What Is Fractional Reserve Banking?

Table of Сontents

  1. Fractional Reserve Banking System Definition
  2. How Fractional Reserve Lending Works
  3. Characteristics of Fractional Reserve Banking (Pros & Cons)
  4. Bottom Line
  5. FAQs

A strategy is known as “fractional reserve banking” requires banks to hold back some of their deposits rather than using them altogether for loans. The Federal Reserve established the guidelines as part of its broader monetary policy implementation responsibilities. Find out more about the definition of fractional reserve banking.

Fractional Reserve Banking System Definition

As is common knowledge, banks retain our money in a variety of deposit accounts so that we always have access to it. When banks receive deposits, they lend that money back out to customers and companies, thus increasing the amount of money in circulation, which in turn generates additional deposits, and so on. Banks are now able to turn a profit on the interest they charge borrowers because to this arrangement. The result is that depositors have a secure place to hold their money, and the extra money banks effectively bring into circulation through their loans stimulates the economy.

Under normal circumstances, there is sufficient money being deposited and withdrew for banks to have enough cash on hand to process all withdrawals. nevertheless if there

Fractional vs. Full-Reserve Banking

According to Coro Global, fractional reserve banking reportedly began in Sweden in the 17th century and in the US in 1791. The main American test was the Crash of 1929. Panicked depositors withdrew money from about 1300 US institutions the next year as a result of the incident.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) was founded in 1934 to further protect customers in the event of a bank failure. Despite the FDIC rewarding all depositors, Washington Mutual filed for bankruptcy as a result of losses on its real estate loans during the 2008 market crisis. The financial system with fractional reserves was put to the test once more.

Reserve Banking History

Fractional reserve banking is said to have started in Sweden in the 17th century and in the US in 1791, according to Coro Global. The Crash of 1929 served as its major American test. As a result of the incident, panicked depositors withdrew funds from around 1300 US institutions by the following year.

To better safeguard consumers in the case of a bank failure, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) was established in 1934. Washington Mutual filed for bankruptcy due to losses on its real estate loans during the 2008 market crisis, although the FDIC compensated all depositors. This was another test of the fractional reserve banking system.

How Fractional Reserve Lending Works

Banks can lend against deposits that aren’t usually held in reserve thanks to fractional reserve lending. A bank is permitted to lend up to 90% of deposits if the reserve requirement is 10% of deposits. The bank may lend up to 100% of the deposits if there is no reserve requirement, as with time deposits, for instance.

When the bank lends money, it is spent on purchases, which may result in more deposits. Customers may also borrow these subject to the reserve requirement.

How Fractional Reserves Are Used

The Federal Reserve, which serves as the nation’s central bank, employs the fractional reserve system to control both the amount of money in circulation and the general stability of the financial system. The reserve requirement is decreased when the Fed wants to promote the economy, and it is raised when it wants to prevent an economy from overheating and tighten the money supply.

Reserve Ratio

The reserve ratio is another name for the number of deposits that must be held in reserve. The reserve ratio is calculated as follows:

The reserve requirement divided by total deposits is the reserve ratio.

Characteristics of Fractional Reserve Banking (Pros & Cons)


  • eliminates the need for depositors to pay the bank for keeping their money secure by enabling banks to profit from deposits.
  • enables banks to promote economic growth by lending money to people and companies.
  • allows the Fed to adjust the reserve requirement in order to control the amount of money in the economy and maintain bank safety.
  • has a multiplier effect that, in effect, generates extra base deposits.


  • can make the bank collapse more likely.
  • Some experts worry that it may cause the economy to overheat.

Bottom Line

Fortunately, black swan episodes are uncommon. But when they do, market prices suffer severe reductions as a result. Investors should construct their portfolios with the worst-case scenario in mind.

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