Regulators have closed more than 100 banks across the U.S. in the past two years, and while the impact of bank failures on consumers has been minimal, rumors about what can happen are rampant.
So what do bank customers need to know about their bank going under? Here are some answers.
Q: How does a customer know if a bank is covered by FDIC insurance?
A: Banks usually have a sign on the door with the FDIC logo, and also frequently use the logo on account statements and other corre-spondence.The FDIC has a tool called “Bank Find” on its Web site, fdic.gov, where a customer can enter a bank name and address to make sure it is insured. Internet-based banks are listed on the Web site as well. Horizon Bank was FDIC insured.
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Q: What exactly does the FDIC insure?
A: The FDIC covers money deposited in savings accounts, checking accounts and certificates of deposit up to $250,000. But that limit can apply to the same person in several different ownership categories, such as single, joint, held-in-trust and retirement accounts.
So, for example, if a woman has two savings accounts totaling $200,000 in her own name, plus two joint accounts that each have $100,000, plus two accounts with $75,000 held in trust for her children, and a $90,000 IRA, all of these deposits would be covered be-cause no one ownership category tops the limit.
Q: What doesn't the FDIC insure?
A: Money in mutual funds, annuities, stocks, bonds or other investment products is not covered, even if those investments were bought through an insured bank.The contents of a safe deposit box are also not FDIC insured but may be covered through a homeowner's or renter's insurance policy.
When a bank fails, in most cases, the bank that takes over will keep branches operating and allow access to safe deposit boxes. If no other bank acquires the failed bank, the FDIC will send a letter to boxholders with instructions for removing their property.
Q: How long does it take for the FDIC to pay people back?
A: In most cases, another bank takes over the closed bank's deposits, and ATM cards, debit cards and checks continue to work until the new bank transitions customers to its systems.
If the FDIC can't find another bank to take over, the agency uses its insurance fund to make payouts to the failed bank's customers. The law requires that deposits be paid out “as soon as possible” after an insured bank fails. That has typically been just a few days after the bank closes. In most of these cases, the FDIC will provide new accounts at another insured bank, but it will issue a check to each depositor if new accounts can't be arranged.
Q: Will the FDIC contact customers of a failed bank?
A: The FDIC notifies each depositor in writing when a bank fails, using the depositor's address on record with the bank. This notifica-tion is mailed immediately after the bank closes. The FDIC never sends e-mails directly to consumers, and has warned about numerous scams sending fraudulent e-mails that appear to be sent by the agency. The FDIC also sets up a toll-free number and a Web site for customers to access.
When the failed bank is acquired by another bank, depositors get a notice in the mail from the new bank as well, usually with the first bank statement after the takeover.
Q: What if someone "banks" at a credit union?
A: The National Credit Union Administration, a U.S. government agency, provides members of these nonprofit institutions insurance up to $250,000 through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, much the way the FDIC covers bank deposits. Like the FDIC, the NCUA will assume control over a federal credit union that is unable to continue operating on its own, if it cannot find another credit union to serve the failed institution's members. There are a handful of state-chartered credit unions that are not covered by NCUSIF but have their own insurance.