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Ask Sid

Sizing Up Your Bank’s Health

Q. How can I find out if my bank is in trouble?

A. It’s a legitimate concern, what with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation having announced in February that 702 insured institutions were on its “problem list” as of the end of 2009—an increase of 150 from three months earlier and the most since 1993.

That list, however, is not available to the public—the FDIC only identifies institutions that have already failed. But here are some other resources that can help you gauge the financial health of the place that’s got your money.

  • BankTracker, where you can look up a bank’s troubled asset ratio. Higher values generally indicate more stress from loans that are not being paid back as scheduled.
  •’s Safe and Sound Star Ratings, which rank institutions on a star system based on regulatory filings. Fewer stars indicate lower performance and suggest possible problems.
  • FDIC Bank Find, where you can check if your bank is FDIC-insured, learn if it has recently merged or been acquired, and review its history.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues.

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