Cash Ratio or Acid Test Ratio | Assessing Short-Term Financial Strength

Cash ratio

Understanding Cash Ratio: Assessing Short-Term Financial Strength

The cash ratio, also known as the acid test ratio, is a liquidity ratio that measures a company’s ability to meet its short-term obligations using only its most liquid assets. Liquid assets are those that can be easily converted into cash, including short-term investments, and accounts receivable.

The Cash Ratio helps figure out how much money a company has ready to pay its bills immediately. It’s like checking if you have enough cash in your pocket to cover your costs right away.

It’s a more stringent measure of liquidity compared to other ratios like the current ratio or quick ratio, as it solely considers cash and excludes near-cash assets such as marketable securities or accounts receivable.


Cash Ratio = (Cash and Cash Equivalents + Short-Term Investments + Accounts Receivable) / Current Liabilities

High cash ratio = good for bills now. Low cash ratio = tough for bills soon.

Why is it important?

1. Immediate Liquidity Assessment
It provides a stringent evaluation of a company’s ability to address its short-term financial obligations using its most liquid resources. It indicates the extent to which a company can cover its immediate liabilities without relying on converting other assets into cash.

2. Risk Evaluation
It serves as an indicator of the company’s risk profile, showcasing how well it can handle short-term financial commitments without external financing or asset liquidation.


A cash ratio of 1.0 or higher is generally considered to be a healthy level of liquidity. This means that the company has enough cash and other liquid assets to meet its current liabilities.
A cash ratio of less than 1.0 is considered to be a weak level of liquidity. This means that the company may have difficulty meeting its current liabilities if it experiences any unexpected cash outflows.

However, an excessively high cash ratio might indicate underutilization of resources, as holding too much cash might mean missed investment opportunities for the company.

Industry benchmarks:
  • Retail: 1.25
  • Manufacturing: 1.5
  • Technology: 1.0
  • A declining result over time can be a sign of financial problems.
  • An increasing result can be a sign that a company is managing its liquidity effectively.
Comparison with other liquidity ratios:

Cash ratio focuses on only the most liquid assets, like cash and equivalents, making it a stricter measure of liquidity than the current ratio. It shows what’s ready to cover bills right now, while the current ratio considers all short-term assets, not just the cash-ready ones.

Overall, it is a useful tool for assessing a company’s ability to meet its short-term obligations. By comparing a company’s cash ratio to industry benchmarks and trends, investors and analysts can gain insights into the company’s liquidity position and its ability to manage its finances effectively.

Variations or Modified Forms:

There aren’t multiple types of Cash Ratios in the traditional sense, but analysts might modify or adapt the ratio to suit specific needs or situations.

For instance:

1. Restricted Cash Ratio: Focuses solely on cash that’s restricted or earmarked for specific purposes, excluding unrestricted cash.

Formula: Restricted Cash Ratio =  Restricted Cash / Current Liabilities


It’s specifically measures the proportion of a company’s immediate liabilities that can be covered by cash earmarked for specific purposes or that’s restricted from general use. Common examples of what might be included in restricted cash:

  • Escrow Accounts: Funds held by a third party, typically for a specific purpose such as pending legal settlements, real estate transactions, or debt repayment.
  • Security Deposits: Cash held as security for lease agreements, utilities, or other contractual obligations.
  • Regulatory Requirements: Cash held to comply with regulatory obligations, like deposits for insurance, environmental commitments, or certain government permits.
  • Contractual Agreements: Funds reserved for specific purposes outlined in contracts or agreements, such as construction projects, performance guarantees, or warranties.
  • Debt Covenants: Cash held to fulfill requirements stipulated in loan agreements or debt covenants, often as collateral or reserve funds.

Calculation Example:

Let’s assume a company has $50,000 in restricted cash and $150,000 in current liabilities.

Restricted Cash Ratio=50,000/150,000=0.33

This means the company’s Restricted Cash Ratio is 0.33 or 33%. It suggests that for every dollar of immediate liabilities, the company has 33 cents available in cash that’s earmarked for specific purposes.

2. Cash Ratio excluding Overdrafts: Considers only cash and cash equivalents, excluding overdraft balances from the calculation.

Formula: Cash Ratio excluding Overdrafts= [(Current Liabilities-Overdrafts)​ / Cash and Cash Equivalents]

This ratio specifically focuses on the proportion of a company’s immediate liabilities that can be covered by cash and cash equivalents, excluding any negative balances from overdrafts.

Calculation Example:
Suppose a company has $80,000 in cash and cash equivalents and $200,000 in current liabilities, with an overdraft balance of $10,000.

Cash Ratio excluding Overdrafts= [(80,000−10,000)/ 200,000

This indicates that the company’s Cash Ratio excluding Overdrafts is 0.35 or 35%. It implies that for every dollar of immediate liabilities, the company has 35 cents available in cash and cash equivalents, excluding any overdraft balances.

These variations might be used by analysts or investors to gain a more nuanced understanding of a company’s liquidity in certain scenarios.

Understanding them and their potential variations provides investors and analysts with insights into a company’s immediate liquidity strength and its capability to handle short-term financial commitments using its most liquid resources.

Liquidity Ratio | Accounting – Formulas, Examples, Questions, Answers

Cash ratio VS Quick ratio

Cash ratio and the quick ratio are two different liquidity ratios that measure a company’s ability to meet its short-term obligations. However, they are calculated differently and have different implications.

Cash Ratio

This is the most conservative liquidity ratio because it only includes the most liquid assets: cash and cash equivalents, short-term investments, and accounts receivable. This makes it a good measure of a company’s immediate ability to pay its bills.

Quick Ratio

The quick ratio is slightly less conservative than the cash ratio because it includes short-term investments but excludes inventory. This means that the quick ratio may not be as accurate as the cash ratio at measuring a company’s ability to meet its near-term obligations, but it is still a useful measure of a company’s liquidity position.

In general, a higher cash ratio and quick ratio are considered to be better because they indicate that a company has more liquid assets available to pay off its short-term debts. Overall, both the cash ratio and the quick ratio are useful tools for assessing a company’s liquidity position. By understanding the differences between the two ratios, investors and analysts can gain a more comprehensive understanding of a company’s financial health.

Sources: InvestopediaCorporate Finance Institute

Photo credit: stevepb via Pixabay

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