FDIC Insurance: What It Is And How It Works

By Kim Franke-Folstad · March 15, 2023 · 8 minute read

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FDIC Insurance: What It Is And How It Works

With the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently in the news, many people are wondering what the FDIC is, exactly, and what it does.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, is an independent agency of the U.S. government. In the unlikely event of a bank failure, it protects you and reimburses your deposits, typically up to $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, per account ownership category.

People often take the FDIC guarantee for granted now, but it was created from a very real need and has kept many people and their money safe.

Here, you’ll learn more about this important aspect of banking, including:

•   What the FDIC is

•   What the FDIC does

•   How does the FDIC work

•   Which accounts are and are not eligible for FDIC protection

What Is the FDIC?

The FDIC is the shorthand way of referring to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It is an independent agency created by Congress in 1933, after the Great Depression, when thousands of banks failed. The goal was to shore up confidence in the U.S. financial system and protect Americans from losing their cash if their bank failed.

In January 1934, the FDIC began insuring deposits, covering them up to $2,500. That number has increased through the years, of course, most recently with the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. President George W. Bush signed the act to temporarily raise FDIC insurance coverage from $100,000 to $250,000 per depositor during the financial crisis. President Barack Obama made the coverage hike permanent in 2010 with the signing of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

It’s important to note how this insurance works: The standard coverage is $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each account ownership category. Joint accounts may be covered up to $500,000.

Related: The Government Takes Decisive Action on Bank Closures

What Does the FDIC Do?

Since its creation, no depositor has lost any money from an FDIC-insured deposit. This means that, unlike your great-grandparents, you can put your money into an eligible financial institution, whether a savings vs. checking account or other qualifying account, and know it’s more secure than stuffing it under your mattress. (Yes, that used to be a thing for many savers.)

Also of note: Though it’s the customers’ money that’s covered by the FDIC, the agency is funded by premiums paid by the banks and from earnings on investments in U.S. Treasury securities. Customers do not pay for this insurance; they are automatically covered when they open an FDIC-insured account.

There are rules and limits you should know about, however, if you want to make the most of the FDIC’s coverage.

Types of Accounts Insured by the FDIC

The FDIC insures all deposit accounts at insured banks and savings associations up to the FDIC’s limits, including:

•   Checking accounts

•   Savings accounts

•   Money market accounts

•   Certificates of deposit (CDs)

•   Prepaid cards when the underlying funds are deposited in an insured bank (these funds are only insured in the instance of bank failure, not loss or theft)

•   Certain retirement savings accounts, but only when placed in certain types of investments and in accordance with all FDIC requirements.

   Deposit accounts, such as checking and savings accounts, money market deposit accounts, and certificates of deposit, can all be held in traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs and are eligible for FDIC insurance.

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How to Tell if Your Money Is FDIC-Insured

How can you tell for sure if your account is covered? While the FDIC insures deposits in most banks and savings associations, not all of them are protected. Every FDIC-insured depository institution must display an official sign at each teller window or teller station, so that’s an easy way to check if you bank at a brick-and-mortar location.

If you’re using an online bank or a mobile-first financial product, the company’s website should contain information about its coverage.

Or you can find out if your deposits are insured by using the FDIC BankFind tool .

Recommended: Comparing the Different Types of Deposit Accounts

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Types of Accounts Not Insured by the FDIC

Now, here are the kinds of funds not covered by FDIC insurance. Money held in these ways, even if purchased from an insured financial institution, is not protected:

•   Stocks

•   Bonds

•   Annuities

•   Mutual funds

•   Municipal securities

•   Life insurance policies

•   The contents of a safety deposit box

This is an important point to note as you think about your financial security.

Also, you may wonder about the FDIC vs. NCUA in terms of protecting your finances. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), created by Congress in 1970, covers federally insured credit unions in much the same way as the FDIC covers banks, including deposits up to $250,000. If your funds are held at a credit union, you may want to make sure it has NCUA coverage. The FDIC will not be protecting you, but it’s likely the NCUA is.

How FDIC Insurance Works

Here’s more important intel if you’re wondering, How does the FDIC work?

The FDIC covers your holdings in certain accounts, as listed above. What amount of money is insured in a bank account? Usually, the limit is $250,000. It is calculated to cover both principal and interest earned by the depositor. If you have an account that has $200,000 in it and has accrued $20,000 in interest, you will be covered in the amount of $220,000.

As mentioned above, there is a standard $250,000 cap on FDIC insurance. If you have high net worth, this coverage may not be enough. As a result, you may want to keep in mind that by having money in excess of that amount in one bank or one account, you may be putting yourself at risk.

Because the $250,000 applies to each bank where you have an account, one way you may be able to increase the FDIC insurance coverage available to you is by using multiple banks.

Another option is to structure your accounts properly within a single bank. If you have any concerns about your coverage, it can be a good idea to discuss them with a representative at your bank.

Quick Money Tip: Most savings accounts only earn a fraction of a percentage in interest. Not at SoFi. Our high-yield savings account can help you make meaningful progress towards your financial goals.

What Happens if a Bank Fails?

If a bank were to fail, the FDIC would intervene in two ways:

•   The FDIC would pay depositors up to the insurance limit to cover their losses. So, if you had $10,500 in an insured account and the bank failed, you would be reimbursed for that amount. Typically, this happens within a few days after a bank closes.

•   The FDIC also takes responsibility for collecting the assets of the failed bank and settling its debts. As assets are sold, depositors who had more than the $250,000 limit in an insured account may receive payments on their claim.

How to Recover Your Money if a Bank Fails

Because of the FDIC safety net, you won’t likely see fearful customers lining up to get their money the way they did before deposit insurance was established.

Still, when a bank closes, it can cause depositors to worry and wonder how to get their money. Typically, there are one of two scenarios when a bank fails:

•   Most commonly, you would become a depositor at a healthy, FDIC-insured bank. You would have access to your insured funds at this new bank and could likely choose to keep your accounts there if you like.

•   If there is not a healthy, FDIC-insured bank that can step in quickly, the FDIC will likely pay the insured depositor by check within as little as a few days after the bank closes.

As for immediate next steps if you learn your bank is closing, the FDIC aims to post information as promptly as possible, or you can contact the agency at 877-ASK-FDIC or visit the FDIC Support Center website .

The Takeaway

Though it’s quite a rare occurrence, a bank can fail when it takes on too much risk or, as was the case recently, was exposed to interest rate risk. If your bank is covered by FDIC insurance you can receive reimbursement up to $250,000, meaning your funds aren’t lost for good. FDIC insurance covers checking, savings, money market accounts, CDs, and other deposit accounts.

The FDIC does not cover some of the other financial products or services offered by banks, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, and securities.

Putting your money in a brick-and-mortar financial institution isn’t the only way to make sure it’s protected. SoFi Checking and Savings is a mobile-first online bank account that keeps your hard-earned dollars safe; all accounts receive FDIC insurance of up to $250,000 per member.

What’s more, we offer an array of great features that can make managing your money easier, such as spending and saving in one convenient place and using savings tools such as Vaults and Roundups. Plus, you’ll earn a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) and pay no account fees, both of which can help your money grow faster.

Want security, convenience, and no account fees? Bank smarter with SoFi.


How often does a bank fail?

Currently, banks fail very rarely. In the past two years, no banks failed in the United States. However, the FDIC was created in response to thousands of bank failures around the time of the Great Depression.

How does the FDIC differ from the NCUA?

FDIC insurance applies to qualifying accounts at banks. NCUA insurance covers qualifying accounts at credit unions.

How many banks are FDIC insured?

As of September 2022, the FDIC insured a total of 4,746 institutions. Of these, 4,157 were commercial banks, and 589 were savings institutions.

Are credit unions FDIC-insured?

Credit unions don’t qualify for FDIC insurance. Instead, they may be covered by the National Credit Union Administration, or NCUA, insurance.

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