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Pyypl Team
Apr 24
7 mins

How Big Banks Make Money and Why It's Costing You

Understanding Revenue Streams of Major Financial Institutions

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Big banks play an important role in the global economy, providing essential financial services to millions of individuals and businesses. However, they also generate substantial revenue, often at the expense of their customers.

When it comes to choosing the best bank in the UAE, it's important to look beyond just the surface level offerings and understand how banks actually make their money. This knowledge can help you make more informed decisions about your finances and avoid any potential pitfalls that could impact your financial well-being. By taking a step back and educating yourself on the inner workings of banks, you can better protect yourself and your finances, regardless of which bank you ultimately choose to work with.

So, before you start your search for the best bank in the UAE, make sure you have a solid understanding of how banks operate and the potential impact their practices can have on your finances. Read on to find out how big banks make money and explore the ways in which their profit-driven practices can impact your finances.

Net Interest Income

One of the main ways banks make money is through net interest income, which is the difference between the interest they charge on loans and the interest they pay out on deposits. When you deposit money either via a bank cheque or cash in a savings or checking account, the bank uses those funds to provide loans to other customers. The bank charges a higher interest rate on loans than it pays out on deposits, and the difference is its net interest income. This model has been a staple of the banking industry for centuries, but it often means that customers receive low interest rates on their savings while paying higher rates on loans and credit card debt.

Fees and Commissions

Another significant source of income for big banks is the fees and commissions they charge for various services. These can include account maintenance fees, ATM fees, overdraft fees, and transaction fees for wire transfers or foreign currency exchanges. Banks may also charge commissions on investment and wealth management services, as well as fees for underwriting loans and issuing bonds. These fees can add up quickly and may be disproportionately burdensome for customers with lower account balances or limited access to financial services.

Trading and Investments

Big banks often engage in trading and investments to generate additional income. These activities can include proprietary trading, where the bank trades stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments for its own account. Banks also invest in various securities and earn profits from capital gains or dividends. Additionally, banks play a significant role in mergers and acquisitions, acting as financial advisors and brokers for large corporate deals, which can generate substantial fees. While these practices may yield considerable revenue for the banks, they can also expose them to financial risks that may ultimately impact customers.

Credit Card Operations

Another key income stream for big banks is their credit card operations. Banks make money from interest charges, annual fees, late payment fees, and other charges associated with credit card accounts. They also earn a percentage of every transaction processed through their network, known as interchange fees. While credit cards provide convenience and security for consumers, the high-interest rates and fees associated with these accounts can lead to mounting debt and financial strain for many customers.

Cross-Selling and Upselling

Banks are known for their aggressive cross-selling and upselling tactics. They often encourage customers to take on additional financial products and services, such as mortgages, insurance policies, or investment accounts. While these offerings can sometimes be beneficial, they do prioritise their profit margins over the financial well-being of their customers, potentially leading to unsuitable product recommendations or unnecessary fees.

Why It’s Costing You

Big banks' profit-driven practices can have a significant impact on consumers, often leading to higher costs and fees for essential financial services. These costs can be particularly detrimental to lower-income individuals, who may have limited access to alternative financial services or struggle to maintain minimum account balances. As banks prioritise their bottom line, they may not always act in the best interests of their customers, potentially exposing them to financial products that don’t align with their needs or risk tolerance.

The consolidation of the banking industry has also led to reduced competition, which can further drive up fees and interest rates for consumers. With fewer alternatives available, customers may find themselves with limited options and little bargaining power.

How to Protect Yourself

To minimise the financial impact of big banks' profit-driven practices, consider the following strategies:

  1. Shop around for the best deals on financial products and services, such as checking accounts, loans, and credit cards. Look for institutions with low fees, competitive interest rates, and consumer-friendly policies.  
  1. Explore alternative financial service providers, such as virtual prepaid cards or digital wallets. They offer more favourable terms and a greater focus on customer service. They’re also easy to get. For example, the Pyypl virtual card can be obtained within 2 minutes with no paperwork or salary requirements.  
  1. Educate yourself about personal finance, investment strategies, and the fees associated with various financial products. By understanding the costs and risks involved, you can make more informed decisions and better advocate for your interests.
  1. Monitor your accounts regularly to ensure you are not being charged unnecessary fees or experiencing unauthorized transactions. If you identify any discrepancies, contact your bank promptly to resolve the issue.
  1. Be cautious about accepting additional financial products or services without thoroughly researching their costs and benefits. Remember that banks may prioritize their profits over your financial well-being, so it is essential to be proactive in evaluating your financial needs and goals.

The Bottom Line

Big banks have long been the cornerstone of the global economy bur their profit-driven practices can often come at a cost to their customers, whether through hidden fees, high interest rates, or predatory lending practices. By exploring alternative options such as virtual prepaid cards, you can minimise the impact of their practices and work toward greater financial well-being.

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