Account Types

Robert Heller heller at
Fri Sep 12 14:13:40 EDT 2008

At Fri, 12 Sep 2008 18:20:05 +0100 Ken <kmailuk at> wrote:

> Thanks for the reply Charles.  However, implicitly a bank account is
> like a stock account except that a bank is denominated in a particular
> asset (i.e. a given currency) and its price does not change (ie is
> always one).  You could simply use a stock account for all of your
> banking by using an asset called, say, dollar, and the price is always
> 1, right?  I wasn't sure if there was more of a distinction between
> the types than that or not.
> Anyway, thanks for the reply. I'll just keep using GnuCash and will
> probably get a better feel for it with time.
> Ken

The other thing about the different (sub-)account types:

How GnuCash displays them (format(s) of the transaction register).

A bank account is displayed differently from a stock account.  The
information is (much) the same.  This is mostly a convienvence thing and
simply makes things more comfortable for users.  In some cases all that
is different is terminology: bank accounts have 'deposits' and
'withdrawals'; cash accounts have 'receive' and 'spend'.  Otherwise
'bank' accounts  and 'cash' accounts are pretty much the same.

> 2008/9/12 Charles Day <cedayiv at>:
> > On Fri, Sep 12, 2008 at 2:01 AM, Ken <kmailuk at> wrote:
> >>
> >> Hi. I am new to GnuCash (recently switched over as Quicken has
> >> withdrawn their product from the UK) and it looks like a great program
> >> (although I do have a couple of GUI issues in Windows).
> >>
> >> The question I have which I can't seem to find an answer to is: Why
> >> does GnuCash have so many different account types?  What are the
> >> fundamental differences between cash, bank, stock, mutual fund,
> >> account receivable, credit card, liability, etc.  Why not simply 4:
> >> Asset, Liability, Income, Expense. And then let the user create
> >> sub-accounts depending on the nature/liquidity of the account?
> >
> > Generally the top level of your chart of accounts (account tree) contains
> > only those four account types. But why make the user build the most common
> > account types themselves? GnuCash just has them already built for you (like
> > Quicken). Besides, there isn't currently an option to add your own account
> > types anyway. Also, there are some differences in the way account types are
> > treated. I'm not familiar with the exact differences between all of them.
> >
> > For example, stock and mutual fund types get a "price" column in their
> > registers, and can be denominated in non-currencies. However these two
> > account types are currently identical in all but name. So the distinction
> > between "stock" and "mutual fund" assets are unknown to the software, and in
> > fact these account types could be used to track any asset at all that needs
> > a price column. These two account types could be made distinct and more
> > useful if the GUI treated them differently. (For instance, options to
> > distribute capital gains could be enabled for mutual fund accounts, but
> > disabled for stock accounts.)  There is lots more work to be done in the
> > investments area.
> >
> > I can't speak to the other account types. Some of them might be the same in
> > all but name, too.
> >
> >>
> >> I may not have been using GnuCash long enough to appreciate the
> >> differences, but it would enhance my understanding of the product if I
> >> had a better idea as to why these distinctions are made.
> >>
> >> Thanks,
> >> Ken
> >
> > -Charles
> >
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Robert Heller             -- Get the Deepwoods Software FireFox Toolbar!
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