What is a Passbook?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 March 2014
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Passbooks are simple paper books that include pages that are intended for use with simple accounting notations regarding a bank account. Sometimes referred to as a bank book, the passbook was considered to be the most common means of keeping up with the current balance in a savings account for many years. Because the design of the passbook allowed the record to fit easily into a lapel pocket or purse, taking the passbook along to the bank when making a deposit or withdrawal was an easy process.

The format for the pages in a passbook is very simple. Columns are found on each page that provide space for entering the date and type of the transaction, the amount of the deposit or withdrawal, and the adjusted balance in the account. Any interest earned on the bank account would be recorded in the passbook as a credit to the account, while a withdrawal would be recorded as a debit.


In times past, the account holder was not the one to make notations in the passbook. Instead, the customer would take the passbook along to the bank when making a deposit or withdrawal. Bank personnel would record and initial the transaction in the appropriate columns. Some banks had a procedure that required tellers and other bank officers who handled transactions to also initial the activity in the passbook. When this was the case, it was not unusual for the pages in pass books issued by the institution to include a column specifically for this purpose.

While there are banks that still provide a passbook to customers, this practice has diminished considerably since the advent of the home computer. Today, many banks allow customers to access account information online, and download the detail into financial accounting software programs. This allows the customer to still access a bank-generated record of the current balance in the account, including any interest payments on the balance, eliminating the need for bankbooks altogether.


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