March 1, 2024 

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GOLD CERTIFICATE: Paper currency issued by the U. S. Treasury from the civil war until 1933 that could be exchanged for an equal value of gold. Gold certificates were used as part of a gold standard. With the exception of collectors, gold certificates have long been out of circulation, replaced first by silver certificates, then in the past few decades by Federal Reserve notes.

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Deposits that commercial banks keep with the Federal Reserve System. Federal Reserve deposits play three key roles in the banking system. One, they are used by the Federal Reserve system to process or clear checks. Two, they are loaned between commercial banks through the Federal funds market. Three, they are used by the Federal Reserve System to control the money supply. Federal Reserve deposits are one of two types of bank assets that are considered bank reserves and used to satisfy reserve requirements. The other is vault cash.
Federal Reserve deposits are accounts that commercial banks have with the Federal Reserve System, in particular the 12 Federal Reserve District Banks and the 25 Federal Reserve Branch Banks. Commercial banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System are required to have Federal Reserve deposits. Nonmember banks often chose to have Federal Reserve deposits to facilitate their banking operations.

Although the common notion is that bank reserves consist of vaults filled with cash, vault cash is usually only about one-third of total bank reserves. The bulk of bank reserves are Federal Reserve deposits.

The Fed

Federal Reserve deposits are accounts that commercial banks keep with the Federal Reserve System (the Fed). The Fed is the economy's central banking authority that undertakes a great deal of bank regulation as well as setting the course of monetary policy.

The Fed contains of a number of different parts or components. The key ones are:

  • Board of Governors: At the top of the Fed is the Board of Governors, seven members led by a Chairman, which establishes rules, regulations, procedures, and policies of the Fed.

  • Federal Reserve Banks: Policies and regulations are carried out by Federal Reserve Banks dispersed throughout the economy. The primary work is undertaken by 12 Federal Reserve District Banks, with support provided by 25 Federal Reserve Branch Banks. These 37 Federal Reserve Banks interface and work directly with commercial banks.

  • Federal Open Market Committee: The key policy-making arm of the Fed is the Federal Open Market Committee. It includes the seven members making up the Board of Governors plus five Presidents of Federal Reserve Banks. The primary task of the Federal Open Market Committee is to set the course of monetary policy and to control the amount of money in circulation.

The Bank for Banks

The Federal Reserve System was established in 1913 to, among other things, provide banking services to commercial banks. If a regular, human being consumer, like Duncan Thurly seeks banking services, then he can amble down to his local branch of OmniBank. This commercial bank is in the business of providing banking services to people like Duncan. He can have checking or savings accounts with OmniBank, obtain an OmniBank credit card, and finance an automobile or home purchase with an OmniBank loan.

If OmniBank is in need of similar banking services, which many banks are, then it can turn to its local Federal Reserve District or Branch Bank. If OmniBank seeks a short-term loan or wants a place to store reserves, then it can turn to its nearby Federal Reserve Bank. While the Federal Reserve System provides a few services to the public (such as buying U.S. Treasury securities), its primarily functions are directed to commercial banks. The Fed is the bank for banks.

One of the key banking services the Fed provides to commercial banks is maintaining a system of accounts, Federal Reserve deposits.

Three Key Roles

While each of the banking services provided by the Fed is important in its own way, but Federal Reserve deposits stand out for three reasons.
  • Check Processing: Federal Reserve deposits are an essential component of the clearing or processing checks between banks. A check written by a customer of one bank that is deposited in the account of a customer of another bank is cleared when reserves are transferred between banks. While, in theory, vault cash could be used, and in historical practice it was used, in the modern economy Federal Reserve deposits are the reserves of choice that are used. The Fed simply transfers Federal Reserve deposits from one bank to another. It is quicker, easier, and safer than sending cash from bank to bank all over country.

  • Federal Funds Market: Federal Reserve deposits are commonly traded (loaned and borrowed) between commercial banks through what is termed the Federal Funds market. If one commercial banks temporarily has a few more reserves that it needs to meet reserve requirements and another bank temporarily is a little short, then a short-term loan of Federal Reserve deposits (or Federal Funds) can benefit both. This is such a common practice that the Federal Funds rate, the interest rate charged for such loans, is a key benchmark interest rate for the banking system.

  • Monetary Policy: An essential function of the Federal Reserve System is monetary policy and control of the money supply. While the Fed could, in principle, control the money supply by printing more Federal Reserve notes which it could then toss from low flying airplanes, in practice, it uses Federal Reserve deposits. By changing the total quantity of Federal Reserve deposits commercial banks have, it can encourage or discourage banks lending, which then affects the amount of checkable deposits and the M1 money supply. With Federal Reserve deposits, the Fed would find monetary policy more difficult to undertake.

The Other Reserve

Federal Reserve deposits are one of two assets that legally qualify as bank reserves and used to back up deposits. The other is vault cash.

Vault cash is the paper bills and metal coins that is kept in banks, that is, in bank vaults. This cash is used, quite literally, to "cash" checks and otherwise to satisfy currency withdrawal demands of depositors. Note that vault cash is not part of the official M1 money supply because it is held by banks (not the nonbank public) and thus it is not in circulation.

The monetary base includes the currency held by the nonbank public, vault cash held by banks, and Federal Reserve deposits of the banks. These are the three monetary components over which the Federal Reserve System has relatively complete control and is often used as a guide for monetary policy.


Recommended Citation:

FEDERAL RESERVE DEPOSITS, AmosWEB Encyclonomic WEB*pedia,, AmosWEB LLC, 2000-2024. [Accessed: March 1, 2024].

Check Out These Related Terms...

     | bank reserves | vault cash | legal reserves | required reserves | excess reserves | fractional-reserve banking | full-reserve banking | no-reserve banking |

Or For A Little Background...

     | banks | banking | traditional banks | thrift institutions | money | M1 | monetary economics | government functions | financial markets | liquidity |

And For Further Study...

     | money creation | Federal Reserve System | Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation | Comptroller of the Currency | central bank | monetary policy | bank panic | monetary aggregates | barter | monetary base |

Related Websites (Will Open in New Window)...

     | Federal Reserve System |

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