Another Bank Bites the Dust (What Happens if a Bank Fails)

July 11, 2008


The latest bank to “bite the dust” is IndyMac Bank in Pasadena, California. Earlier today, the FDIC took over the failed IndyMac Bank. This is already the fifth bank to fail this year alone compared to “only” three in 2007 and none in 2006 or 2005. This is also the second largest bank failure in U.S. history.

So what happens if your bank fails? Well, not a whole lot. The bank usually is taken over by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) or the NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) and an announcement is made (notices posted on doors, news information sent out). Usually, another bank will buy the assets (and liabilities) of the failed bank and the branch will be reopened as a branch of the new buyer. When there’s a buyer of the bank, checks will continue to clear, debit and ATM cards will continue to work. This is only applicable to the insured amount ($100,000 per depositor or $200,000 per joint account).

However, if there is no buyer, the checks, debit cards, and ATM cards will not work. Checks will be returned and stamped “bank closed.” Typically, the bank is closed on a Friday and by Monday, checks are mailed out for the insured deposits. You will have almost immediate access to your insured funds. However, any amount that exceeds the FDIC insured deposits becomes a creditor of the failed bank and you may or may not see the money after the assets are sold off by the FDIC. You may not see all of your money.

You likely won’t know that a bank’s about to fail until it has happened. That’s why it’s so important not to exceed the insurance limits at any one bank. So don’t keep more than $100,000 at any one bank. If you stay within the insured limits, you’ll have relatively quick access to your money.

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Source: MarketWatch, Bankrate


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