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What’s the penalty If I break my mortgage with Scotiabank?

This piece was originally published on April 26, 2020, and was updated on May 10, 2024. 

When you sign on the dotted line for a mortgage term, you’re generally locked in for the duration of that term. That means, if you want to refinance your mortgage, change lenders to get the best mortgage rate or sell your home before your term is up, you’ll find yourself facing a hefty penalty fee. The fee, also known as a pre-payment penalty, is your bank’s way of penalizing you for breaking your contract early.

Today’s, let’s look at how Scotiabank calculates its pre-payment penalties.

What is a pre-payment penalty?

A pre-payment penalty is a charge issued to you by a lender if you break a mortgage with them. A mortgage is a financial contract, and the pre-payment charge is your mortgage provider’s compensation for you leaving early. Because there are several variables in the calculations, pre-payment penalties can vary greatly, even from the same lender.

Calculating Scotiabank's mortgage penalty

While the banks all have their own pre-payment calculators, the legal jargon used around them is enough to leave even the most educated homeowners confused; they also do little to show you how they come up with the final number. Because of this, we decided to research each bank’s calculations and build our own mortgage penalty calculator, so no one is left in the dark about how these penalties work.

Depending on whether you have a fixed or variable mortgage rate, Scotiabank will charge you one of two pre-payment penalty fees:

  • Three months’ interest, or the
  • Interest rate differential (IRD).

If you have a fixed mortgage rate, you will pay the greater of three months’ interest or the interest rate differential. If you have a variable mortgage rate, however, you will always pay just three months’ interest. Here’s how both calculations work.

Method 1: Three months’ interest

Three months’ interest is exactly that: the amount of interest you would have paid in a three-month period on your current mortgage. Scotiabank calculates three months’ interest by multiplying your current mortgage rate by the mortgage balance and again by 0.25 (represented as 3/12 for the three-month period out of the year).

Let’s assume you live in Ontario, and still owe $200,000 on your mortgage, have a variable mortgage rate of Prime – 0.50%. This means your current rate is 6.7%, as the Prime Rate has been 7.2% since July 12, 2023.

As you can see in the calculation below, three months’ interest in this example amounts to $3,350.

A chart totalling three-month's of mortgage interest.

Method 2: Interest rate differential

The interest rate differential (IRD) is your lender’s way of determining how much interest they’ll be losing by letting you break your contract early – and making you pay it to them. To calculate the IRD, your lender looks at your mortgage rate, how much time is left in your mortgage term and the mortgage rate they could charge someone now for a new term equal to the remainder of your term.

Instead of looking at your current mortgage rate and finding the difference between that and today’s best rate, however, Scotiabank finds the posted rate from the day you signed your term and subtracts today’s posted rate for a product that would cover the remainder of your term from that. 

Now, let’s say you recently took out a five-year fixed-rate mortgage, but need to break it. Let’s assume you have a $500,000 balance left, and 57 months remaining on your term. Scotiabank would first figure out what the posted rate was for a 5-year fixed term on the day you originally signed your contract with them. Next, they would determine which product would be needed to cover the remainder of your term, and the post rate for that theoretical mortgage. 

As you can see in the calculation below, the IRD in this example amounts to $5,938.

A calculation of the interest rate differential penalty.

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Scotiabank pre-payment privileges

In order to try to lessen your pre-payment penalty, Scotiabank will let you make a 15% lump sum payment and/or increase your payment amount by 15%, once a year. For example, if your contract says you can make a 15% lump sum payment each year, you can do that right before breaking your mortgage, in an attempt to lower your pre-payment penalty.

The bottom line

The takeaway from this is to be informed. You’ll better know if breaking your mortgage with Scotiabank is a good idea or not if you know how much it will cost you in advance. Giving consumers like you this information is what we do with our other tools, like our mortgage payment calculator and affordability calculator. Financial understanding puts you back in the proverbial driver’s seat – good luck!

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