Over the years we have received many questions from students looking for the best financial calculator to help them with their finance/accounting classes and certification exams like the CFP or the CFA.
In this article, we’ll cover the things you need to consider when choosing a financial calculator to make sure you pick the right one for your needs.
Note: This article contains affiliate links and we will receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
If you’re looking for a quick recommendation that will be suitable for most finance and accounting students, the calculator we use in our time value of money tutorials is the Hewlett Packard 10bII+.
This calculator is usually around $25 on Amazon and is a good choice for business and finance needs to calculate loan repayments, interest rates, TVM, NPV, IRR, cash flows and more.
Top 3 Financial Calculators (for most people)
There are lots of financial calculators to choose from and throughout this article, I’ll mention a number of different choices. I’ve seen many websites reviewing the calculators and going through a detailed pro’s and con’s list for each.
I think this is overkill because fundamentally they all do pretty much the same thing. If you are a student, you’re either taking an introductory course–in which case you choose the cheapest calculator (the HP 10bII+)–or you’re studying for more advanced financial qualifications like the CFA or CFP–in which case you go with either the 12C or the TI BAII Plus.
If you are an experienced financial professional and you need more advanced functionality like RPN data entry, then this article is probably not for you (although the HP 12C does provide that functionality, along with the HP 17bII).
So, all that said, the best financial calculator for 99% of people studying finance, accounting, MBA, etc would be one of the following three:
|HP 10bII+||?||✓||✓||?||$25-35||Check Price →|
|HP 12C||✓||✓||✓||?||$50-70||Check Price →|
|TI BAII Plus||✓||✓||✓||✓||$35-55||Check Price →|
Before you run off and purchase a financial calculator, you need to think about exactly what you’ll be using it for. For example, if you’re taking the CFA exam, then the only allowed calculators are the HP12C and the BAII Plus.
Here are a few considerations which will determine the best calculator for you:
- Why are you using the calculator?
- What is your budget to spend?
- Which financial certification exams will you be taking (CFA, CFP, CPA, SOA, Series 7 etc)?
- Do you need graphing or scientific functionality?
Let’s break these down and cover each consideration. If you’re in a rush and just want to skip ahead to the list of calculators, click here.
Why do you need the financial calculator?
Chances are that you are a student taking some form of introductory financial management course. Maybe you’re even one of our students here at Study Finance!
For these types of course, the best calculator for you would be either the HP 10bII+ or the TI BAII Plus. Both of these calculators are less than $35 and will have all of the functionality you need to make calculations in your course.
For undergraduate finance majors, finance professionals and MBA students, you might want to look for a higher-end model calculator which has the features these are missing. It’s like that for these financial needs you will be using spreadsheets though, so you may still be fine with the cheaper calculators.
What is your budget?
You have two main financial calculator budget ranges:
- $25-40: HP 10bII+, TI BAII Plus, Sharp EL-733A
- $60-100: HP 12C, HP 17bII, TI BAII Plus Professional, TI 83 Plus, TI 84 Plus CE
In the more expensive bracket of calculator, you will find extra financial functions, graphing functions and advanced scientific math functions. If you don’t need these, stick the cheaper calculators.
Now, if you are a business student and also take math alongside your finance or MBA classes, you will most likely need a graphing calculator for math class.
In this case, the TI 83 Plus or the latest TI 84 Plus CE would be the right choice. Make sure you speak with your professors to find out what your needs are in the class before choosing.
Will you be taking financial certification exams?
This is a very big consideration and you will need to check with your certification program to make sure you know what their calculator policy is. Most of them have a policy that prohibits the use of a calculator that can store text so that you can’t sneakily bring notes into the test. Here are the major policies for each exam board that you need to be aware of:
CFA Institute (CFA and CIPM)
CFP Board of Standards
The CFP Board of Standards requires you to have a calculator with an IRR function and no alphabetic keys. This means your best choices here are the HP 10bII+, the HP 12C, the TI BAII Plus or the TI BAII Plus Professional.
Graphing calculators (TI 83 Plus, TI 84 Plus CE) are not acceptable.
The Investments & Wealth Institute allows the following calculators on their CPWA certification exams: HP 10b, HP 10bII, HP 10bII Plus, HP 12C, HP 12C Platinum, HP 17B, HP 17BII and HP 17BII Plus, as well as the Texas instrument BA II Plus, BA II Plus Professional and BA II Plus Business Analyst. They do not allow TI 83/84.
Candidates are required to clear their financial calculator’s memory prior to the exam. Any notes, including manually programmed formulas, will not be allowed in the testing area. If the calculator has notes/formulas printed on the calculator or includes any other information, it must be removed or covered by solid color tape. Calculators are subject to inspections by test center staff.
Check page 10 of the CPWA Candidate Handbook for the full calculator policy.
FINRA (Series 6, Series 7, Series 63, etc)
This is a nice and simple one. You’re not allowed to bring a calculator with you to these exams. If you request one, the examination center staff will provide a financial calculator for you.
Society of Actuaries
The Society of Actuaries calculator policy is to only allow the following Texas Instruments calculators:
- BA II Plus
- BA II Plus Professional
- TI-30X II (IIS solar or IIB battery)
- TI-30XS MultiView (or XB battery)
You can bring multiple backup calculators with batteries, as long as they are from this list. You must also show the supervisor that the memory has been cleared from the calculator.
There doesn’t seem to be an official policy for financial calculators in the CPA exam. The general recommendation is that you ask for a calculator at the test center and they will most likely provide you a standard four-function calculator.
For time value calculations in the CPA exam, you will be provided with TVM tables.
Do you need graphing/scientifical functionality?
If you require graphing or advanced scientific and math functions in your calculator, the best option would be the TI 83 Plus or the latest TI 84 Plus CE.
Most finance professionals would not use graphing functions on a calculator anyway and would opt for creating spreadsheets instead. Notice I said “most” and not “all”.
You’ve probably realised by now that there’s no “one size fits all” financial calculator.
If there was, it would most likely be the TI BA II Plus because:
- It’s very affordable ($35-55)
- It’s accepted by all the major certifications
- It’s the cheapest option if you’re taking the CFA
I won’t recommend a calculator for you as the information in this article should help you figure it out yourself, but generally speaking:
- TI BA II Plus if you need to take the CFA exam
- HP 10bII+ if you don’t need to take the CFA exam
- TI 83 or 84 if you need graphic but it won’t be available in all exams
I hope that helps you to figure out the best financial calculator for your situation.
Please note that links to calculators in this article are affiliate links. If you click a link and purchase a calculator, Study Finance receives a small commission. The price you pay does not change.