What is call risk in bonds? - Trading Class | Trading Courses | Trading Webinars
  • No products in the cart.

Table of Contents
< Back to All Categories

What is call risk in bonds?

Understanding Call Risk in Bonds

The bond market is an expansive and diverse investment landscape, with a unique set of terminologies and risks that may seem complex, particularly for a novice investor. One of these terms is ‘call risk.’ In essence, call risk is a risk that a bond investor faces when the issuer of the bond exercises their right to “call,” or buy back, a bond before its maturity date. Below, we will delve into the inherent complexities of call risk, unraveling it to its bare threads for easier comprehension for beginners in the bond market.

Defining Call Risk

In a simplified context, call risk refers to the prospect that a bond will be ‘called in’ before the specified maturity date. This is only relevant for callable bonds, a unique class of bonds that grant the bond issuer the authority to redeem the bond early. Callable bonds come with a specific ‘call date,’ prior to the designated maturity date, after which the bond issuer can recall the bond.

The principle behind a call is often based on the changes in prevailing market interest rates. When interest rates decline, bond issuers usually call on their existing high-interest bonds and reissue new ones at lower rates. This lessens the cost of capital for the issuing company, but for bondholders, it can mean a premature end to their expected income stream, giving birth to what we refer to as ‘call risk.’

Implications of Call Risk for Investors

For bond investors, the presence of call risk can significantly impact their investment strategies and returns in several ways, as elaborated below:

Reduction in Interest Income

A callable bond’s early redemption deprives the bondholder of future interest payments. Since the bondholder would receive their principal early, they could potentially miss out on the interest that would accrue until the bond’s maturity date. Investors benefit from callable bonds when interest rates are high and are expected to remain so because it makes it unlikely for the bond to be called.

Reinvestment Risk

An offshoot of call risk is reinvestment risk. When a bond is called, the investor must find an alternative investment option for their returned principal. In a declining interest rate environment, which often prompts bond call, it can be challenging to find an equally rewarding investment as the initial high-yielding bond.

Price Ceiling

Callable bonds typically have a price ceiling. Even in a falling interest rate environment, where bond prices generally rise, the price of a callable bond is unlikely to exceed its call price, limiting capital appreciation opportunities for bond investors.

How Investors Can Manage Call Risk

While call risk presents a unique challenge for bond investors, it can be managed strategically with the following methods:

Assessing Call Provisions

Before investing in a callable bond, it is crucial to understand its call provisions. These notify investors when and at what price the bond may be called. Also, look for a call protection period—this is a specific timeframe during which the issuer cannot call the bond. The longer the call protection period, the less the call risk.


Diversification can serve as an effective risk management tool. An investor can minimize call risk by diversifying their portfolio across different types of bonds and other asset classes. This strategy helps mitigate potential losses if a single investment gets called.

Laddering Strategy

In this method, investments are spread across bonds with different maturity dates, thereby reducing the risk of all investments getting called simultaneously. Laddering also creates a rotation of maturing bonds, which provides a consistent income stream and opportunities for reinvestment.

Pay Attention to the Interest Rate Environment

By being attentive to interest rate forecasts and current market trends, investors can better assess the likelihood of their bonds being called and plan accordingly.

End Note

Call risk carries a unique set of implications that can potentially impact bond investments. However, with various risk management tools and a clear understanding of the bond market, investors can reduce its impact and ensure steady returns from their bond investments. Understanding the intricacies of the bond market can help guide investment decisions, aligning them with one’s financial goals and risk tolerance.