A building society roll number is a unique alphanumeric identifier associated with an individual account at a building society. Building societies are similar to traditional banks but often offer their members more benefits or better interest rates. They are generally found in the United Kingdom, rather than in the United States or elsewhere. They are similar to a credit union in the United States. If you have a bank account, you likely won't have a building society roll number.
Building Societies vs. Banks
If you are hoping to open a savings account or get a mortgage, your first instinct may be to go to a bank. However, a building society is often a better option. Writers for The Nottingham Building Society explain that building societies, like credit unions, are mutual organizations that their members own. This means that the members have a say in how the building society is run, including voting for directors.
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When you open an account at a traditional bank, on the other hand, you don't get any say in how the bank is operated. This is because banks are generally publicly traded companies and are run to best benefit their stockholders, not the people who hold accounts at the bank. The profits a bank makes are typically distributed to shareholders as dividends or are otherwise not funneled toward account holders.
On the other hand, in a building society, profits are invested back into the membership, typically in the form of much higher interest rates, the writers for Finance Monthly explain. Building societies were created in the 19th century to help ordinary people own property, and they have continued to help UK residents save and buy their homes. They often participate in community endeavors, grassroots activities and charity work.
More Details on Building Societies
The Building Societies Association is composed of 43 United Kingdom building societies (and six credit unions), together serving about 25 million customers. However, this very community or local focus makes building societies better suited to customers who plan to stay in a single area rather than moving about the country.
Most building societies are regional and focus on brick-and-mortar locations over online services. To decide whether a bank or a building society is best for your needs, looking at top lists of UK bank accounts, such as Savings Champion's top interest-paying current accounts list, can help you compare offerings.
Building Society Roll Numbers
Today, most standard UK bank accounts have an 8-digit account number and a 6-digit sort code. This uniquely identifies every bank account in the UK. However, some banks and many building societies had or have a different account identifier called a bank account roll number or a building society roll number.
The bank account roll number is an alphanumeric (mixed numbers and letters) reference code that is different from an account number. You may be able to find your roll number on older paper statements from your bank or building society.
Generally speaking, most modern UK banks no longer use roll numbers, so they're not used at establishments like NatWest, the Bank of Scotland or Santander. Roll numbers are most frequently used today when making a payment to a building society, in which case the building society will provide you with the correct roll number. It can also be included as a reference number when making online payments. Generally speaking, you won't have a roll number for a more modern bank.
Consider also: Can Americans Have Foreign Bank Accounts?