by 5paisa Research Team Last Updated: 2023-04-20T15:22:31+05:30
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Corporations regularly utilize commercial paper as a short-term debt instrument to finance current operations and additional investments. This type of debt typically has a duration that can range from two days up to 270 days. This article provides a comprehensive overview of commercial paper, including its definition, features, working mechanism and potential advantages and drawbacks. We will explore in depth the details surrounding this financial instrument to ensure you have all the information needed to make a well informed decision. Additionally, you'll be made aware of its potential advantages and drawbacks so that you may make an informed decision when considering whether or not to invest.

What is Commercial Paper?

Commercial paper is a short-term debt instrument corporations issue to finance their operations, investments and other activities. It is debt that matures within 270 days and generally has an average maturity of 15-45 days. The issuer promises to pay the principal amount of the paper plus any applicable interest on the predetermined maturity date. The commercial paper does not have collateral backing it, so it is considered unsecured debt.

Commercial paper may be issued as bearer notes or registered notes. Bearer notes are physical instruments representing commercial paper ownership, while registered notes are securities that must be held in an investor's name on a centralized ledger. Additionally, these financial instruments can be secured (backed by underlying assets) or unsecured (not backed by assets).

Features of Commercial Paper

●    Low Cost
Issuing commercial paper is generally less expensive than other forms of borrowing due to fewer regulations and the short maturity period.

●    High Yields
Interest rates earned on commercial paper are usually higher than those earned on money market accounts and certificates of deposit.

●    Flexibility
Commercial paper can be used for various purposes such as financing working capital, refinancing existing debt or investing in new projects.

●    Low Risk
Since large corporations often issue these instruments with strong credit ratings, relatively low risk is involved compared to other securities. 

●    Tax Benefits
Interest earned from commercial paper may be eligible for preferential income tax treatment due to its status as a debt instrument.

●    Liquidity
Investors can easily sell commercial paper before its maturity date, enabling them to access funds quickly.

●    Ease of Access
In some cases, investors can purchase commercial paper from their broker or the issuer directly.

●    Widely Accepted
Financial institutions widely accept commercial paper, so it may be easier for investors to obtain financing if needed.

●    Regulatory Oversight
The SEC monitors and regulates the commercial paper market, providing an extra layer of protection for investors and issuers.

●    Diversification
By investing in commercial paper, you can help diversify your investment portfolio and reduce the risk of volatility due to its lack of correlation with stock or bond markets.

Types of Commercial Paper

Investors can choose from different types of commercial paper, depending on what best suits their needs. These include:

1.    Drafts
These are short-term promissory notes companies issue to meet immediate cash needs. The buyer of the draft is known as the drawee, while the issuer is known as the drawer.

2.    Promissory Notes
These are contracts that obligate the issuer to repay the principal plus interest on a specified date.

3.    Receivable Backed Commercial Paper
This type of commercial paper is issued by companies and backed by accounts receivable, such as invoices for goods sold or services rendered.

4.    Asset-Backed Commercial Paper (ABCP)
ABCP is issued by special purpose vehicles and backed by underlying assets such as mortgages, loans or other securities.

5.    Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
CDs are certificates issued by banks which guarantee the repayment of principal plus interest on a specific maturity date.

6.    Euro Commercial Paper (ECP)
ECP is an unsecured money market instrument that can be issued in any currency and traded internationally.

7.    Letter of Credit (LOC)
LOCs are documents issued by banks that guarantee payment of goods or services on behalf of an issuer.

8.    Structured Notes
These are derivative products with a predetermined return linked to an underlying reference asset, such as stocks, bonds or commodities.

9.    Registered Notes
Registered notes are physical instruments representing commercial paper ownership, while registered notes are securities that must be held in an investor's name on a centralized ledger.

Investors should carefully consider the different types of commercial paper available before deciding which one best suits their needs. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages, so understanding these differences is key to making an informed decision.

In addition to the different types of commercial paper, investors should also consider other factors such as credit ratings, maturity date, liquidity, and financial regulations when investing in these instruments. By being aware of these details, investors can maximize their returns while minimizing risk.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Commercial Paper

Like any other financial instrument, commercial paper has advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of investing in the commercial paper include:

●    High Yields
Commercial paper yields higher returns than traditional investments such as bonds or stocks.

●    Low Risk
The risk associated with investing in the commercial paper is much lower than most other investments due to the low default rate.

●    Unsecured Debt
For investors aiming to maximize returns while limiting risk, commercial paper is an optimal choice due to its lack of required collateral from the issuer. Unsecured debt instruments such as this can be an incredible option for those looking to diversify their investment portfolio and reap desirable rewards.

While there are numerous benefits associated with investing in commercial paper, it is important to be aware of the potential drawbacks as well:

●    Limited Liquidity
As the commercial paper is not easily traded on the open market, investors may find it difficult to exit positions quickly.

●    Short Maturities
Most commercial paper has a maturity of just three months or less, meaning investors must be prepared to reinvest their money frequently.

●    Credit Risk
Investors should always perform due diligence on any issuer before investing in their commercial paper as there is still a risk that the debt may default.

Commercial Paper vs Bonds

When investing in commercial paper, investors must consider the differences between commercial paper and other instruments, such as bonds.

Commercial Paper is a convenient and cost-effective method of borrowing money for short periods, often up to 270 days.This type of security is normally issued at a discount from face value and does not require collateral. It carries lower credit risk than bonds but offers higher yields.

Bonds, on the other hand are long-term debt instruments that typically have maturities ranging from one year to 30 years or more. Bonds normally offer lower yields than commercial paper, but they also carry less risk since they usually come with some kind of collateral or guarantee.

The main difference between commercial paper and bonds is in the duration of their maturity periods. Commercial paper typically has shorter maturities, which can provide greater liquidity to investors looking to exit their position quickly. Bonds usually have longer maturities and lower yields, but they may offer more security due to their collateral or guarantee.

Example of Commercial Paper

An example of commercial paper in India is the Commercial Paper issued by the State Bank of India. This security has a maturity date of 180 days and requires no collateral. It carries a credit rating of AA+ and offers investors an interest rate of 5.85%.

This example of commercial paper in India illustrates how investors can take advantage of the high yields, low credit risk, and unsecured debt that this instrument provides. By being aware of the features, advantages and disadvantages of investing in commercial paper, investors can maximize their returns while minimizing their risk when investing in this attractive financial instrument.

Who are the Primary Investors in Commercial Paper?

Generally, commercial paper is purchased by large institutional investors such as banks, insurance firms, and mutual funds.These typically have the resources to perform due diligence on issuers before investing their money and can exit positions quickly if necessary.

Smaller individual investors may also invest in commercial paper, but this should only be done cautiously as there is still a risk of default. Investors should always research and consider potential risks before investing in commercial paper or any other debt instrument.

How Do Individuals Invest in Commercial Paper?

Individuals can invest in commercial paper through a broker or directly with the issuer. Investors should ensure they are dealing with an experienced and reputable firm when investing through a broker. Ensuring the broker is registered and licensed according to local regulations is also important.

When investing directly with the issuer, investors must perform thorough due diligence before investing their money. This includes carefully researching the creditworthiness of the issuer as well as any other associated risks that may be involved. Investors should also consider how quickly they will need access to their funds when deciding whether or not to invest
in commercial paper.


Commercial paper is a short-term debt instrument with up to 270 days' maturities. It offers higher yields than bonds and can provide greater liquidity to investors looking to exit their positions quickly. Investors should always research before investing in commercial paper (or any other debt instrument) and understand the risks associated with this type of security. By gaining an in-depth insight of commercial paper, investors can make educated decisions to gain the financial benefits associated with this short-term investment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Large companies, such as banks, insurance companies and mutual funds, typically issue commercial paper. Governments or municipalities can also issue it.

The maturity period of commercial paper is typically between 15 and 270 days. Most commercial paper is issued in 30 or 60-day increments.

The different types of commercial paper include promissory notes, certificates of deposit (CDs), banker's acceptances and commercial bills. Each type has its own characteristics, and investors should research each before investing their money.

The secondary market for commercial paper is an over-the-counter (OTC) marketplace where investors can buy and sell existing commercial paper issues. This provides liquidity to the primary issuer and enables investors to exit positions quickly if necessary.

The interest rate for commercial paper is typically determined by the issuer and depends on the creditworthiness of the issuer as well as other factors such as market demand.