While many guides like to describe preferred stock as a hybrid security, having some traits of common stock and some traits of bonds we simply like to describe preferred stock as an asset class of its own. 1st off Preferred Stock is equity. On a corporate balance sheet preferred stock is shown in the equity section. Preferred stock is NOT debt. Most preferred stock is now sold with a $25/share face amount. Older issues with either $50, $100 or even $1,000 face amount can still be found trading, but they are generally difficult to buy as holders seldom offer them for sale. Thus they are illiquid. We do not spend a great deal of time following these illiquid issues as they simply play little role in the investments of most individual investor.
Preferred stock almost always pays a fixed dividend rate, although there have been quite a few issues sold in the last few years that are either floating rate with a minimum coupon, or fixed-to-floating rate issues, which start with a fixed coupon rate for some amount of time (typically 2-10 years) before changing to a floating rate which is adjusted quarterly.
Dividends are paid quarterly by most issues, but there are some that pay monthly and a few that pay only semi-annually. Banks and insurance companies almost always issue non-cumulative preferred stock as they may not count the proceeds as Tier 1 capital unless it is non-cumulative. Most utilities, REITs and MLPs issue cumulative preferred stock.