But what exactly is the difference between a building society and a bank? And what does this mean for your money?
We answer these questions and take a look at how to compare building society current accounts.
How is a building society different from a bank?
There are still a number of organisations which remain as a building society, most notably Nationwide which has repeatedly resisted calls to switch to a bank.
The main difference between the two is that a bank has shareholders and as such, their primary aim is to make profits for distribution. Banks can be floated on the stock exchange and must pay dividends to their shareholders. Banks' running costs are approximately 35% higher because of the dividend payments which are made.
A building society however is a mutual organisation and does not have shareholders, nor can be floated on the stock exchange. All of its account holders are effectively members and have the right to vote or speak at an AGM.
A building society also offers mortgages and loans as its main products; this is one of the features which define it.
Do building societies have current accounts?
Although building societies may have begun with mortgages and loans, there are now a number offering current accounts and other financial products too.
In reality, there may be little difference between the range of accounts and services which are available from either a bank or building society. There are building societies with current accounts, deposit accounts and even ISAs in order them to meet the complex needs of the modern customer.
But although many building societies offer current accounts, not all are the same, so it's important to look carefully at what you are getting.
Which is the best building society for a current account?
Whether it's loans, savings or current accounts building society staff pride themselves on offering better customer service than their banking counterparts. This is because the customers are actually members as well and the organisation is run with the interests of everyone at its heart.
However, setting service aside, when it comes to current accounts building society facilities vary significantly so you need to select the features which are most important to you.
For example, building society accounts with passbooks are still offered in some branches whilst others rely on a set-up closer to a banking current account. If you want to open a building society bank account (as it is sometimes referred to) you may prefer to be close to a local branch rather than completing everything remotely. Conversely you may want a provider who has good internet bank facilities so you can easily bank online.
All of this and more needs to be taken into account when you carry out a best building society current account comparison.
The best buy building society current accounts offer competitive rates of interest on balances too; a feature worth looking for if you are usually in credit.
It's impossible to provide a definitive list of the best building society accounts but if you prioritise the factors which are most important, you will be able to compare what's on offer and find the building society bank account which best fits your needs.
Once you have decided on the right building society current account apply and provide ID as you would for any bank account and you could soon be a member. Many now offer a dedicated switching service to make sure the whole process is easy and hassle-free too.