The term “pay to the order of” is often used in promissory notes, designating the party to whom the loan shall be repaid. The lender may choose to have the payments go to them or to a third party to whom money is owed. For example, let’s say Sarah borrows money from Paul in June, then lends money to Scott in July, along with a promissory note. Sarah designates that Scott’s payments go to Paul until Sarah’s loan from Paul is paid in full. Some notes are used for investment purposes, such as a mortgage-backed note, which is an asset-backed security.

An unsecured note is merely backed by a promise to pay, making it more speculative and riskier than other types of bond investments. Consequently, unsecured notes offer higher interest rates than secured notes or debentures, which are backed by insurance policies, in case the borrower defaults on the loan. Some notes are purchased by investors for their income and tax benefits. Municipal notes, for example, are issued by state and local governments and can be purchased by investors who want a fixed interest rate. Municipal notes are a way for governments to raise money to pay for infrastructure and construction projects. Typically, municipal notes mature in one year or less and can be exempt from taxes at the state and/or federal levels.

Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years. Volatility profiles based on trailing-three-year calculations of the standard deviation of service investment returns. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. These two types of debt are very similar, but there are important differences.

Free Financial Modeling Lessons

Both notes payable and bonds payable are reported on the balance sheet as liabilities. As the premium is amortized, the balance in the premium account and the carrying value of the bond decreases. The amount of premium amortized for the last payment is equal to the balance in the premium on bonds payable account. See Table 4 for interest expense and carrying value calculations over the life of the bonds using the effective interest method of amortizing the premium.

However, the two financial instruments act in different ways, and may receive different treatments under federal securities laws. Those with specific questions about the differences between bonds and notes should consult a financial or investment professional. Notes payable is a written agreement in which a borrower promises to pay back an amount of money, usually with interest, to a lender within a certain time frame. Notes payable are recorded as short- or long-term business liabilities on the balance sheet, depending on their terms. An unsecured note is a corporate debt instrument without any attached collateral, typically lasting three to 10 years.

Types of Long-Term Debt

The premium account balance of $1,246 is amortized against interest expense over the twenty interest periods. Unlike the discount that results in additional interest expense when it is amortized, the amortization of premium decreases interest expense. The total interest expense on these bonds will be $10,754 rather than the $12,000 that will be paid in cash. Treasury notes, called T-notes, are similar to Treasury bonds but they are short-term rather than long-term investments. T-notes are issued in $100 increments in terms of two, three, five, seven, and 10 years. The investor is paid a fixed rate of interest twice a year until the maturity date of the note.

In some cases, government agencies are required to consult voters through a referendum election before issuing bonds. For the individual investor, U.S. government debt represents a safe investment with a modest return. A bond is almost always treated as a security under federal securities laws. However, historically a note payable with a maturity date of more than 9 months will be legally presumed a security, until proven otherwise.

How to Calculate a Bond’s Current Yield

The date is known as the “maturity date,” and may vary widely; for instance, some bonds mature ten years after issuance, while others mature thirty years after issuance. In many bonds, the investors also have the right to regular interest payments on their loan to the entity. Typically, the more certain the repayment of the bond, the lower the rate of return. A company’s decision to issue bonds is often a major financial decision, since it places the company in debt.

Bonds Payable Vs Notes Payable Comparison

Bonds and notes payable have a lot in common Bonds and notes are both forms of debt. In both cases, a company accepts cash from another entity and is expected to pay back that cash plus interest over time. The exact structure used to decide when and how much principal and interest is repaid can vary widely from one bond to another and from one note payable to another. All of the details of the debt’s structure are defined on a contract-by-contract basis.

Treasury notes are government debt security offering a fixed interest rate and a maturity date generally ranging from one to ten years. Notes are short-term investments that are provided to businesses and used for future expenses, and it comes with a low-interest rate and maturity terms from 2 to 10 years. Bonds are long-term investments given to businesses with the highest interest rate and maturity terms of up to 30 years. The difference between the two, however, is that the former carries more of a “contractual” feature, which we’ll expand upon in the subsequent section. In contrast, accounts payable (A/P) do not have any accompanying interest, nor is there typically a strict date by which payment must be made.


Payback of demand notes can be called in (or demanded) at any point by the borrower. Typically, demand notes are reserved for informal lending between family and friends or relatively small amounts. The U.S. Treasury bill, or T-bill, is a short-term investment, by definition maturing in one year or less. A T-bill pays no interest but is almost always sold at a discount to its par value or face value. So the investor pays less than full value upfront for the T-bill and gets the full value at the maturity date. The difference between the two numbers is the investor’s return on the investment.

TreasuryDirect is an online platform where individuals can buy government securities once opening an account. Alternatively, individuals can purchase bills from a broker term loan definition or a bank. The U.S. savings bond is the original savings vehicle for the small American investor, backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.

Unearned revenues represent amounts paid in advance by the customer for an exchange of goods or services. Examples of unearned revenues are deposits, subscriptions for magazines or newspapers paid in advance, airline tickets paid in advance of flying, and season tickets to sporting and entertainment events. As the cash is received, the cash account is increased (debited) and unearned revenue, a liability account, is increased (credited). As the seller of the product or service earns the revenue by providing the goods or services, the unearned revenues account is decreased (debited) and revenues are increased (credited). Unearned revenues are classified as current or long‐term liabilities based on when the product or service is expected to be delivered to the customer. Treasury bills, and notes are all investment products sold by the U.S. government to help finance its operations.

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