Q: How do I know that the money I have in my credit union is safe?
A: You may know if your money at a brokerage firm or bank is safe. But what about your cash stored at a credit union?
Past Ask Matt columns addressed the safety nets for money at your broker and at your bank.
Credit unions are different. They are not-for-profit cooperative financial institutions created to provide savings and loan services for members of a group with a common bond, such as employees of a company, a particular profession or other affinity group. Credit unions are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration, or NCUA, or by state agencies. The NCUA oversees the safety and soundness of all credit unions.
If you want to check up on your credit union, make sure it's federally insured by the NCUA and look at its finances, you can do that any time. Go to the NCUA's website at www.ncua.gov. click on the "Credit Union Data" link on the left-hand side of
the page below where it says Data and Services. Next, click on the Find a Credit Union link, type in the credit union's name and click the Find button.
You can then choose to view the Financial Performance Report or the official regulatory document, called the 5300 report. This report will tell you how well capitalized the credit union is and even let you see how many of the loans are going bad.
What about your asset protection? Credit unions are backed by the NCUA, through the NCU Share Insurance Fund, which is backed by the U.S. government. Individual accounts are backed up to $100,000, with additional coverage up to $250,000 for certain retirement accounts. Joint accounts may qualify for coverage of up to $200,000.
Matt Krantz is a financial markets reporter at USA TODAY and author of Investing Online for Dummies. He answers a different reader question every weekday in his Ask Matt column at money.usatoday.com. To submit a question, e-mail Matt at email@example.com. Click here to see previous Ask Matt columns.