Britannica Money (2024)

Table of Contents
Bank money Bank loans FAQs

Bank money

The development of trade and commerce drove the need for readily exchangeable forms of money. The concept of bank money originated with the Amsterdamsche Wisselbank (the Bank of Amsterdam), which was established in 1609 during Amsterdam’s ascent as the largest and most prosperous city in Europe. As an exchange bank, it permitted individuals to bring money or bullion for deposit and to withdraw the money or the worth of the bullion. The original ordinance that established the bank further required that all bills of 600 gulden or upward should be paid through the bank—in other words, by the transfer of deposits or credits at the bank. These transfers later came to be known as “bank money.” The charge for making the transfers represented the bank’s sole source of income.

In contrast to the earliest forms of money, which were commodity moneys based on items such as seashells, tobacco, and precious-metal coin, practically all contemporary money takes the form of bank money, which consists of checks or drafts that function as commercial or central bank IOUs. Commercial bank money consists mainly of deposit balances that can be transferred either by means of paper orders (e.g., checks) or electronically (e.g., debit cards, wire transfers, and Internet payments). Some electronic-payment systems are equipped to handle transactions in a number of currencies.

Circulating “banknotes,” yet another kind of commercial bank money, are direct claims against the issuing institution (rather than claims to any specific depositor’s account balance). They function as promissory notes issued by a bank and are payable to a bearer on demand without interest, which makes them roughly equivalent to money. Although their use was widespread before the 20th century, banknotes have been replaced largely by transferable bank deposits. In the early 21st century only a handful of commercial banks, including ones located in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Hong Kong, issued banknotes. For the most part, contemporary paper currency consists of fiat money (from the medieval Latin term meaning “let it be done”), which is issued by central banks or other public monetary authorities.

All past and present forms of commercial bank money share the characteristic of being redeemable (that is, freely convertible at a fixed rate) in some underlying base money, such as fiat money (as is the case in contemporary banking) or a commodity money such as gold or silver coin. Bank customers are effectively guaranteed the right to seek unlimited redemptions of commercial bank money on demand (that is, without delay); any commercial bank refusing to honour the obligation to redeem its bank money is typically deemed insolvent. The same rule applies to the routine redemption requests that a bank makes, on behalf of its clients, upon another bank—as when a check drawn upon Bank A is presented to Bank B for collection.

While commercial banks remain the most important sources of convenient substitutes for base money, they are no longer exclusive suppliers of money substitutes. Money-market mutual funds and credit unions offer widely used money substitutes by permitting the persons who own shares in them to write checks from their accounts. (Money-market funds and credit unions differ from commercial banks in that they are owned by and lend only to their own depositors.) Another money substitute, traveler’s checks, resembles old-fashioned banknotes to some degree, but they must be endorsed by their users and can be used for a single transaction only, after which they are redeemed and retired.

For all the efficiencies that bank money brings to financial transactions and the marketplace, a heavy reliance upon it—and upon spendable bank deposits in particular—can expose economies to banking crises. This is because banks hold only fractional reserves of basic money, and any concerted redemption of a bank’s deposits—which could occur if the bank is suspected of insolvency—can cause it to fail. On a larger scale, any concerted redemption of a country’s bank deposits (assuming the withdrawn funds are not simply redeposited in other banks) can altogether destroy an economy’s banking system, depriving it of needed means of exchange as well as of business and consumer credit. Perhaps the most notorious example of this was the U.S. banking crisis of the early 1930s (see Banking panics and monetary contraction); a more recent example was the Asian currency crisis that originated in Thailand in 1997.

Bank loans

Bank loans, which are available to businesses of all types and sizes, represent one of the most important sources of commercial funding throughout the industrialized world. Key sources of funding for corporations include loans, stock and bond issues, and income. In the United States, for example, the funding that business enterprises obtain from banks is roughly twice the amount they receive by marketing their own bonds, and funding from bank loans is far greater still than what companies acquire by issuing shares of stock. In Germany and Japan bank loans represent an even larger share of total business funding. Smaller and more specialized sources of funding include venture capital firms and hedge funds.

Although all banks make loans, their lending practices differ, depending on the areas in which they specialize. Commercial loans, which can cover time frames ranging from a few weeks to a decade or more, are made to all kinds of businesses and represent a very important part of commercial banking worldwide. Some commercial banks devote an even greater share of their lending to real-estate financing (through mortgages and home-equity loans) or to direct consumer loans (such as personal and automobile loans). Others specialize in particular areas, such as agricultural loans or construction loans. As a general business practice, most banks do not restrict themselves to lending but acquire and hold other assets, such as government and corporate securities and foreign exchange (that is, cash or securities denominated in foreign currency units).

Britannica Money (2024)

FAQs

How to know when enough money is enough? ›

“A good rule of thumb is to aim to have saved 25-30 times the amount you'll spend each year, less any guaranteed income sources. So, for example, if you plan to spend $60K a year in retirement, you'll want to have saved $1.5 million to $1.8 million before you retire.”

What does it mean to have enough money? ›

The truth is that “enough” depends on our personal circ*mstances. Money is an emotional subject, not a rational one. A multi-six-figure earner can feel they're overwhelmed with material desires. While someone earning a fraction of that can feel perfectly satisfied with their life. It's all about what we think we need.

Where are three places to stash your cash? ›

Where to Stash Your Cash Now
  • High-paying money market accounts. These are great options if you want to earn more but also want immediate access to your cash, such as by writing a check. ...
  • High-yield savings accounts. ...
  • Certificates of deposit (CDs) ...
  • U.S. Treasury bills. ...
  • Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS)
Feb 2, 2023

What is the value of money? ›

In some ways, the value of money is simple to understand. Since money is just a medium of exchange, it's worth whatever you can exchange it for. In other words, money is worth what it will buy. Given economic factors like inflation, interest rates, and others, money's value can also be complex.

What is the 30 rule for money? ›

The idea is to divide your income into three categories, spending 50% on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings. Learn more about the 50/30/20 budget rule and if it's right for you.

How much money is truly enough? ›

Generally, $100,000 per year is a good goal for most people.

It's enough to live comfortably, take vacations, and not stress out about paying the bills. Of course, this is just a rule of thumb.

What does the Bible say about having enough money? ›

Philippians 4:19: And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Proverbs 10:22: The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it. 2 Corinthians 9:8: And God will generously provide all you need.

Why do we need enough money? ›

Basic Needs: Money is essential for meeting our basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. Without money, it is impossible to obtain the things we need to survive. Education: Money plays a significant role in education. It enables us to pay for school fees, buy books, and access other educational resources.

Why I don't have enough money? ›

You may be overspending, or you may not make enough money, or maybe both. These problems can lead to real trouble. If you do not make enough to cover your bills, you will need to take steps now to increase your income. Even if you feel that you are too poor to make a plan, a budget can help you get back on track.

Where should you not hide valuables in your house? ›

Hiding Places to Avoid:
  1. areas that can damage your valuables with water or invasive matter, such as the water tank of a toilet, inside a mayonnaise jar that still has mayonnaise in it, or a paint can filled with paint. ...
  2. a jewelry box. ...
  3. your desk drawer, bedside drawer, or underwear drawer. ...
  4. inside CD cases.

Where do billionaires keep their money? ›

Common types of securities include bonds, stocks and funds (mutual and exchange-traded). Funds and stocks are the bread-and-butter of investment portfolios. Billionaires use these investments to ensure their money grows steadily.

Which bank is safe to keep money? ›

Summary: Safest Banks In The U.S. Of April 2024
BankForbes Advisor RatingProducts
Chase Bank5.0Checking, Savings, CDs
Bank of America4.2Checking, Savings, CDs
Wells Fargo Bank4.0Savings, checking, money market accounts, CDs
Citi®4.0Checking, savings, CDs
1 more row
Jan 29, 2024

What is money backed by? ›

Fiat money is backed by a country's government rather than by a physical commodity or financial instrument. Most coin and paper currencies that are used throughout the world are fiat money. This includes the U.S. dollar, the British pound, the Indian rupee, and the euro.

Is my dollar worth anything? ›

What Is the Value of Paper Money? Paper money is usually worth the exact amount listed on the face (for example, $1, $5 or $10). However, some bills have unique serial numbers that make them desirable to collectors and therefore sell for more than their face value.

What money has the highest value? ›

Which currency has the highest value in the world? Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD) is the world's most valuable currency.

How much money is enough to enjoy life? ›

The amount of R2 lakh per month should be enough for a comfortable middle-class life in a city in India. But then, our life does not stop at needs. There are wants and desires. You need more than R2 lakh a month for those looking for more comfort.

How do I know if I'm doing OK financially? ›

Financial stability can be defined differently for each person, but there are some common indicators of being financially secure. Signs of financial stability include following a budget, living below your means, saving money consistently, prioritizing debt repayment, and paying bills on time.

How do I know if I should be making more money? ›

Here are 8 telltale signs that you are not earning as much money as you should be.
  • You're earning below the industry average. ...
  • Someone lets it slip. ...
  • You can't make ends meet. ...
  • You haven't gotten a raise in ages. ...
  • You've been there too long. ...
  • You started in the hole. ...
  • You can't afford to dress for the job.
Mar 24, 2019

How do you know if you're struggling financially? ›

The Big 7: These Signs Indicate Serious Financial Dysfunction
  • You have too much debt relative to your income.
  • You don't know how much debt you owe.
  • You pay only the minimum on your credit cards.
  • Your credit cards are maxed out.
  • You've been turned down for a new loan or credit account.
  • You don't have emergency savings.
Dec 26, 2023

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