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Banking

Deposit Security

Look for higher ceilings on FDIC insurance for some accounts.

Jimmy Carter was president the last time Congress increased limits on accounts that are covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., from $40,000 to $100,000. Now lawmakers have authorized a new ceiling of $250,000 for savings held in retirement accounts, such as IRAs and self-directed Keoghs. The expanded coverage takes effect when the FDIC issues new regulations, which could take up to a year.

Under the law, maximum coverage on regular savings accounts will remain $100,000, although inflation adjustments will be possible starting in 2010. Initially, inflation must grow at least 10% over five years for coverage to increase, after which the ceiling rises in $10,000 increments.

But you don't have to wait till the new limits take effect to make sure your savings are insured for more than the current $100,000. The FDIC calculates insurance coverage based on whose name is on the account and how the account is set up. Say you and your spouse have a joint account and each of you has an individual account. You're covered up to $400,000. Retirement accounts and trust accounts for your kids qualify for even more coverage.

To verify that your bank is a member of the FDIC, go to www.fdic.gov. To confirm that all your money is covered, use the site's Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator.

-- Joan Goldwasser