Differences Between Semimonthly Vs Biweekly Pay Schedules

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 6, 2021

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When you’re job hunting, it can seem like there’s a whole ocean of information to consider. Navigating this ocean may be difficult at times, but ultimately, you need to know which jobs will best fit your qualifications and lifestyle. This will save you a heap of time and effort.

Considering the fact that one of the main purposes of working is being paid, it’s vital to research the nature of your pay.

You might most commonly look into a position’s hourly rate, average salary, or the overall amount you’ll be paid. While these are all important aspects of job searching, you should also think about your possible pay schedule. After all, how often you get paid can have a serious impact on how you budget your finances, save money, and plan for the future.

Typically, you may encounter weekly, biweekly, semimonthly, or monthly payment schedules. However, biweekly and semimonthly payment schedules are the most common. Therefore, this article will discuss the differences between biweekly and semimonthly pay schedules and each’s various advantages.

What is a Biweekly Pay Schedule?

If you’ve ever been employed before, you’ve likely had a biweekly pay schedule at least once. A biweekly schedule entails being paid every other week, typically on the same day. Two of the most popular paydays companies favor are Thursday or Friday. Overall, when you have a biweekly pay schedule, you’ll receive 26 paychecks per year.

If you’re paid hourly, your paychecks will reflect the number of hours you worked during the pay cycle before your payday, likely a week behind. This paycheck will cover roughly two weeks of work and include any overtime hours you contributed. In this way, the amount you’re paid each payday can vary from week to week.

On the other hand, If you’re working in a salaried position, your pay will always be a fixed amount. In this case, your paycheck will be the same every payday.

What Is a Semimonthly Pay Schedule?

When a job indicates the presence of a semimonthly pay schedule, that means you’ll be paid twice a month every month. Most often, you’ll be given one check at the beginning or in the middle of the month and another at the end of the month. For instance, common days to receive your paycheck might be the 1st, 15th, or last day of the month in question.

Even if you’ve never come across a semimonthly pay schedule before, you shouldn’t worry about how often you’ll be paid. You’ll receive 24 paychecks per year, which is ultimately not very different from a biweekly schedule.

Remember that not all months are the same length (for example, February), so keep in mind that some paychecks will be larger or smaller than others. This is especially true if you’re paid hourly. Unfortunately, your second paycheck in February might only cover 13-14 days, even if other months average 15-16 days.

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However, if you’re a salaried employee, your employer might simply divide your 24 paychecks evenly.

Key Differences Between Semimonthly and Biweekly Pay

While there isn’t a huge disparity between the time frames of these two paycheck schedules, there are still some important differences. Here are the three factors to consider:

  • Number of paychecks per year. As mentioned previously, when you have a biweekly pay schedule, you’ll receive 26 paychecks per year, whereas a semimonthly schedule will provide you with 24.

    This is because there are two months in the year where a biweekly schedule will provide three paychecks. Overall, this difference is minor but still important to consider when you’re structuring how you want to pay your bills and plan for future financial decisions.

  • Paycheck amounts. While the amount of money paid out per month will ultimately be similar, the average paycheck amount per payday will be different. The average semimonthly pay schedule can cover up to 15-16 days of work between paychecks, whereas a biweekly pay schedule can only cover a maximum of 14 working days.

    Further, when you consider your days off, the number of days you’re paid for will likely be less. With that in mind, biweekly paychecks will provide less money per paycheck, but you’ll have to wait less time between paychecks.

    For example, if you were to make $45,000.00 per year, your biweekly pay would average at around $1,730.77 every other week ($45,000.00 / 26). On the other hand, a semimonthly pay schedule would provide you an average of $1,875.00 ($42,000.00 / 24) each paycheck.

    However, remember that overall, you would be receiving the same amount of money and owe the same amount of taxes, regardless of the payment schedule.

  • Payday. Another example of the differences between biweekly and semimonthly pay is the day you’ll receive your paycheck. On a biweekly schedule, you’ll always receive your paycheck on the same day every other week (perhaps Friday).

    By contrast, because semimonthly schedules line up with certain days of the month, you can receive your paycheck on different days of the week every time you’re paid. For instance, you can have one paycheck on Friday and another on Tuesday.

Hourly vs. Salaried Pay

Whether you’re paid hourly or have salaried pay can also impact how your pay schedule affects you.

If you are a salaried employee, the payment schedule you receive may not change the amount you’re paid each paycheck. Even on a semimonthly schedule, where you might be working a different number of days between paychecks, employers will often split all of your paychecks evenly over the course of the year.

Naturally, a salaried paycheck will be less on average each biweekly payday, but each schedule’s totals will remain the same over the course of the year. The main difference will be how often you receive your paycheck.

If you’re paid hourly for your work, your paychecks will be more random, regardless of the payment schedule you receive. This is especially true in the case of semimonthly pay, as the number of days between paychecks can have a substantial impact on the amount you’re paid.

For instance, if you worked 14 days during one pay cycle but 16 days during the next, you’d likely have worked a greater number of hours in 16 days. Because you have no control over the number of days between paychecks, your paychecks may vary greatly.

While the number of hours you work under a biweekly schedule can also vary, they’re more likely to remain similar to every pay cycle if you’re working full time. This is because there will always be 14 days between each paycheck.

Pay Schedule Popularity

In general, biweekly pay schedules are more popular with employers, as according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 36.5% of employees are paid biweekly. Conversely, only 19.8% of employees are paid on a semimonthly pay schedule.

Typically, some of the fields that favor biweekly pay are information, professional and business services, education, health services, leisure, and hospitality. For example, 52.9% of employees who work in education and health services are paid biweekly, making biweekly pay more popular than the three other pay schedule variants combined.

Semimonthly pay schedules are somewhat popular in the information, financial activities, and professional/business services fields. However, the percentage of employees who receive semimonthly paychecks in these fields is still lower than the percentage who receive biweekly ones. Generally speaking, the commonality of semimonthly pay tops out at around 30%, even in the industries where it’s most popular.

Advantages of Biweekly Pay

With biweekly schedules being the most common and popular pay schedule, it’s no surprise that there are a few advantages to being paid this way. Some of these advantages include:

  • Easy hourly and overtime pay calculations. With a pay schedule that covers the same number of days in every pay cycle, it’s considerably easier to calculate not only your hourly work but also any overtime you committed to.

    Especially in the case of overtime, your pay is usually based on a workweek, and so your biweekly pay will always cover two pay cycles of overtime instead of splitting any of it between different paychecks.

  • Predictability. As mentioned, your biweekly paychecks will always come on the same day every two weeks. If you always know that you’ll be paid every Friday of the week, it can be easier to consistently save and plan expenses.

  • Two additional paychecks. With 26 paychecks instead of 24, you’ll receive an extra paycheck during two months of the year. This additional check can help you save or pay off debts, even if you’re still getting the same amount of money per year.

Advantages of Semimonthly Pay

Even though semimonthly pay schedules aren’t as abundant as biweekly ones, there are still distinct advantages to semimonthly pay. Some of these advantages include:

  • Time-saving and cost-effective. For small businesses and companies, being able to run payroll twice each month can cost less than running it twice a week. In addition, this method of pay can reduce the time it takes for designated employees to manage payroll.

  • Consistent dates. While your pay won’t always be on the same day of the week, it will usually be on the same two days of each month (e.g., the 15th and 1st). When you always know these dates, it can be easier to budget your household expenses and schedule monthly bill payments to be automatically deducted on the same day each month.

  • Easier to calculate “take-home pay.” Semimonthly pay schedules make it easier to calculate your monthly payroll deductions (e.g., health benefits and taxes), as these deductions are divided equally between two monthly paychecks. Since you’ll always have two paychecks per month, deduction amounts will always be the same.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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