Difference Between Bank and Building Society [UK Banking]

If you’re looking to open accounts in the UK, you might be wondering what’s the difference between a bank and a building society.

In this article, we’ll explain the differences and take a look at the financial services offered by both.

That said, if you’re looking to open accounts as a foreign non-resident, you can use our free articles to get started.

In fact, we offer free account opening guides for banking in Europe, ranging from banking in the Channel Islands to opening a bank account in Spain as a non-resident, which you can access here.

Feel free to use the table of contents to jump ahead to the sections most relevant to you.

Table of Contents

  1. Difference Between Bank and Building Society
  2. Financial Services Offered By a Building Society 
  3. Frequently Asked Questions
  4. Ready to Explore Your Options?

Difference Between Bank and Building Society

The main difference between a bank and a building society is that a bank is owned by shareholders while a building society is owned by its members. Additionally, while there are many similarities in the products offered, building societies tend to be more localized, focusing on a geographic region or specific client group.

If you’re not from Europe or the UK, the term “building society” may be new to you. But, there are similar financial institutions in most countries, typically going by the name credit union.

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Financial Services Offered By a Building Society

Building societies offer a range of financial services, including standard current accounts and savings accounts. That said, they also offer financing options, ranging from short-term borrowing to long-term mortgages. In fact, building societies are often associated (thanks to their origins) with expanding home ownership by helping people buy their first homes.

Here’s a closer look at the services that you can access through a building society.

  • Current (checking) account
  • Savings account
  • Multicurrency account
  • Short term financing
  • Long-term mortgage financing

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are three of the most common questions we receive from people looking into the difference between banks and building societies. If you have further questions you would like answered, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us directly.

Is a Building Society Better Than a Bank?

Whether a building society is better than a bank depends on the individual and their specific requirements. For example, an individual looking to deal in international currencies with no borrowing requirements will likely find more cost-effective services at a retail bank. On the other hand, someone with local banking needs and looking to access personal financing could find a more attractive offer from a building society.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Building Society?

One of the main disadvantages of a building society is that they are usually smaller than most retail banks. As a result, they tend to have fewer locations and fewer employees to support customer requests.

Why Is It Called a Building Society?

The reason a building society is called this name is due to the origins of this type of financial institution. When building societies were first established in the 1700s, their purpose was to help groups of individuals (societies) build homes (building).

Ready to Explore Your Options?

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Of course, if you have any questions, please contact us directly.


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GlobalBanks Team
GlobalBanks Team

The GlobalBanks editorial team comprises a group of subject-matter experts from across the banking world, including former bankers, analysts, investors, and entrepreneurs. All have in-depth knowledge and experience in various aspects of international banking. In particular, they have expertise in banking for foreigners, non-residents, and both foreign and offshore companies.

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