Carbohydrate active enzymes, particularly those that are active on polysaccharides, are often found associated with carbohydrate binding modules (CBMs), which can play several roles in supporting enzyme function, such as localizing the enzyme to the substrate. However, the presence of CBMs is not universal and is in fact rare among some families of enzymes. In some cases an alternative to possessing a CBM is for the enzyme to bind to the substrate at a site on the catalytic domain, but away from the active site. Such a site is termed a surface (or secondary) binding site (SBS). SBSs have been identified in enzymes from a wide variety of families, though almost half are found in the α-amylase family GH13. The roles attributed to SBSs are not limited to targeting the enzyme to the substrate, but also include a variety of others such as guiding the substrate into the active site, altering enzyme specificity and acting as an allosteric site. Although SBSs share many roles with CBMs they may not simply be an alternative to CBMs, but rather complementary as SBSs and CBMs frequently co-occur in enzymes. Despite a relatively long history, it is only in recent years that SBSs have been studied in great detail as researchers have developed strategies for identifying and characterising these sites, using techniques that measure their binding properties as well as looking at the influence on enzymatic activity of altering these sites through mutagenesis. This growing interest may eventually lead to applications involving SBSs in industrial and biomedical settings as SBSs provide an interesting way to modulate enzymatic behavior without the need to alter the often highly sensitive active site of the enzyme.