APR vs APY in Crypto: What’s the Difference?
Crypto Basics

APR vs APY in Crypto: What’s the Difference?

Created 3mo ago, last updated 3mo ago

You might have seen the terms APR and APY in the crypto and DeFi space — but have you ever wondered what they exactly mean, and what the difference between the two is? Learn more below.

APR vs APY in Crypto: What’s the Difference?

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When falling into the rabbit hole that is DeFidegens often ape into the highest-yielding yield farms. With yields in the thousands (or millions) percent during the height of the bull market — one can only wonder why it all came crashing down during the onset of the bear market.
Regardless, when participants enter the crypto world, they are often bombarded with new terms and jargon. Whether one is yield farming, or lending or borrowing digital assets, the terms annual percentage rate (APR) and annual percentage yield (APY) usually pops up.

In this article, we dive into the two common metrics used to represent returns on crypto investments and finds out: what exactly is the difference between the two?

Join us in showcasing the cryptocurrency revolution, one newsletter at a time. Subscribe now to get daily news and market updates right to your inbox, along with our millions of other subscribers (that’s right, millions love us!) — what are you waiting for?

What Is APR (Annual Percentage Rate)?

Annual percentage rate is a way to express the annual rate charged on a loan or earned from a return of an investment.

Often, it is used on loans, credit cards, mortgages and investments. Using a simple example, if John’s $10,000 bank account has an annual interest APR of 15%, he will get $1500 in interest after one year.

What Is APY (Annual Percentage Yield)?

APY is much like APR, except it takes the effects of compounding into account. Put simply, compounding is what happens when you earn interest on the previous interest. If John’s bank pays the interest per month, the total interest payment over the year will be different.

Understanding Compound Interest and Interest Rates

Instead of getting $1,500 at the end of the year, John gets some interest each month. Assuming he does not withdraw the interest earned, his bank account will therefore grow slightly every month.

At the same time, the interest will be calculated on that larger balance month after month. As a result, the interest payment grows slightly larger each time.

This is called the compounding effect.

APR vs APY Example

Remember in the first example, John's bank account gives an APR of 15%? Now, assume that the nominal interest rate — that is, the base rate that does not include compounding — is also 15%.

Note: there is a difference if the nominal rate is 15% versus the APY being 15%, if the latter is 15%, then John would have earned a similar amount of interest as the first example.

With a nominal interest rate of 15%, and by adding the effect of interest that compounds, John will now earn $1,607.55 in interest over the year, making the effective APY 16.075%.

The effect becomes especially large over larger periods of time. If John locks his account for three years, he will make $5,639.44 in interest over the period with compounding, and just $2,479 without it.

This is why Einstein once said:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn't, pays it.”
Fun fact: Einstein invested the bulk of his 1921 Nobel Prize money in the stock market — and lost it all when the stock market crashed in 1929, during the onset of the Great Depression. We like to think he would make a good degen in the crypto space.

Are APR and APY the same thing?

To put it simply: no, they are not.

APR is a simpler metric; it shows a constant yearly rate. APR is often shown as the amount of interest on personal loans or credit card debt.

APY shows yearly rates too, but also includes compounding effects. The APY will go up or down, depending on how often the compounding takes place. The frequency of compounding is also called the compounding period.

In John’s case, weekly interest payments will result in a higher APY, whereas quarterly payments will push it down.

How to Calculate APR?

The APR is usually a given, but it can be calculated using the interest per compounding period as well. Note that the number of periods in a year can also be less than 1, in the rare case interest is paid less than once a year. The formula for calculating APR is as follows:

APR = (interest rate per compounding period * number of periods in a year)

How to Calculate APY?

APY is calculated as seen in the formula below. In the calculation, pay attention to the compounding periods, you have to calculate the interest rate per period (say week, or month), rather than using the standard yearly rate.

APY = (1 + Nominal Interest Rate/No. of compounding period per year)ˆNumber of periods – 1

Exploring 0% APR

0% APR allows you to borrow at zero percent interest rates. The popular concept from the credit card world has reached crypto too. Users can borrow against their crypto without paying interest, so long as their collateral has enough value. Protocols limit their risk by requiring more collateral than the borrowed amount.

Examples of APR and APY in Crypto

Binance allows you to stake a wide variety of tokens on their platform. As you can tell in the screenshot below, they present the estimated returns of staking there in APR.

The same is true for Crypto.com, who explicitly state that the rewards you receive is a simple daily reward rate which will not be compounded. Both platforms provide stable rewards for locking up your coins.

When you dive into the less well-travelled areas of crypto-land, you can find ridiculous APYs, at the cost of significantly higher risk. The screenshot below is from a yield farm on Arbitrum. The author of this article participated in this strategy during the peak of the bull market, when it generated a whopping 41 million percent in APY (yes, you read that correctly). It doesn't take a genius to figure out that these yields are not sustainable, and they quickly came down.

Nevertheless, the author doubled his staked amount in the course of 36 hours. Again, these ultra-high APY farms are incredibly risky, and should not be participated in without due regard for risk.

What Is Better — APR or APY?

There is a time and place for everything. This is true for the APR vs APY debate as well. In some cases, APR is the more relevant metric, whereas other situations call for APY. This mostly depends on whether you are the borrower or the lender.

The Borrower's Perspective

As a borrower, you are paying off the balance as you go. Whether you are paying off a personal loan or credit card debt, there is no compounding effect to increase the total cost of borrowing; and APR makes more sense. The same is true for crypto loans, where you’re paying off a debt as you go.

The Lender's Perspective

In a situation where you are lending (saving) your money, compounding effects do take place, as interest is being paid over previously earned interest as well. In these situations, knowing the APY rate is great, as it gives you a more detailed insight in the total returns on your capital.

The Bottom Line

When comparing different yields, it is important to compare them objectively. One protocol might present the yields in APR, whereas the other protocol will tell you the APY.

Many yield farms boast high APY rates, referring to the percentual rewards generated in an altcoin, rather than the actual fiat value of these rewards. This is a crucial factor, as crypto prices can be volatile, and the value of the rewards can fluctuate significantly. This can significantly boost or hamper your real return.

One thing you can do is to convert all APR rates to APY, so that you can compare each product objectively, and ascertain the correct APY rates for the risk of the token it is being paid in.

A final factor to consider is counterparty risk. Higher than average yields are often paid to compensate for higher-than-average risk. It is very important to review the different crypto protocols, and to do your own research before apeing in.

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