Bid Bond vs Performance Bond vs Payment Bond

The contractor industry

The contractor industry is a highly competitive and challenging field to work in. Construction contracts involve a principal and an obligee, who have different contractual obligations. To manage the contract performance, payment protection, and bid security in the contracting process, the federal and local governments established the necessity of construction bonds in the Miller Act and the Little Miller Acts. Construction bonds include bid bonds, performance bonds, and payment bonds. This article compares and contrasts the three contract bonds in their functions, pricing, and relevance.  

Why do contractors need to buy contract bonds?

Bonds are financial instruments that function as risk management and construction payment protection. They provide assurance to project owners that contractors will fulfill their obligations and deliver quality work. Especially because the construction industry can come with significant risk due to the nature of the complexity of the work involved, bonds are especially important as forms of financial protection for the project owners, subcontractors, and sometimes other parties involved in each project.

The 3 kinds of bonds in the construction industry

Custom graphic explaining performance vs. bid vs. payment bond.

Summary graphic comparing and contrasting the three bonds

What are bid bonds?

Bid bonds protect and oversee the bidding process for construction projects. They serve as financial guarantees to project owners that a contractor will accept the project if they win the project bidding. Bid bonds protect project owners from contractors who might submit a low bid to secure the project and then decline the project if they are unable to meet the requirements.

Clients or project owners, particularly federal, state, and local governments, will often require bid bonds for big guarantees. For example, the government might require a bid bond for public construction projects to ensure that taxpayers’ funds are not wasted. However, if you cannot obtain a bid bond or do not wish to obtain one, other alternatives include a cashier’s check, a certified check, a money order, or other assets that can be mortgaged as a stand-in for a bid bond as a financial guarantee.


Bid bonds ensure bid guarantees. In other words, bid bonds ensure that contractors are serious about the project they are bidding on and have the financial resources to complete the project. The surety company who provides the bond will financially compensate project owners if contractors decline the project or fail to finalize the contract.


The bond’s value is usually a percentage of the bid amount. Pricing of bid bonds varies by state, with some states having a fixed percentage of the cost of the project, while others have a range from 2-5%; these percentages, if not fixed, are dependent on one’s creditworthiness, which factors in credit score, claims history, and in some cases even requires bank statements and financial documents from the contracting business. The value of bid bonds can also vary depending on the complexity of the project, and the contractor’s previous experience and financial standing.

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What are performance bonds?

Performance bond guarantees that a contractor will deliver quality work and complete projects on time. Performance bonds protect clients from contractors who do not meet the obligations outlined in the contract. Project owners can claim compensation from the surety company if the contractor is unable or unwilling to fulfill the contract’s terms.


Performance bonds set a high standard of quality for contractors and ensure that they are fully committed to the project’s completion. Performance bonds are typically required for larger projects that require significant financial investment and high levels of expertise.


The price of a performance bond is similar to other surety bonds in that they are calculated by multiplying the bond amount, which is the maximum amount the surety will cover in the case of a claim, by a premium rate. Similar to bid bonds, the premium rate of performance bonds also varies by state, with some states requiring a fixed percentage of the project cost, while others have a range from 1-5%. Factors such as project complexity, contractor experience, and the contractor’s creditworthiness can also affect pricing.

What are payment bonds?

Payment bonds are issued to guarantee construction payment. In other words, contractors need to pay their subcontractors, suppliers, and other parties involved in the project. They protect these parties from the risk of non-payment. Project owners require construction payment bonds to ensure that the property won’t be held against mechanics lien.


Payment bonds are commonly used in public construction projects, such as roads and bridges, to ensure that all parties involved are paid for their work. They also provide assurance to subcontractors and suppliers that they will receive fair and timely construction payment for their services. If not, the surety company will provide financial compensation similar to bid and performance bonds.


Again, the price of a payment bond is similar to other bonds in that they are calculated by multiplying the bond amount by a premium rate. For performance bonds, however, the bond amount will not always be the total price of the contract; in some states and depending on the cost of the project, the contractor is only required to obtain a bond that covers 50% of the project payment. The premium rate of payment bonds also varies by state, with some states requiring a fixed percentage of the project cost, while others have a range from 1-5% that is determined by surety underwriters. The size and complexity of the project, contractor experience, and creditworthiness can impact this premium rate percentage.

How are these three bonds related?

Bid, performance, and payment bonds work together to protect all parties involved in a construction project. Bid bonds ensure that contractors are serious about the project they are bidding on, performance bonds guarantee that contractors deliver quality work on time, and payment bonds ensure that subcontractors and suppliers are paid.

These bonds form a chain of protection that enhances the trust and transparency among different parties. For example, a contractor will not submit a bid for a project without a bid bond, and the client will not sign a contract without a performance bond. The contractor will also not receive payment without a payment bond.

In addition, the contract bonds have similar underwriting or bonding requirements. The surety company investigates whether a contractor’s financial strength and stability fulfill the bonding requirements.   

Comparing the bonds

Bid bonds are different from performance and payment bonds because they insure the project owner in the pre-project bidding process alone, while performance and payment bonds insure the project owner and other stakeholders/employees during the construction process itself.

Bid bonds and performance bonds are similar in that their functions are to protect the project owner from incompletion of the project. In contrast, payment bonds serve to protect subcontractors and other workers involved in the project from non-payment. 

Bid bond requirements and pricing can vary, while performance and payment bond requirements and pricing are more consistent. However, the main important similarity between all three bonds is that they serve as a guarantee of a contractor’s commitment to completing a construction project, while ensuring that their clients and other parties are protected from financial loss.


Bid, performance, and payment bonds are essential contract bonds that the construction industry uses to guarantee quality work, timely delivery, and fair payment. They triangulate to form a shield of financial assurance that all parties involved in construction projects are protected and will be treated according to the contract terms.