Differences Between Semimonthly and Biweekly Pay Schedules

By Jamie Birt

Updated June 21, 2022 | Published October 7, 2019

Updated June 21, 2022

Published October 7, 2019

Jamie Birt is a career coach with 5+ years of experience helping job seekers navigate the job search through one-to-one coaching, webinars and events. She’s motivated by the mission to help people find fulfillment and belonging in their careers.

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When it comes to your paycheck, the most important question after “How much am I going to be paid?” is “How often will I be paid?” Most businesses choose to pay their employees weekly, biweekly, semimonthly or monthly. Of these options, the biweekly and semimonthly pay schedules are the most common. How often you get paid by your employer can impact how you budget your finances and plan for the future.

In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between a biweekly and a semimonthly pay schedule, as well as the advantages of each.

What is a semimonthly pay schedule?

If you're on a semimonthly pay schedule, you will receive a paycheck twice each month. One check will come in the middle of the month, and the other will arrive at the end of that month or the beginning of the next. Typical semimonthly pay schedules are the 1st and the 15th, or the 15th and the last day of the month.

With the semimonthly schedule, you receive 24 paychecks every year. Since months are not all of equal length, some paychecks will be larger or smaller than others. For example, your second paycheck in February would only cover 13 or 14 days. Most other paychecks cover a 15 or 16 day period. However, if you’re a permanent, salaried employee, your employer may divide your total yearly salary evenly between 24 checks.

Related: Salary vs. Hourly Earnings: What Are the Differences?

What is a biweekly pay schedule?

On a biweekly schedule, you receive a paycheck every other week. Typically, your employer distributes paychecks on the same day every pay week, usually a Friday.

With a biweekly schedule, you receive 26 paychecks every year. If you're salaried, your pay is a fixed amount, so your paycheck will be the same amount every time. If you're paid hourly, every paycheck may differ since it reflects the number of hours you worked during that pay cycle, including overtime.

Related: Guide To Understanding Your Pay Stub

What is the difference between semimonthly pay and biweekly pay?

If you're a salaried employee, whether you're paid semimonthly or biweekly does not affect your annual pay. You will receive the same amount every year regardless of the pay schedule. What differs is the amount in each paycheck and how often you receive that check.

For example, if you're earning $50,000 per year and are on a semimonthly pay schedule, each paycheck will be $2,083.33 gross (that is, before any payroll deductions such as income tax or health benefits). You arrive at that amount by dividing 50,000 by 24, since there are two pay cycles each month.

On a biweekly pay schedule, your $50,000 annual pay is divided between 26 pay cycles. Therefore, each paycheck will be $1,923.08 every other week before deductions. It may look as if you're paid less, but you receive two additional paychecks each year.

These same figures apply to those who are full-time non-salaried employees. The main difference is each paycheck will be adjusted to account for overtime hours or time-off taken within the pay cycle.

Semimonthly payBiweekly pay
Two pay cycles per monthPaid every two weeks
Paycheck = Annual salary / 24Paycheck = Annual salary / 26
24 paychecks every year26 paychecks every year

Which pay schedules do different industries use?

Biweekly is the preferred pay schedule among many industries. However, some utilize other schedules.

Construction, manufacturing, natural resource and mining businesses usually prefer to pay their employees weekly. Those working in these industries often work irregular hours each week, so a weekly pay schedule may more accurately reflect their cashflow needs. For instance, employees may lose hours due to severe weather, or work overtime to complete a job by a deadline. Overtime refers to any hours worked more than 40 in one week, and is calculated based on a week’s work as opposed to two or four weeks. 

Monthly pay schedules are the least common across all industries, though some financial service businesses may send monthly checks. High-wage companies tend to favor monthly pay cycles, whereas low-wage companies typically prefer to pay weekly. High-income earners can usually manage only being paid once a month. Those on a lower income may need a weekly check to help pay bills and budget their finances.

Related: What Is the Average Salary in the U.S.?

Advantages of semimonthly pay

There are advantages to being on a semimonthly pay schedule, including:

1. Always the same dates

Knowing the exact dates you’ll be paid can help you budget your household expenses and schedule monthly bill payments.

2. More cost-effective

A semimonthly pay schedule costs less for a business since it only ever has to run payroll twice each month. Not only does this reduce the cost of paying a payroll service, but it also reduces the time cost of employees who have to manage payroll. 

3. Deductions are easier to anticipate

It’s easier to calculate your take-home pay when your monthly payroll deductions (e.g., health benefits) are divided equally between two monthly paychecks. Since you never have an additional paycheck in a month, that deduction will be the same every time.

Related: Wages vs. Salary: What’s the Difference?

Advantages of biweekly pay

There are reasons many employees prefer a biweekly pay schedule, including:

1. It’s predictable

Paychecks come on the same day every two weeks. While semimonthly checks are always on the same dates every month, they are not always on the same day.

2. Overtime pay is easier to calculate

Overtime pay is usually determined based on an entire workweek. Your biweekly pay always covers two whole weeks and never splits overtime between two pay cycles, so it’s easier to calculate overtime pay.

3. Extra paycheck

You get an extra paycheck twice a year. This additional check can help pay off debts or go toward savings.

Knowing the difference between a semimonthly and a biweekly pay schedule is to your advantage. Now you can anticipate how much you will receive in each paycheck to help you budget your finances and plan for your future.

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