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All You Need to Know About Banking

Banking describes the products and services we use from financial institutions, like banks, lenders or credit unions. Banking is the act of spending and saving, borrowing and loaning, buying, selling and investing through a financial institution.

Every time money exchanges hands, or a transaction is made, banking takes place. No matter how big or small the denominations are, the way we bank our money has a great influence on the economy - by paying or investing in goods and services, banking determines supply and demand, drives commerce, and decides market value. In banking, it's important to remember that interest plays a significant role for the banker and the consumer. With a deposit product, like savings or checking, account holders can earn interest; the amount one receives is calculated according to a figure called an APY, or Annual Percentage Yield. For loans, a banker or lender charges a borrower interest to pay back; in this case, the rate is called an APR, or Annual Percentage Rate.

Here are some of the best bank accounts on the market today:

Savings: A savings account is a place to safely deposit and store money, at a specific interest rate, with the intent of withdrawing at a later date.

Checking: Checking accounts are a convenient way to keep immediate finances in one easy-to-access place for paying monthly bills and other regular expenses.

Money Market Account: Money Market accounts require higher deposit amounts and allow restricted check writing. As a result, they offer a competitive APY similar to a CD but with limited withdrawals.

CDs, IRAs and Equity Investments: Certificates of deposit are like a savings account where money matures over a fixed, set period of time. IRAs and 401(k)s are banking products which are useful for saving for retirement and have special tax rules established by the US government. Other types of investments are backed by equity such as stocks, bond funds, and more.

Auto and Mortgage Loans: Institutional lending refers to the act of granting a loan of money to a borrower with the understanding that the funds will be paid back with added interest on top of the principal.

GOBankingRates has examined 120 of the best financial institutions in order to find the best banks for your financial needs. Here are our rankings for:

The Best Banks of 2015

The Best Savings Accounts of 2015

The Best Checking Accounts of 2015

The Best CD Accounts of 2015

The Best Online Bank Accounts of 2015

Get more banking tips, studies and reviews from GOBankingRates below.

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The Difference Between Banks and Credit Unions

Both operate on similar terms with some differences. Banks and credit unions are financial institutions where deposit and loan products can be obtained. Because national banks are bigger than credit unions, they have the financial backing to offer higher interest rates, better customer incentives, and more branch locations. Credit unions, on the other hand, are nonprofit cooperatives where account holding members become shareholders in the organization. So while a credit union may be smaller in scope than a great deal of banks, customers have more stake, or share, in the organization’s financial future.

With both types of banking establishments, all deposits up to $250,000 are insured under federal law — for banks, the insuring agency is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and for credit unions, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).