5 Best Financial Calculators for College & CFA Exams

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Most Affordable Pick: Texas Instruments BA II Plus
It’s one of the most affordable financial calculators you can find and one of just two types of calculators approved for CFA exams.

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The five best financial calculators for college students are:

  • Texas Instruments BA II Plus – CFA Approved – (Best Value for Money)
  • Texas Instruments BA II Plus Professional CFA Approved – (Best Overall Quality)
  • Hewlett Packard 10BII+ Financial Calculator
  • Hewlett Packard 12C Platinum CFA Approved
  • Hewlett Packard 17BII+

best financial calculator

Best Financial Calculators for Students

1. Texas Instruments BA II Plus – Best Value for Money

Quick Review: Affordable, high quality and certified for the CFA exams.


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Benefits for Students:

  • CFA Approved: One of only two types of calculator approved in CFA Exams.
  • Hard Slip Cover: Comes with a decent sliding cover to protect it from damage in your college backpack.
  • Soft Responsive Keys: Personally I find the keys are responsive and don’t cause me any hassle. They’re softer and easier to press than on the BA II Plus Professional (reviewed below), but don’t expect to be able to touch type on it – take your time with the keys and they’ll work fine.

Keep in Mind:

  • The Factory Settings are Annoying: When you get it, it’ll come with monthly compounding as the stock setting. You can change it to annual, which in my opinion is the more ‘standard’ compounding interval. You’ll also need to change the decimal points if you want more accurate data – stock setting is to just 2 decimal points.
  • It’s only Entry Level: It’ll do the trick for a finance class, but if you’re planning to go into finance as a career, I’d recommend stepping up to the BA II Plus Professional.

2. Texas Instruments BA II Plus Professional – Best Quality Overall

Quick Review: This one’s a step up from the BA II, but you’ll be paying a little more for the advanced functions. Consider this if you’re majoring in finance or doing an MBA.


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Benefits for Students:

  • CFA Approved: As the big brother of the BA II Plus, this BA II Plus Professional is also acceptable for CFA Exams.
  • Advanced Features: This one is a step up from the Plus and has a few additional features such as additional cash flow worksheet calculations (such as payback, discounted payback and net future value). It also has higher sum total of cash flows (up from 24 to 32) and modified duration of bonds. Personally, I don’t think most students will need these functions – but if you’re looking for a quality calculator for your MBA and into your career, consider this one for its advanced features.
  • Firmer Keypad than BA II Plus: The keypad is also much firmer than the BA II Plus. It means you can’t touch type quite as well, but it will also last longer and take more of a beating.

Keep in Mind:

  • Cost: It’s a little less affordable than several other calculators on this list, but I think the additional features are worthwhile for the additional features – especially if you’re an accounting or economics major.

3. Hewlett Packard 17BII+

Quick Review: Best for accounting and economics majors due to its additional features such as depreciation and currency conversion – which you won’t get in the lower price point calculators.


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Benefits for Students:

  • Good for Accounting and Economics Majors: Unlike the HP 10B II and HP 12C Platinum, this 17B II allows you to do depreciation and currency conversion easily. Personally I use the currency conversion a lot (as I do international finances). If you’re an accounting or economics major, I’d take a close look at this one as it’s really streamlined for these two disciplines.
  • Larger Display: Unlike the HP 10B II and HP 12C Platinum which have only one line display, this 17B II has a 2 lines x 22 characters display.
  • Has Menus and Prompts: Unlike the HP 10B II and HP 12C Platinum, this 17B II provides a menu and prompt to make navigation easier. As a visual learner, I like this additional feature.

Keep in Mind:

  • Cost: It’s a little more affordable than several other calculators on this list, but I think the additional features are worthwhile for the additional features – especially if you’re an accounting or economics major.

4. Hewlett Packard 12C Platinum

Quick Review: Consider this if you’re in the banking, real estate or insurance industries. It’s standard in those industries so you’ll find a lot of support on how to use it from colleagues.


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Benefits for Students:

  • CFA Approved: One of only two types of calculator approved in CFA Exams.
  • Best for Banking, Real Estate and Finance: Consider this if you’re in the banking, real estate or insurance industries. It’s standard in those industries so you’ll find a lot of support on how to use it from colleagues. It also has bonds and stock market calculations which I like and use regularly.
  • Also Good for Stock Market Calculations: Unlike the 10BII+, this one does stock market related calculations such as bonds and depreciation.
  • Fast: The Platinum is the newer version of the HP 12C. It’s faster and more durable than its past version.

Keep in Mind:

  • Get the Platinum: There is a non-platinum version of the HP 12C. It only does Reverse Polish Notation style, whereas the platinum version does both algebraic and RPN. I like this versatility. It also remembers 400 steps while the 12C non-platinum only remembers 99.

5. Hewlett Packard 10BII+ Financial Calculator

Quick Review: One of the more affordable finance calculators on the market today.


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on Amazon.

Benefits for Students:

  • Affordable: It may have less features than the BA II Plus Professional or Hewlett Packard 17BII+, but you’ll also get it at a lower price point … and chances are you won’t miss the higher-end features if you just need a calculator to get through an undergraduate finance course.
  • Easy to Learn: I find this one has a much easier learning curve than others. It doesn’t use Reverse Polish Notation, which can be confusing for beginners – so this might be a good ‘first’ financial calculator to dip your toe in the water.

Keep in Mind:

  • Not CFA Compliant: Not accepted for the CFA Exams.
  • Some Missing Features: It’s not great for stock market or insurance calculations. For example, it doesn’t do bonds, depreciation or currency conversions.

What are the Benefits of Financial Calculators?

Financial calculators are designed with standalone keys for common financial calculations such as:

  • Simple interest
  • Compound interest
  • Cash flow
  • Amortization
  • Conversion
  • Cost/Sell/Margin

These standalone key functionalities make them the ideal calculators in finance, real estate, banking, insurance, and related industries.

How much does a Financial Calculator Cost?

I chose not to write the exact prices here because they’re likely to fluctuate over time. You’ll need to check current prices on Amazon.

However, financial calculators tend to come in two price brackets.

Lower Price Bracket

Most people can get away with getting a more affordable financial calculator that will perform most functions and get you through introductory finance courses. Calculators in the lower price bracket include:

  • Hewlett Packard 10BII+ Financial Calculator
  • Texas Instruments BA II Plus

The above calculators will probably be okay for you if you are just taking an introductory finance or accounting course. You likely won’t even know that you’re missing the extra functionalities of the higher-end finance calculators.

Higher Price Bracket

Those who are majoring in finance and accounting or are intending to be finance professionals for the next 5 – 10 years may like to invest in a higher-end calculator, especially if you want a high-quality calculator for the long term.

Calculators in the higher price bracket include:

  • Hewlett Packard 12C Platinum
  • Hewlett Packard 17BII+
  • BA II Plus Professional

These calculators have more complex functions and abilities that may be required in higher-end finance courses. If you’re expecting that you’ll need a quality calculator throughout your degree, I’d recommend forking out the extra $20 to $40 to get a decent one from the outset.

CFA Exam Compliance

If you’re intending to take the CFA exam, you’ll need to get a calculator that is allowed in the exam room. Unfortunately only two calculators are acceptable:

  • Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional)
  • Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C Platinum, 12C Platinum 25th anniversary edition, 12C 30th anniversary edition, and HP 12C Prestige)

Rules may change. Consult the current CFA Exam Calculator Policy for more details.

Final Thoughts

When looking for the best financial calculator for CFA exams, make sure you pick one of the two types that are CFA exam compliant.

If you’re just after a calculator to get you through a few finance classes at college, the cheaper BA II Plus will get you through without any worries.

If you plan on going into finance for a career, will go on to major in finance, or do an MBA, I personally think it’s worth your while taking a step up to the BA II Plus Professional which is a much better overall product.

I hope this review has helped you choose the financial calculator that’s right for you!

Related: Best Graphing Calculator for College Students

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