The federal takeover of IndyMac bank has consumers worried. How do they protect their deposits and make sure they get their money back if they need or want it? This is a legitimate concern. After all, banks are supposed to be a safe place to put our money, aren't they?

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures deposits at banks or savings associations so that customers don't lose their money if a bank goes under. But believe it or not, most consumers do not know that there are limits to this insurance coverage.

The general coverage limit is $100,000 at any one bank. If a consumer has multiple accounts at one bank, but in total they exceed $100,000, they may not get all of their money back if the bank fails.
There are some exceptions to this rule, and the details are included in this publication from the FDIC. For example, certain retirement accounts such as IRAs and Roth IRAs at a bank will be covered up to $250,000. Joint accounts at a bank can qualify for $200,000 of coverage, because each person on the account is considered a depositor with a limit of $100,000.

What's the best way to make sure that all your money is insured and protected from the failure of a bank? Each person should have no more than $100,000 on deposit with a particular bank unless she or he is certain that coverage will be increased due to an exception. It seems easiest to just open accounts at a variety of banks, though, to be best assured of having your deposits fully insured by the FDIC.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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