A promissory note is a financial instrument that contains a written promise by one party (the note’s issuer or maker) to pay another party (the note’s payee) a definite sum of money, either on demand or at a specified future date. A promissory note typically contains all the terms pertaining to the indebtedness, such as the principal amount, interest rate, maturity date, date and place of issuance, and issuer’s signature.
Although financial institutions may issue them (see below), promissory notes are debt instruments that allow companies and individuals to get financing from a source other than a bank. This source can be an individual or a company willing to carry the note (and provide the financing) under the agreed-upon terms. In effect, anyone becomes a lender when he issues a promissory note.