Private banks cannot create money, per se, they can only create loans.
When a bank loans money, it deposits the money in the borrower’s account (creating a liability for the bank as it’s responsible for the full amount deposited) and it receives an IOU (a loan) from the borrower (which is worth something, therefore, an asset for the bank.)
The loan, in turn, is a liability for the borrower (it has to be paid back at some point), and the money deposited in the borrower’s bank account becomes an asset for the borrower.
In accounting, each liability gets canceled out by each asset, so that happens here and no new money is created.
When people take out loans, they typically leave the money in the bank, only withdrawing just enough to pay for things over time. Because of this, banks are able to loan the same money they have out multiple times over.
It certainly looks like new money!
But, again, it’s not. The IRS doesn’t tax loans, so the money is not NEW money, it is money credited to accounts as loans. It’s private debt.
Well, if the borrowers en mass suddenly couldn’t pay back their loans, well the bank could soon find itself in a pickle and could possibly go out of business.
But, there are a couple things to help minimize the chances of this happening.
For one, the 10% reserve rate that the banks have to hold on to in cash, which we just discussed, but that 10%, while offering a little help, wouldn’t do much if all the people started withdrawing their money at once, which takes us to point two.
The Federal Reserve guarantees depositors up to $250,000 if a bank goes belly up, so that at least minimizes the chances of a “bank run” happening since people won’t have to worry about their money disappearing.
But what really keeps everything afloat is that banks can borrow money from each other, and from the Fed, to make sure they have enough money to cover any new loans, or any cash that its customers want to withdraw. And the amount they can borrow is practically unlimited.
So, as you can see, the 10% requirement doesn’t really do much here, and doesn’t really influence the banks on how much money they loan out.
What banks care about is finding credit-worthy borrowers who will most likely pay back their loans. Once found, they then create the loan, credit the money into the borrower’s bank account, and they then borrow the money from another bank, or from the Fed, if they need to, to make sure that they can cover the loan.
For additional reading check out: Do Banks Create Money from Thin Air?