What is a Zero Coupon Bond?

Definition: A Zero Coupon Bond is a debt security that is sold at a discount and does not pay any interest payments to the bondholder. In other words, it’s a bond that sells for less than its face value and does not make coupon payments or periodic interest payments during its life. At maturity, it can then be redeemed at its face value allowing the bond holder to make a profit.

What does zero coupon bond mean?

What is the definition of zero coupon bonds? Companies, schools, and governments use bonds as a way to finance expansions and other long term projects. Usually the decision to issue a bond starts with a proposal for new projects. When the board or governing body approves the plans, a bond can be issued. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. Sometimes it can take a few months for the bond to be drafted and actually issued to the public. This presents a problem. The interest rate and terms of the bond are set when the bond is initially drafted up. By the time the bond actually hits the public, interest rates have usually changed.

That is why most bonds are either issued at either a premium or a discount. Since the stated interest rate of the bond can’t be changed at this point, the sales price of the bond is changed. A bond issued at a premium sells for more than the stated value. In other words, a $1,000 bond might sell for $1,100. A discounted bond is the opposite. The sale price is actually reduced lower than the stated price. A $1,000 bond might only sell for $900.

In an effort to get away from this problem, some companies don’t issue bonds with stated interest rates or zero-coupon bonds. Let’s take a look at an example.

Example

A Zero coupon bond is a bond that sells without a stated rate of interest. This way the company or government doesn’t have to worry about changing interest rates. These bonds are sold at a discount don’t pay a standard monthly interest percentage like normal bonds do. Instead, investors receive the gain of the appreciated bond at maturity. US savings bonds work this way. You can buy a $100 bond for $50 today. When the bond reaches maturity, it can be cashed or called for the full $100 face value. Instead of paying regular interest payments, it pays them in one lump sum at maturity.

Summary Definition

Define Zero Coupon Bond: Zero coupon bond is a debt instrument that is sold for less than its face value, does not make any interest payments to the bondholder, and can be redeemed for its face value at maturity. In this sense, it does pay interest. It’s just at the end of the investment instead of periodically throughout its life.