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What Is Back End Load?

A back end load (also known as a sales charge or an exit fee) is a commission or sales fee. Investors pay back end loads when selling their investments, which are commonly associated with mutual funds and annuities.

The fee is usually a percentage of the current value of the fund’s shares, with the amount gradually decreasing over time. Some investments decrease their back end load mutual funds to zero if the investor holds onto their shares until the holding period is over. The holding period is the time between the purchase and sale of an asset.

Share Classes and Back End Load

A share class is a classification that’s put on mutual funds and other types of investments. It’s usually differentiated using letters (e.g. “Class A”), and each provides different rights and privileges for investors and the mutual fund. For instance, different classes have various minimum investment requirements, expense ratios, and back end loads.

Typically, Class B and Class C shares will have a back end load. When the investor redeems, i.e., sells, shares, the investor will need to pay the back end load. Class A shares will have a front end load, paid upfront, when the investor buys shares. In other words, funds with all share classes will have sales charges that depend on the chosen class.

Example of Back End Load Mutual Fund

Let’s say you invested $100,000 in a mutual fund with an initial 5% back end load. This goes down to 3% at the end of the holding period of 36 months. Within 24 months, you decide to sell the mutual fund. You’d be charged the 5% back end load (since you’re still within the holding period).

When you go to sell the fund, you find that the investment has grown to $110,000, or a gain of $10,000 or 10%. You’d need to pay the back end load of $5,500 and would end up with $104,500 after the sale was completed. Your net return would be $4,500 or 4.5%.

Back End Load Calculation

Calculating the back end load involves finding the percentage of your investment's current value:


Say that you want to sell your investment in a mutual fund that is currently valued at $50,000. Since there’s a 3% back end load, you’ll need to pay:

$50,000 x 3% = $1,500

This means you’ll need to pay $1,500 when selling your mutual fund shares.

Pros and Cons of Back End Load in Mutual Funds

As with any investment vehicle, the best choices depend on multiple factors. Mutual funds with back end loads have their fair share of criticism, but there are a few advantages to them.

Back end loads can discourage unnecessary early withdrawals and overtrading. In other words, their high fees often serve as a deterrent for someone looking to cash in on their investments. Plus, investors may be able to avoid back end loads if they hold the fund until long after their holding period. Of course, this depends on the individual fund, so it’s better to check the fine print.

However, many experts believe that back end loads are an unnecessary expense for most investors. Plenty of investment options don’t charge these types of fees, like exchange traded funds (ETFs) and other “no-load” mutual funds.

Besides, back end loads add to the fees you’ll pay, reducing the net returns you’ll receive on your investment. While investors do have to pay some sort of fee to invest, there are options that would have them paying less.

Ask an Expert about Back End Load

All of our content is verified for accuracy by Rachel Siegel, CFA and our team of certified financial experts. We pride ourselves on quality, research, and transparency, and we value your feedback. Below you'll find answers to some of the most common reader questions about Back End Load.

Are Back End Load Fees Terrible?

Back end loads are fees that lessen an investor’s total return. Put another way, the fund with a back end load would have to earn that much more in return to provide a return equivalent to an investment with no back end load. In a competitive market, with many mutual funds and ETFs available for investment, you should be able to find one suitable for your needs without having to pay back end loads.

Rachel Siegel, CFA
Rachel Siegel, CFA
Expert Certificate

CFA Charterholder

Academic Director, Bloomberg

Rachel Siegel, CFA is one of the nation's leading experts at ensuring the accuracy of financial and economic text. Her prestigious background includes over 10 years creating professional financial certification exams and another 20 years of college-level teaching.