Checking out your bank's health

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In the last quarter of 2008, the government's list of "problem" banks grew by 81 to a total of 252.

The Feds are hush-hush about whose name is on the list to prevent a run on the banks. So is there any other way for you to find out if your institution is safe and sound or on shaky ground? Luckily, there are a few sources for you to check:

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. site,, posts financial figures and data on specific banks under "Bank Find."

Or, if numbers give you a headache, check out companies that evaluate the figures and spit out an easy-to-understand rating. Ratings are posted online for free.

BauerFinancial at uses a five-star system to rate banks. Ratings assigns letter grades, which you can find by looking up its Banks & Thrifts Ratings tool at And gives out stars to institutions along with a report.

If your bank rates low, contact it to find out why. Ratings aren't foolproof. For instance, new banks tend to rate lower because they have less of a track record.

Lastly, you don't have to worry as long as your deposits are within federal insurance limits. The insurance limit has been temporarily raised, so the basic coverage is $250,000 through the end of the year.