Preferred Stock: Definition, Types, and vs Common Stock

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  • You’re probably more familiar with common stock, which provides voting rights and may even pay dividends.
  • Only after the interest on bonds are paid can holders of a company’s preferred stock be paid.
  • Miranda is completing her MBA and lives in Idaho, where she enjoys spending time with her son playing board games, travel and the outdoors.
  • These “blank checks” are often used as a takeover defence; they may be assigned very high liquidation value (which must be redeemed in the event of a change of control), or may have great super-voting powers.
  • Also, if the issuer has additional optionality, they must pay the investors for it.

In contrast, holders of the cumulative preferred stock shares will receive all dividend payments in arrears before preferred stockholders receive a payment. Essentially, the common stockholders have to wait until all cumulative preferred dividends are paid up before they get any dividend payments again. For this reason, cumulative preferred shares often have a lower payment rate than the slightly riskier non-cumulative preferred shares. But for individuals, a straight preferred stock, a hybrid between a bond and a stock, bears some disadvantages of each type of securities without enjoying the advantages of either. Like a bond, a straight preferred does not participate in future earnings and dividend growth of the company, or growth in the price of the common stock.

What Are the Downsides to Owning Preferred Stock?

On the upside, preferred stocks usually feature higher yields than common dividend stocks or bonds issued by the same firm. Their dividend payments also take priority over those attached to the company’s common stock dividends. If the company faces a cash crunch, common stock dividends get cut first.

An investor must sell their shares at their choosing to redeem the shares. While preferred stock shares some similarities with common stock and bonds, there are a few key differences as well. For most preferred shareholders, the true value of the shares is the size and predictability of the dividends, not a potentially larger future share price. Preferred stock is a class of stock that has certain rights assigned to it, such as a greater claim on assets following a liquidation. It differs from common stock in that it does not grant voting rights. If you’d like to know how much you could expect to receive in dividends from cumulative preferred stock, there’s a fairly simple formula you can apply.

Non-cumulative preferred stock, on the other hand, allows the company to skip dividend payouts altogether, with no requirement to pay them at a future date. This type of preferred stock is less common and entails greater risk to investors since dividends are not guaranteed. Because preferred stocks’ par values are fixed and do not change, preferred stock dividend yields are more static and less variable than common stock dividend yields. You calculate a preferred stock’s dividend yield by dividing the annual dividend payment by the par value.

  • Because par values are not the same as trading values, you have to pay attention to the trading price of preferred shares as well.
  • If you decided to trade in a share of preferred stock, you’d get 5.5 shares of common stock.
  • Essentially, the common stockholders have to wait until all cumulative preferred dividends are paid up before they get any dividend payments again.
  • This can be especially lucrative for preferred shareholders if the market value of common shares increases.
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    this post may contain references to products from our partners.

The exchange may happen when the investor wants, regardless of the prices of either share. Once the exchange has occurred, the investor has relinquished its right to trade and can not convert the common shares back to preferred shares. Convertible preferred stock usually has predefined guidance on how many shares of common stock it can be exchanged for.

On the surface, preferred stocks have some benefits that might seem more appealing than common stocks or bonds. But when you dig a little deeper, you can see that preferred stocks are really the worst of both worlds—they don’t have the potential for growth that common stocks have . And they don’t have the security that makes bonds appealing to some investors. With cumulative preferred stock, the company promises to pay back any missed payments in the future. So if a company misses three straight dividend payments of $10, that means they would add $30 on top of the next dividend payment owed to you.

Preferred Stock vs. Bonds

Preferred shares are equity, but in many ways, they are hybrid assets that lie between stock and bonds. They offer more predictable income than common stock and are rated by the major credit rating agencies. Financial companies are usually the most likely to offer preferred stock. If the preferred stock is what your fund’s nav isn’t telling you a cumulative issue, the unpaid dividends are considered to be in arrears and accumulate in an account. (Missing a payment on preferred stock is not considered to be a default event.) Those dividends must then be distributed to preferred shareholders before any dividends can be paid to common stockholders.

Income from preferred stock gets preferential tax treatment, since qualified dividends may be taxed at a lower rate than bond interest. The main differences between preferred stock, common stock, and bonds are the rights they grant the shareholder. The price of preferred shares is generally more stable than that of common stock. However, preferred shares rarely give the holder the right to vote on the company’s corporate governance, so preferred shareholders have no control over the business’s management. Preferred stock is also called preferred shares, preferreds, or sometimes preference shares.

This is due to certain tax advantages that are available to them, but which are not available to individual investors. Because these institutions buy in bulk, preferred issues are a relatively simple way to raise large amounts of capital. Private or pre-public companies issue preferred stock for this reason. If shares are callable, the issuer can purchase them back at par value after a set date.

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Although preferred shareholders have seniority over common shareholders when it comes to dividend payments, those dividends are not necessarily guaranteed. You can also talk to a financial advisor about formulating a dividend investment strategy that’s tailored to your goals. Before purchasing preferred shares, consider if you’re OK with missing dividend payments and recognize with noncumulative dividends, you might not receive any dividends at all. Preferred stocks can be traded on the secondary market just like common stock. However, just because it can be sold doesn’t mean you’ll receive the same amount you paid for it. While preferred stock prices are more stable than common stock prices, they don’t always match par values.


Preferred stock is often compared to as bonds because both may offer recurring cash distributions. However, as there are many differences between stocks and bonds, there are differences with preferred equity as well. All of the types of preferred stock are exactly that—preferred stock. Each may or may not have different features that make them more or less favorable compared to other types. For this reason, it can share features with both common stock and bonds, though it has some unique privileges attached to it as well.

There are different ways that dividends can be paid out, depending on which type of stock you own. Cumulative preferred stock distributes accumulated dividends on a preset schedule, before any dividend payouts to common stock shareholders. If you own cumulative preferred stock, it’s important to understand when you can expect to receive dividend payments.

Preferred stock vs. bonds

It also doesn’t specify the maturity date which injects uncertainty over the recovery of invested principal. There is limited appreciation potential, no voting rights and it is sensitive to interest rates. Unlike bondholders, failing to pay a dividend to preferred shareholders does not mean a company is in default. Because preferred shareholders do not enjoy the same guarantees as creditors, the ratings on preferred shares are generally lower than the same issuer’s bonds, with the yields being accordingly higher.

Because of their characteristics, they straddle the line between stocks and bonds. Technically, they are equity securities, but they share many characteristics with debt instruments. Like any other type of equity investment, there are risks of investing including the loss of capital you invest into the company. Preferred stock has specific features different from common stock so it may perform differently. However, both investments are reflections of the performance of the underlying company. Should the company begin to struggle, this may result in a loss or decrease in value in the preferred stock price.