Prime Rate Canada

Prime rate is the basis for pricing variable-rate mortgages in Canada, along with a variety of other financial products.

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The Best Current Mortgage Rates in Canada

Evaluate Canada’s best mortgage rates in one place. RATESDOTCA’s Rate Matrix lets you compare pricing for all key mortgage types and terms.

Rates are based on an average mortgage of $300,001

Insured 80% LTV 65% LTV Uninsured Bank Rate
1-year fixed rate 4.99% 4.99% 4.99% 6.59%
2-year fixed rate 5.54% 5.49% 5.49% 5.94%
3-year fixed rate 4.99% 4.94% 4.94% 5.09%
4-year fixed rate 4.99% 4.99% 4.99% 5.09%
5-year fixed rate 4.74% 4.89% 4.89% 4.94%
7-year fixed rate 4.99% 5.09% 5.09% 5.24%
10-year fixed rate 5.69% 5.89% 5.89% 5.89%
3-year variable rate 6.10% 6.70% 6.70% N/A
5-year variable rate 5.90% 6.10% 6.10% 6.25%
HELOC rate 7.20% 7.20% 7.20% 7.20% N/A
Stress test 6.74% 6.89% 6.89% 5.25% N/A

Compare mortgage rates from lenders across Canada

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History of Canada's prime rate

Canada’s prime rate has moved significantly over the past 70 years, both up and down.

It reached an all-time high of 22.75% in August 1981. This occurred when the Bank of Canada was frantically hiking interest rates to control runaway inflation, which was wreaking havoc on the country’s economy. As a result, many homebuyers faced rates of more than 20% on their mortgages.

Canada’s record low prime rate was 2.25%, which occurred in April 2009, at the tail end of the 2007-2008 economic recession (also known as the Global Financial Crisis), when the Bank of Canada suddenly dropped its lending rates to near-zero to stimulate the faltering economy.

The longest period that Canada’s prime rate remained unchanged was between September 2010 and January 2015, when it sat at 3.00%. It also remained steady more recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic (from April 2020 to March 2022), at 2.45%. As of May 2023, however, the prime rate is the highest it’s been in decades, higher even than what it was during the Financial Crisis (it peaked in 2007, at 6.25%).

  • Current prime rate: 6.70%
  • Last change: January 2023

How much can the prime rate move?

Since the dawn of inflation targeting in 1991, the steepest prime rate hike appears to be the most recent one. In less than 12 months, the rate climbed 4.25% (or 425 basis points/bps) – from 2.45% to 6.7%, between March 2022 and January 2023.

The average rate-hike cycle since 1991 has resulted in rates that peaked about 230 bps above the low that preceded them. So, if you’re a variable-rate mortgagor, assume at least two percentage points as your potential rate risk.

Many point to the extreme increases in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a warning of what’s possible. But that was a different time, a time well before inflation targeting (which anchors rates lower), before stagnant growth and before North America became energy independent. In the world we now live in, debt-gorged economies could no longer withstand double-digit interest rates. Nor could governments with their billions in debt service obligations.

Canada prime rate forecast 2023

Various Canadian organizations, including the Big Six banks, regularly publish prime rate forecasts – generally as far as a year or two into the future.

That said, these are uncertain times. The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the global economy, and we’re still seeing the ramifications of that. Due to lower spending during the lockdowns, many businesses were forced to either shut down or lay off large numbers of their staff. However, once the pandemic began to wind down in 2021, the economy bounced back – so fast, in fact, that many supply chains simply couldn’t keep up. The war in Ukraine, which started at the beginning of 2022, further exacerbated the issue, contributing to higher prices and inflation.

Over the course of 2022 and early 2023, the prime rate has been steadily climbing to combat the problem, having gone from 2.45% to 6.70% in less than a year.

Fortunately, the general outlook for the future is a positive one. Inflation is finally trending downwards and rate hikes are predicted to be done for the rest of the year. That said, the prime rate is not expected to go down until 2024, at the earliest. According to the latest data, the prime rate drop is likely to be gradual, in the realm of 1% per year, making the current forecast look like this:

  • Year-end 2023: 6.70%
  • Year-end 2024: 5.70%
  • Year-end 2025: 4.70%

When will the prime rate change next?

Prime rate almost always changes when the Bank of Canada raises or lowers its overnight rate.

Also known as the Bank of Canada’s policy rate, key interest rate or target rate, overnight rate is the amount the Bank wants Canada’s largest financial institutions to charge each other when lending and borrowing in the overnight market.

The Bank delivers eight scheduled interest rate decisions per year. As of May 2023, the next Bank of Canada rate meeting is scheduled for: Wednesday, June 7, 2023.

The Bank of Canada can also hold emergency rate meetings in times of economic crisis. It did this last in the spring of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and before that, during the Global Financial Crisis. In both cases, the Bank’s emergency rate cuts resulted in reductions to Canada’s prime rate.

These are the rest of the scheduled dates for interest rate announcements in 2023:

  • Wednesday, June 7
  • Wednesday, July 12*
  • Wednesday, September 6
  • Wednesday, October 25*
  • Wednesday, December 6

*The Monetary Policy Report is published concurrently with the January, April, July and October rate announcements.

All rate announcements occur at 10 am EST.

Canada prime rate (1975 – 2023)

Prime rate typically follows a parallel path with the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate. But this isn’t always the case.

For instance, when the Bank of Canada dropped its overnight target rate twice by 25 bps (or 50 bps in total) in 2015, the other banks didn’t follow suit, opting to lower the prime rate by only 30 bps to boost their earnings.

Sometimes, a bank moves its own prime rate unilaterally, as TD Canada Trust did in November 2016. TD decided to hike its mortgage prime rate from 2.70% to 2.85%, forcing its existing variable-rate customers to pay 15 bps above the official prime rate.

The current overnight rate is 4.5%, while the current prime rate is 6.7%. Both values were set in Q1 of 2023, with the increase being 25 bps in both cases, from 4.25% and 6.45%, respectively. The same applies to the previous set of rate increases. And as of May 2023, prime and overnight rates remain unchanged.

The overnight rate is expected to stay the same until 2024, which is why many expect the prime rate to do the same. It is possible, however, that once the overnight rate starts decreasing, the prime rate will not follow suit so readily (for example, banks might decide to reduce their rates in smaller amounts, or not at all).

The following graph shows the movements of Canada’s prime rate over the last 40+ years.

Prime Rate Canada Graph 2023

Frequently asked questions about Canada’s prime rate

Need more information on Canada's prime rate? We got you covered.

What is prime rate?

Prime rate is the base interest rate used by most financial institutions to price floating-rate lending products. This includes things like variable-rate mortgages, personal and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), commercial loans and credit cards.

Each lender sets its own prime rate, but they usually match the benchmark prime rate calculated by the Bank of Canada.

What is Canada’s current prime rate?

Canada’s prime rate last changed in January 2023 and is currently 6.7%.

How is Canada’s prime rate calculated?

The country’s official prime rate is calculated by the Bank of Canada using a mode average of the Big Six banks’ individual prime rates.

This rate is published by the Bank of Canada on a weekly basis, but typically only changes following adjustments to the Bank's overnight rate.

For example, if the Bank of Canada cuts its overnight rate, the big banks typically announce reductions to their individual prime rates not long after the Bank's decision.

If a majority of the big banks adjust their individual prime rates, Canada’s official prime rate – or benchmark rate – will also change accordingly

How does prime rate affect variable mortgage rates?

Most lenders will quote their variable (or 'floating') rates as either a premium or a discount in relation to prime rate.

For example, you’ll generally see closed variable rates advertised at a discount, like 'prime – 0.60%.'

Open variable rates, which allow the borrower to repay the loan as quickly as they want without penalty, are typically priced much higher and are therefore quoted at a premium to prime rate, such as 'prime + 1.50%.' This goes for most HELOCs as well.

As the prime rate changes, a floating-rate borrower’s interest rate fluctuates. But that doesn’t necessarily mean their monthly payments will change.

In the case of variable-rate mortgages, borrowers can get a fixed-payment variable rate. That means when prime rate rises, the monthly payment remains the same, but the amount of the payment going towards interest increases. If interest rates fall, someone with a fixed-payment mortgage will see the interest portion of their payment decline, while more will go towards reducing the principal.

By contrast, someone with an 'adjustable-rate' mortgage will have payments that move up and down with prime rate. In other words, the amount of principal being paid never decreases, regardless of what prime rate does. That keeps your amortization (the time required to pay off your mortgage) on track.

What causes the prime rate to change?

The number one factor driving changes to prime rate is inflation expectations. The Bank of Canada is required to set monetary policy to achieve a target inflation rate of 2%. It typically does this by increasing or decreasing its overnight rate.

When its economic models suggest inflation is falling materially below the 2% target, the Bank of Canada will cut its overnight rate to stimulate more borrowing, economic activity and inflation. That generally leads to a lower prime rate.

When the Bank expects inflation to meaningfully exceed the 2% target, it typically hikes its overnight rate, leading to a higher prime rate.

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