“Deposit” Vs. “Down Payment” Vs. “Advance (Payment)”

For most contracts, companies pay after the goods or services get delivered. Usually, this process involves the company entering an agreement with the supplier. This agreement will mention the details of the transaction. Once the supplier satisfies their obligations, they will send the company an invoice. The company then pays for it, which concludes the contract. In some cases, the payment may occur at the same time as the delivery.

In some cases, however, the supplier may require the company to pay in advance. There are several reasons why suppliers may require a prepayment on their goods or services. Usually, these prepayments fall into several categories. The most prominent of these include deposits, down payments, and advance payments. All of these differ from each other in various fundamental regards.

The difference between deposits, down payments, and advance payments, maybe subtle to understand. However, it is crucial to know what each of these is individually first.

What is a Deposit?

The term deposit refers to any money kept or held by a supplier. In some cases, it also represents any balance in a bank account, usually to accumulate interest. However, in most contexts, deposits refer to money paid in advance to a supplier. Suppliers usually request this amount as security to deliver their goods or services.

In essence, deposits represent any money transferred to suppliers for safeguarding. Usually, this process involves paying a sum of money to a supplier that they keep in their custody. For example, a company may pay its landlord a security deposit to use its office building. This sum of money provides the supplier with certainty for the completion of the contract.

In the above context, the deposit still belongs to the payer. The receiver keeps it as safekeeping. When the contract between both parties ends, the receive repays this sum to the payer. Therefore, it acts as collateral for the transaction. In some cases, the receiver may deduct some money from it for many reasons. However, the payer still gets it back.

Related article  Project Budgeting Process - What Is It? And How Does It Work?

Apart from the above explanation, the term deposit can also have another meaning. In some cases, this term may refer to an amount paid to a supplier as an act of good faith. Usually, this occurs when the supplier demands money to deliver goods. For them, this sum may serve as insurance for the completion of the contract. In some cases, they may also use it to cover the delivery costs.

Overall, the term deposit can have two meanings. In the first context, it refers to any amount paid to a supplier as security. Usually, the payer receives this sum back when the contract between both parties ends. In the second context, the term deposit represents an amount paid to suppliers as an act of good faith. With this amount, suppliers receive confirmation for the transaction and complete their end of the transaction.

What is a Down Payment?

A down payment also represents a prepayment to a supplier. However, it may differ from the other types. The term down payment refers to an initial upfront payment to purchase a more expensive asset or service. For example, it represents the amount paid in advance for purchasing a home or car. Usually, it occurs through cash or equivalent at the time of finalizing the transaction.

A down payment represents a sum of money that a buyer pays in the early stages of purchasing an expensive good or service. However, it also constitutes a portion of the total purchase price. For example, for a home costing $500,000, a $100,000 down payment will reduce the liability to $400,000. Usually, buyers use a loan to finance the residual amount.

In some cases, making a down payment may be necessary to obtain a loan. Unlike deposits, the supplier does not return these payments. However, it does constitute a payment made for the overall purchase price of the underlying goods or services. In some cases, the supplier may also require down payments to initiate the selling process for an expensive asset.

Down payments do not apply to every situation. There are specific use cases where the term may be relevant. In most cases, this term applies to home or car purchases. For home purchases, the buyer may need to pay 5%-20% before getting access to it. Down payments can reduce the residual amount that buyers must pay to own the underlying goods or services.

Related article  Top 4 Purposes of Financial Statements: Why are They Required

Overall, down payment is a term used to describe the initial upfront payment of the purchase of an expensive asset. However, this amount only constitutes a small portion of the total purchase price. In some areas, this sum may also be called a deposit. In the second context of the term deposit mentioned above, both may be similar.

What is an Advance Payment?

Advance payment is a primary example of prepayments. This term refers to an amount paid to a supplier ahead of its schedule for goods or services. Usually, suppliers may require these payments to ensure the credit risks associated with the transaction are minimal. In some cases, it can help the supplier fund the operations to deliver the goods or services.

An advance represents a part of a contractually due sum paid for goods or services. In essence, it is similar to a down payment. However, down payments involve more expensive goods or services. Similarly, buyers usually finance the residual amount through a loan in the case of down payments. However, advances are for smaller contracts which last shorter.

In the case of advance payments, the residual amount becomes a part of the invoice sent by suppliers. For the payer, these payments become a prepayment, which represents an asset. However, once the supplier delivers their end of the bargain, the amount becomes an expense. With this type of prepayment, the buyer pays the supplier in advance for the goods or services.

Like deposits and down payments, suppliers may require a customer to make advance payments. However, the reasons for these may differ. Generally, suppliers require advance payments as a guarantee for their subsequent payments. For example, they may ask a customer with a bad credit rating to pay in advance to mitigate financial risks.

Related article  Gross Charge Off (Definition, Formula, Example, and Importance)

Overall, advance payments are any amounts paid to a supplier in advance. These payments become a part of the overall purchasing price of the underlying goods or services. In some cases, these payments may include the full price of those goods or services. Some suppliers may use it as protection, while others may require it to cover their costs.

Deposit Vs Down Payment vs Advance: What’s the difference?

The terms deposits, down payments and advance, refer to prepayments made by customers. However, they are different from each other, although very subtly. Despite those differences, the terms can interchange with each other in various scenarios. In most circumstances, knowing what each means is more crucial than how they vary from each other.

In general, deposits refer to two types of prepayments. The first relates to an amount paid as security for a transaction. Usually, the customer receives this amount once the contract ends. In this context, neither down payments nor advances come close to it. However, deposits may also refer to advances required to start a transaction. In that context, it is similar to advances.

On the other hand, down payments refer to initial upfront partial payments. These payments reduce the purchasing price of the underlying goods or services. In that context, both deposits and advance payments are similar to down payments. However, these payments usually apply to specific cases, which involve expensive goods or services. Down payments are also crucial for securing loans or getting access to the underlying asset.


Deposits are payments made to a supplier in advance to offer as collateral. In some cases, it may also refer to an advance payment made to suppliers. In contrast, down payments require an upfront partial initial sum paid to cover the price of expensive goods or services. Lastly, advance payments involve amounts paid ahead of schedule.