What is a Negative Interest Rate?


In the realm of monetary policy, negative interest rates have emerged as a controversial and unconventional tool employed by central banks in recent years. Typically, interest rates are positive, meaning that lenders receive compensation for the use of their funds. However, in an effort to stimulate economic growth and combat deflationary pressures, some central banks have resorted to implementing negative interest rates, whereby lenders are effectively charged for holding deposits with financial institutions. This blog will delve into the concept of negative interest rates, explore their various types, and provide examples of their implementation and effects.

I. Understanding Negative Interest Rates:

Negative interest rates challenge the traditional assumptions of the time value of money, where the future value of a sum of money is expected to be higher than its present value. In a negative interest rate environment, this relationship is reversed, as the future value of money is expected to be lower than its present value.

II. Types of Negative Interest Rates:

Deposit Facility Rate:

The deposit facility rate is the interest rate that financial institutions receive on their reserves deposited with the central bank. In a negative interest rate policy (NIRP) scenario, this rate is lowered below zero, resulting in a charge on the excess reserves held by banks. The aim is to discourage banks from hoarding excess cash and instead encourage lending to stimulate economic activity.

Policy Rate:

The policy rate is the key interest rate set by the central bank to influence borrowing costs and overall economic activity. When a central bank adopts a negative policy rate, it directly affects the interest rates in the interbank market, making borrowing cheaper for commercial banks. The goal is to incentivize banks to extend credit to businesses and consumers, stimulating investment and consumption.

III. Examples of Negative Interest Rate Policies:

European Central Bank (ECB):

The ECB implemented negative interest rates in June 2014 to combat deflationary pressures and promote lending. The deposit facility rate was set at -0.10%, gradually decreasing to -0.50% by September 2019. The policy rate also turned negative, reaching -0.40%. The ECB's objective was to encourage banks to lend, incentivize businesses to invest, and stimulate economic growth within the Eurozone.

Bank of Japan (BOJ):

The BOJ adopted negative interest rates in January 2016, introducing a policy rate of -0.10%. The move aimed to combat deflation and encourage borrowing and spending. However, the effectiveness of the policy has been debated, with concerns about potential adverse effects on banks' profitability and the overall financial system.

IV. Effects and Controversies:

Impact on Financial Institutions:

Negative interest rates can strain the profitability of commercial banks, as they squeeze net interest margins, reducing their ability to generate profits from lending. Banks may pass on the costs to depositors, leading to potential customer dissatisfaction and a shift towards alternative assets or investments.

Currency Depreciation and Capital Flows:

Negative interest rates can lead to currency depreciation, as investors seek higher returns elsewhere. This depreciation can support export competitiveness but may also trigger capital outflows, potentially destabilizing the economy and financial markets.

Housing and Asset Bubbles:

Low borrowing costs resulting from negative interest rates may incentivize investors to seek higher returns through real estate and asset investments. This can fuel housing and asset price bubbles, creating risks of eventual correction or financial instability.

Limitations and Unintended Consequences:

Negative interest rates have their limitations as a monetary policy tool. If the policy remains in place for an extended period, it may lose its effectiveness as banks and investors adapt to the new environment. Moreover, negative rates may incentivize risk-taking behavior and create imbalances in the financial system.


Negative interest rates represent an unconventional approach to monetary policy, aiming to spur economic growth and combat deflationary pressures. While implemented by some central banks with varying degrees of success, negative interest rates have generated debates and concerns regarding their long-term effectiveness, impact on financial institutions, and unintended consequences. As economies and central banks continue to grapple with the challenges of a changing global landscape, negative interest rates remain an intriguing and controversial tool in the arsenal of monetary policy.

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