7 Unexpected Uses for Banks

Most of us think about banks for checking and savings accounts, tellers and ATMs, but don’t know about the wide array of services some banks offer. In my time working in a bank, I learned a ton about what we had to offer, and some larger, national banks offer even more.

Currency Exchange

Traveling abroad? Don’t want to worry about finding an ATM or currency exchange when you land? Your bank may be able to take care of that for you.

Most large banks, and some smaller banks, are able to handle currency orders for customers at the current exchange rate. You just have to drive in to pick up your Euros, Pounds, Pesos, or whatever else you may need before you leave town.

Retirement Accounts

Most of us think of brokerage companies as the only home for our retirement accounts, but banks often offer IRA accounts as well.

You may not have a full line of investment options at small, regional banks. But you will find any type of investment you desire at large, full service banks.


Before discount brokerage companies were an option, they went to investment banks. Bank is the keyword there.

If you choose to, you can go to a large financial institution for banking and investment needs. I still prefer paying less than $10 per trade, or buying stocks with no fees at Loyal3, but if I needed to I could always turn to a bank for full service brokerage services.


Most large banks offer both whole life and term life insurance, in addition to annuities. Some banks also offer  accidental death and dismemberment and other types of insurance that may be an important part of your retirement and estate planning.

Getting insurance is a great idea when you are young, as premiums go up as you get older. You can lock in the savings by buying an policy when you are under 30 to make sure your children and spouse are covered in the event something bad happens to you.

Money Orders

Western Union money orders are the standard currency for non-banked people who need a substitute for a checking account, but money orders, like cashier’s checks, are available at most banks for a small fee.

When I worked in the bank, we offered money orders at a lower rate than cashier’s checks, but they offer nearly the same level of protection for the receiving party.

International Transfers

If you need instant transfers to someone abroad, you have a few options. One is Western Union or MoneyGram transfers, available at most grocery stores, convenience stores, and some banks. The other option, which is best for larger transfers, is a bank wire.

International wires are often much more expensive than Western Union, but they can be considered more secure and put the funds right into a bank account almost instantly.

Private Banking

If you are very wealthy, you may be able to take advantage of private banking services. Private banking is a fancy name for investment and wealth advising for high net worth individuals. While most of us don’t qualify for the $500,000 minimum some banks require today, we can always dream and work toward it.

What Are Your Favorite Bank Services?

What do you use your bank for? Just checking, or more? Please share in the comments.

6 thoughts on “7 Unexpected Uses for Banks”

    1. Most of the time, I just use the ATM abroad. But when you are going somewhere new or you are worried, it can feel good to land with some foreign currency to get you started.

    1. I figured people already knew about that one. All banks should have online banking, it shouldn’t be unexpected for anyone anymore. Is it?

  1. Bob @ Cubicle Sherpa

    Most banks also offer free notary public services if you have an account with them.
    Saves a couple bucks when you have contracts/etc to sign.


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