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A deposit account is a current account, savings account, or other type of bank account, at a banking institution that allows money to be deposited and withdrawn by the account holder. These transactions are recorded on the bank's books, and the resulting balance is recorded as a liability for the bank, and represent the amount owed by the bank to the customer. Some banks charge a fee for this service, while others may pay the customer interest on the funds deposited.

Contents

Major types

  • Checking accounts: A deposit account held at a bank or other financial institution, for the purpose of securely and quickly providing frequent access to funds on demand, through a variety of different channels. Because money is available on demand these accounts are also referred to as demand accounts or demand deposit accounts.
  • Savings accounts: Accounts maintained by retail banks that pay interest but can not be used directly as money (for example, by writing a cheque). Although not as convenient to use as checking accounts, these accounts let customers keep liquid assets while still earning a monetary return.
  • Money market deposit account: A deposit account with a relatively high rate of interest, and short notice (or no notice) required for withdrawals. In the United States, it is a style of instant access deposit subject to federal savings account regulations, such as a monthly transaction limit.
  • Time deposit: A money deposit at a banking institution that cannot be withdrawn for a preset fixed 'term' or period of time. When the term is over it can be withdrawn or it can be rolled over for another term. Generally speaking, the longer the term the better the yield on the money.

Legal framework

Although restrictions placed on access depend upon the terms and conditions of the account and the provider, the account holder retains rights to have their funds repaid on demand. The customer may or may not be able to pay the funds in the account by cheque, internet banking, EFTPOS or other channels depending on those provided by the bank and offered or activated in respect of the account.

The banking terms "deposit" and "withdrawal" tend to obscure the economic substance and legal essence of transactions in a deposit account. From a legal and financial accounting standpoint, the term "deposit" is used by the banking industry in financial statements to describe the liability owed by the bank to its depositor, and not the funds (whether cash or checks) themselves, which are shown an asset of the bank. For example, a depositor opening a checking account at a bank in the United States with $100 in currency surrenders legal title to the $100 in cash, which becomes an asset of the bank. On the bank's books, the bank debits its currency and coin on hand account for the $100 in cash, and credits a liability account (called a demand deposit account, checking account, etc.) for an equal amount. (See double-entry bookkeeping system.) In the audited financial statements of the bank, on the balance sheet, the $100 in currency would be shown as an asset of the bank on the left side of the balance sheet, and the deposit account would be shown as a liability owed by the bank to its customer, on the right side of the balance sheet. The bank's financial statement reflects the economic substance of the transaction -- which is the bank has actually borrowed $100 from its depositor and has contractually obliged itself to repay the customer according to the terms of the demand deposit account agreement. To offset this deposit liability, the bank now owns the actual, physical funds deposited, and shows those funds as an asset of the bank.

Typically, an account provider will not hold the entire sum in reserve, but will loan the money at interest to other clients, in a process known as fractional-reserve banking. It is this process which allows providers to pay out interest on deposits.

By transferring the ownership of deposits from one party to another, they can replace physical cash as a method of payment. In fact, deposits account for most of the money supply in use today. For example, if a bank in the United States makes a loan to a customer by depositing the loan proceeds in the customer's checking account, the bank typically records this event by debiting an asset account on the bank's books (called loans receivable or some similar name) and credits the deposit liability or checking account of the customer on the bank's books. From an economic standpoint, the bank has essentially created economic money (although obviously not legal tender). The customer's checking account balance has no dollar bills in it, as a demand deposit account is simply a liability owed by the bank to its customer. In this way, commercial banks are allowed to increase the money supply (without printing currency, or legal tender).

Regulatory protection

Banks are normally subject to prudential regulation which has the purpose of reducing the risk of failure of the bank. It may also have the purpose of reducing the extent of depositor losses in the event of bank failure.

Bank deposits may also be insured by a deposit insurance scheme, if applicable.

See also

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Simple English

A Deposit Account is an account at a bank where money can be put in or taken out by whoever owns the account. Each time money is moved, it is recorded in the bank's books. Some banks charge a fee for this, others may pay the customers interest.

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