation purposes.

How is the Notional Principal Amount used in finance?

The Notional Principal Amount is commonly used in derivative exchanges such as swaps, futures, or options. It serves as the basis for interest payments or other calculation metrics in these transactions.

Does the Notional Principal Amount represent a real, physical transaction?

No, the Notional Principal Amount is a theoretical construct and does not represent an actual exchange of money or assets, but instead serves as a basis for calculation.

Can the Notional Principal Amount change over the duration of a derivative contract?

Yes, in some contracts the notional principal amount might change over time. An example is an interest rate swap with an amortizing notional principal.

Does the Notional Principal Amount carry any risk?

No, there is no direct risk associated with the notional principal because it is not an actual amount of money to be exchanged. However, the cash flows calculated based on the notional principal could represent a potential risk or gain, depending on the rest of the contract terms.

Can the Notional Principal Amount be in different currencies in a currency swap contract?

Yes, in a currency swap contract, the notional principal amount is usually determined in two different currencies. This is then used to calculate the interest payments being exchanged between the counterparties.

What is the relationship between Notional Principal Amount and the Interest Rate Swaps?

In Interest Rate Swaps, the Notional Principal Amount is the predetermined dollar amounts on which the exchanged interest payments are based. This is not exchanged itself, rather interest is exchanged between parties based on the notional amount.

Related Finance Terms

  • Derivative Instrument: A financial contract whose value is based on the performance of underlying market factors such as interest rates, currency exchange rates, and commodity prices. Notional principal amount plays a key role in determining the value of a derivative contract.
  • Interest Rate Swap: A derivative contract in which two parties agree to exchange interest rate payments based on a notional principal amount.
  • Credit Default Swap: A financial derivative in which a buyer makes payments to a seller in exchange for the right to a payoff if a specified credit event occurs, like a default on a debt. The notional principal amount is the amount insured under the swap.
  • Swap Rate: The fixed rate in an interest rate swap transaction received by the holder of the variable-interest rate. It is based on the notional principal amount.
  • Counterparty Risk: The risk to each party in a contract that the other party will not live up to its contractual obligations. It’s dependent on the notional principal amount, as the larger it is, the bigger the potential loss.

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More