Guide to Passbook Accounts

By Timothy Moore · October 18, 2023 · 6 minute read

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Guide to Passbook Accounts

Today, it’s common to check your savings account balance on your smartphone, send money to a friend after they covered the cost of lunch, or snap a picture of a paper check to make a mobile deposit. But before the advent of the internet and smartphones, banking was done in person, and people used pen and paper to keep track of everything.

One of the relics of that time period is the passbook savings account. While most consumers now have a traditional or online savings account, passbook savings accounts are still in use today. And, depending on your financial and personal style, it might be an option that you find useful.

But what is a passbook savings account, how do they work, and why would anyone want to open one? We’ll dive in below.

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What Is a Passbook Savings Account?

A passbook savings account is a type of savings account that comes with a notebook or ledger (called a passbook) to track your deposits and withdrawals.

Unlike other bank accounts, which may allow you to take out funds at an ATM, transfer money electronically, and check your balance online, a passbook account requires in-person transactions at the bank or credit union, with a physical log of the activity.

Recommended: How Many Bank Accounts Should I Have?

How Do Passbook Savings Accounts Work?

Before computers, consumers had to visit their local bank branch to deposit or withdraw cash from their savings account. Period. They’d bring their physical passbook with them, and the bank teller would update the passbook with information about the transaction and their new balance.

Nowadays, most consumers choose traditional savings accounts or online savings accounts. While they may still be able to visit banks in person, they can also monitor their accounts online, move money electronically, and swing by the ATM to make deposits and withdrawals.

But passbook accounts are still around. While the bank tellers now handle things electronically, consumers are still issued a physical passbook and must visit the branch in person to withdraw and deposit cash.

Why would someone want this kind of account today?

•  People might choose passbook accounts because of the added requirement of visiting in person. If they consider themselves bad with money, this process could make it harder to irresponsibly withdraw and spend their money.

•  Others might like having more control over — and insight into — their finances.

•  Some consumers may appreciate the added layer of security since it would be harder for a criminal to drain the account.

Pros and Cons of Passbook Savings Accounts

Passbook accounts are hard to come by these days, but it’s not impossible to open one. Just as there are pros and cons to online banking, so too are there benefits and downsides to a passbook savings account, such as:

Pros of Passbook Accounts

Cons of Passbook Accounts

Less temptation to spend your savingsInconvenient to access money
Enhanced feeling of control over your accountPotentially low annual percentage yield (APY) compared to online savings accounts, depending on the institution
Added layer of security by requiring in-person transactionsRequires safekeeping of physical ledger
Ideal for people who aren’t good with computersChallenges if you relocate to a place without branch access

Passbook Accounts vs. Savings Accounts

In many ways, passbook accounts and savings accounts are similar, but they also have several notable differences. Let’s break down how they’re alike — and how they’re not.

Similarities

Consider these points:

•  Both savings and passbook savings accounts are deposit accounts that are meant for saving, not spending. Over time, you should expect your money to grow unless you withdraw funds for major purchases, like a house down payment.

•  That means both types of savings accounts earn interest, though the amount they earn can vary. Some traditional savings accounts may earn as little as 0.01% interest while high-yield online accounts may earn significantly more, such as over 4% as of mid-2023.

Passbook savings accounts generally can’t compete with high-yield online accounts, but you’d need to check with specific banks to know what interest you’d earn.

•  Like traditional savings accounts, passbook accounts are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to $250,000 per depositor, per ownership category, per insured institution.

If the account is at a credit union, it would have the same level of insurance, but from the National Credit Union Association or NCUA vs. FDIC.

Differences

While savings accounts and passbook savings accounts have the same purpose — saving money and earning interest — how these accounts work is quite different:

•  Access to funds: With a traditional savings account, you can generally access your funds in person or at an ATM. Most accounts now let you manage your money online as well, meaning you can transfer money between accounts with the click of a button. With a passbook savings account, you must visit a branch in person.

•  Monitoring your account: Similarly, traditional bank accounts send monthly statements, on paper or online. With most banks nowadays, you can access your account details at any time online via a computer or smartphone.

With a passbook account, however, all the information lives in the physical passbook, and you’ll only update it at the bank when making transactions. Note: Some banks, like First Republic, may now let account holders check information online.

Are Passbook Savings Accounts Still in Use?

Though passbook accounts are uncommon, they’re still in use today. You can open a passbook account at certain local and regional banks. Some examples of financial institutions still offering passbook accounts include:

•  Middlesex Savings Bank (Massachusetts)

•  Union Bank (Vermont and New Hampshire)

•  Cathay Bank (largely California, but other locations in Washington, Texas, Illinois, and New England)

•  Naveo Credit Union (Massachusetts)

•  Dollar Bank (Northeast Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, and parts of Virginia and Maryland).

Recommended: How to Switch Banks

The Takeaway

Passbook savings accounts are less common today with the advent of computers and online banking. While most consumers would prefer electronic access to their account, passbook accounts offer unique perks for people who prefer to bank exclusively in person. It may be a good way for them to manage their money.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


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FAQ

Do any banks still have passbook accounts?

Some banks still offer passbook accounts. Passbook savings accounts are less common today, as most consumers prefer to manage their money online. That said, some local and regional banks and credit unions in your area may offer passbook savings account options.

What is a disadvantage of a passbook savings account?

A major disadvantage of passbook savings accounts is that you can’t access your money electronically. You have to go to a branch in person to withdraw or deposit funds. You usually can’t even get an account summary online; instead, your physical passbook is the only source of information you have about the account.

What is the interest rate on a passbook savings account?

Interest rates on passbook savings accounts will vary by financial institution, but they’re sometimes competitive with traditional savings accounts. That said, they are often less than high-yield online savings accounts. Remember that you’ll want to choose a bank that is geographically convenient, as you’ll have to visit in person to access your money.


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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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