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Home Banking Money How Banks Work?

How Banks Work?

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The funny thing about how a bank works is that it functions because of our trust. We give a bank ourmoney to keep it safe for us, and then the bank turns around and gives it to someone else in order to make money for itself. Banks can legally extend considerably more credit than they have cash. Still, most of us have total trust in the bank's ability to protect our money and give it to us when we ask for it.

Why do we feel better about having our money in a bank than we do having it under a mattress? Is it just the fact that they pay intereston some of our accounts? Is it because we know that if we have the cash in our pockets we'll spend it? Or, is it simply the convenience of being able to write checks and use debit cards rather than carrying cash? Any and all of these may be the answer, particularly with the conveniences of electronic banking today. Now, we don't even have to manually write that check -- we can just swipe a debit card or click the "pay" button on the bank's Web site.

In this article, we'll look into the world of banking and see how these institutions work, what you would have to do to start your own bank, and why we should (or shouldn't) trust them with our hard earned cash.

 

What is a bank?

According to Britannica.com, a bank is:

an institution that deals in money and its substitutes and provides other financial services. Banks accept deposits and make loans and derive a profit from the difference in the interest rates paid and charged, respectively.

Banks are critical to our economy. The primary function of banks is to put their account holders' money to use by lending it out to others who can then use it to buy homes, businesses, send kids to college...

When you deposit your money in the bank, your money goes into a big pool of money along with everyone else's, and your account is credited with the amount of your deposit. When you write checks or make withdrawals, that amount is deducted from your account balance. Interest you earn on your balance is also added to your account.

Banks create money in the economy by making loans. The amount of money that banks can lend is directly affected by the reserve requirement set by the Federal Reserve. The reserve requirement is currently 3 percent to 10 percent of a bank's total deposits. This amount can be held either in cash on hand or in the bank's reserve account with the Fed. To see how this affects the economy, think about it like this. When a bank gets a deposit of $100, assuming a reserve requirement of 10 percent, the bank can then lend out $90. That $90 goes back into the economy, purchasing goods or services, and usually ends up deposited in another bank. That bank can then lend out $81 of that $90 deposit, and that $81 goes into the economy to purchase goods or services and ultimately is deposited into another bank that proceeds to lend out a percentage of it.

In this way, money grows and flows throughout the community in a much greater amount than physically exists. That $100 makes a much larger ripple in the economy than you may realize!

 

Why does banking work?

Banking is all about trust. We trust that the bank will have our money for us when we go to get it. We trust that it will honor the checks we write to pay our bills. The thing that's hard to grasp is the fact that while people are putting money into the bank every day, the bank is lending that same money and more to other people every day. Banks consistently extend more credit than they have cash. That's a little scary; but if you go to the bank and demand your money, you'll get it. However, if everyone goes to the bank at the same time and demands their money (a run on the bank), there might be problem.

Even though the Federal Reserve Act requires that banks keep a certain percentage of their money inreserve, if everyone came to withdraw their money at the same time, there wouldn't be enough. In the event of a bank failure, your money is protected as long as the bank is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The key to the success of banking, however, still lies in the confidence that consumers have in the bank's ability to grow and protect their money. Because banks rely so heavily on consumer trust, and trust depends on the perception of integrity, the banking industry is highly regulated by thegovernment.

 

Types of Banks

There are several types of banking institutions, and initially they were quite distinct. Commercial bankswere originally set up to provide services for businesses. Now, most commercial banks offer accounts to everyone.

Savings banks, savings and loans, cooperative banks and credit unions are actually classified as thrift institutions. Each originally concentrated on meeting specific needs of people who were not covered by commercial banks. Savings banks were originally founded in order to provide a place for lower-income workers to save their money. Savings and loan associations and cooperative banks were established during the 1800s to make it possible for factory workers and other lower-income workers to buy homes.Credit unions were usually started by people who shared a common bond, like working at the same company (usually a factory) or living in the same community. The credit union's main function was to provide emergency loans for people who couldn't get loans from traditional lenders. These loans might be for things like medical costs or home repairs.

Now, even though there is still a differentiation between banks and thrifts, they offer many of the same services. Commercial banks can offer car loans, thrift institutions can make commercial loans, and credit unions offer mortgages!

 

 

How do banks make money?

Banks are just like other businesses. Their product just happens to be money. Other businesses sell widgets or services; banks sell money -- in the form of loans, certificates of deposit (CDs) and other financial products. They make money on the interest they charge on loans because that interest is higher than the interest they pay on depositors' accounts.

The interest rate a bank charges its borrowers depends on both the number of people who want to borrow and the amount of money the bank has available to lend. As we mentioned in the previous section, the amount available to lend also depends upon the reserve requirement the Federal Reserve Board has set. At the same time, it may also be affected by the funds rate, which is the interest rate that banks charge each other for short-term loans to meet their reserve requirements. Check out How the Fed Works for more on how the Fed influences the economy.

Loaning money is also inherently risky. A bank never really knows if it'll get that money back. Therefore, the riskier the loan the higher the interest rate the bank charges. While paying interest may not seem to be a great financial move in some respects, it really is a small price to pay for using someone else's money. Imagine having to save all of the money you needed in order to buy a house. We wouldn't be able to buy houses until we retired!

Banks also charge fees for services like checking, ATM access and overdraft protection. Loans have their own set of fees that go along with them. Another source of income for banks is investments andsecurities.

by Jane McGrath / howstuffworks.com

 

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