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Banks and Credit Union Deposit Accounts - Financial Regulation

Banks and credit unions are financial depository institutions permitted by state and federal laws and regulations to hold money for individuals or businesses in deposit accounts. Banks and credit unions also offer financial products like credit cards and loans, and some provide financial education and budgeting resources for individuals or businesses.

The primary difference between a bank and a credit union is that while banks may accept deposits from anyone, credit unions only accept deposits from their members. Credit union membership is based on a common bond. You may qualify for membership in a credit union based on where you live or work, through association with an organization like a school or place of worship, or through immediate family that meets the membership criteria.

What is a deposit account?

A deposit account is a type of account that accepts and holds sums of money (called “deposits”) for an individual or business. A deposit account at a bank or credit union is a place to safely keep your money (Maryland law requires all banks and credit unions to have deposit insurance). Types of deposit accounts include checking, savings, certificates of deposit (CDs), and money market accounts, among others. You can use the money in your deposit account to make purchases, pay bills, send or receive funds electronically, and depending on the type of account, withdraw cash and write checks.

Who has access to the money in my deposit account?

The names on your deposit account documents determine who has access to your account. When you open a deposit account at a bank or credit union, you will sign a signature card and account agreement.

  • Maryland law generally provides that any person named on the a signature card as an owner or a joint owner of the account will have full access to the account and may act alone to make withdrawals, deposits, and/or changes to the account. For many purposes, if you have a joint owner named on your account, they will be treated as having the same rights to the account funds as you.
  • Your account agreement includes terms about who has access to your funds while you are living and to whom the funds belong when you die. Read the account agreement carefully because it determines many other rights and responsibilities concerning your deposit account. Learn more about account ownership and survivorship.

What are the types of deposit account fees?

Types of deposit account fees include, but are not limited to, a service or maintenance fee, an overdraft fee, and a non-sufficient funds fee. Banks and credit unions must disclose at the time a deposit account is opened the frequency and dollar amount of the fees it charges. Many banks and credit unions also post fee schedules on their website.

  • A service or maintenance fee may be charged monthly. Sometimes this fee will be waived by your bank or credit union if your account balance stays above a certain amount, you conduct a minimum number of transactions, and/or you use “direct deposit” for your paychecks or other income.
  • An overdraft fee is charged when funds are withdrawn from your account (such as when making a payment), but there is not enough money available in your account so the bank or credit union pays for the difference. You may be charged an overdraft fee each time you make a payment that is more than the amount of money in your account and your bank or credit union covers the difference. You may have the option of opting in or out of overdraft protection coverage. If you opt out, your transaction will be declined instead of causing your account to be overdrawn. Opting in means you will be charged overdraft fees.
  • A non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee is charged when you have a negative account balance, or your balance drops below a certain amount as designated by your bank or credit union. NSF fees may be charged daily until you deposit enough money to bring your account balance above the amount required by your bank or credit union.

To avoid excessive account fees and charges, read all the documents that come with your deposit account, ask questions during the account opening process to make sure that you understand all of your rights and responsibilities, and check your account balance frequently.

More Information

For more information about banks, credit unions, deposit accounts, and other aspects of banking, visit:

To learn about deposit insurance for Maryland banks and credit unions, see Understanding Deposit Insurance.

To learn about how depository institutions operating in Maryland are regulated, see Regulation of Banks and Credit Unions in Maryland.

Download Bank and Credit Union Accounts: Frequent Asked Questions (PDF).

Download What Account is Right for You? Account Ownership and Survivorship (PDF).

To submit a complaint to our Office about a Maryland state-chartered bank or credit union, go to Consumer Complaints and Inquiries. Call us at 410-230-6077 or email for assistance.