When people want to find out how much their mortgages cost,
lenders often give them quotes that include loan rates and
points.

## What exactly is a point?

A point is a fee equal to 1 percent of the loan amount. A
30-year, $150,000 mortgage might have a rate of 7 percent but come
with a charge of one point, or $1,500.

A lender can charge one, two or more points. There are two kinds
of points:

- Discount points.
- Origination points.

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## Discount points

These are actually prepaid interest on the mortgage loan. The
more points you pay, the lower the interest rate on the loan and
vice versa. Borrowers typically can pay anywhere from zero to three
or four points, depending on how much they want to lower their
rates. This kind of point is tax-deductible.

## Origination points

This is charged by the lender to cover the costs of making the
loan. The origination fee is tax-deductible if it was used to
obtain the mortgage and not to pay other closing costs. The IRS
specifically states that if the fee is for items that would
normally be itemized on a settlement statement, such as notary
fees, preparation costs and inspection fees, it is not
deductible.

How do you decide whether to pay points, and how many? That
depends on a number of factors, such as:

- How much money you have available to put down at closing.
- How long you plan on staying in your house.

Points as prepaid interest reduce the interest rate, an
advantage if you plan to stay in your home for a while.

But if you need the lowest possible closing costs, choose the
zero-point option on your loan program.

## By the numbers …

A lender might offer you a 30-year fixed mortgage of $165,000 at
6 percent interest with no points. The monthly mortgage principal
and interest payment would be $989. If you pay two points at
closing (that’s $3,300) you might be able to drop the interest rate
down to 5.5 percent, with a monthly payment of $937. The savings
difference would be $52 per month. But it would take 64 months to
earn back the $3,300 spent upfront via lower payments. If you’re
sure you will own the house for more than 5 1/2 years, you save
money by paying the points.

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