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How bank deal affects your money

By Kirsten Valle
kvalle@charlotteobserver.com

News of the Wachovia-Citigroup deal Monday – and continued gloomy headlines from the nation's battered financial sector – has left some customers wondering what will happen to their bank accounts.

There's no need to worry, bank officials and industry experts say.

“For Wachovia's customers, today's action will ensure a seamless continuity of services from their bank and full protection for all of their deposits,” Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairwoman Sheila Blair said in a statement. “There will be no interruption in services, and bank customers should expect business as usual.”

Here are some answers to questions about your money.

Q: What's going on?

Citigroup will acquire Wachovia's retail bank, corporate and investment bank and wealth management businesses. Wachovia will remain a public company, based in Charlotte, with two main operating subsidiaries: Wachovia Securities, one of the nation's largest brokerage firms; and Evergreen Asset Management, a provider of asset management services. If shareholders approve the deal, it is expected to close by the end of the year.

Q: Is my money safe?

Wachovia did not fail; rather, a large portion of it is being acquired. All depositors are fully protected.

Q: How will my account change?

You should not notice any changes. Citigroup officials said Monday they have not decided if they'll keep the Wachovia name. Typically in bank mergers, customers keep the same account numbers and passwords.

If they decide to change the name to Citigroup, you'll see the Citigroup name on your bank statements, and you'll receive new debit and credit cards with the Citigroup name.

Q: How does FDIC insurance work?

The FDIC insures single accounts in your name up to $100,000 per bank. Joint accounts are a separate category and also get $100,000 of coverage per person per bank. Retirement accounts are covered for up to $250,000.

You may qualify for more than $100,000 in coverage at one insured bank if you own deposit accounts in different categories, such as a single account, joint account, retirement account and some trust accounts.

The limits apply only to bank deposits, such as checking, savings, money-market accounts, CDs and certain trust deposits.

The FDIC said Wachovia customers with questions should call their normal banking representative, service center, 1-800-922-4684 or visit www.wachovia.com. The FDIC consumer hotline is 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877- 275- 3342) or go to www.fdic.gov

Q: When can I use Citi branches and ATMs?

Once the deal is completed and Wachovia and Citigroup branches are integrated, customers should have access to Citi branches. For now, you should continue to bank as usual at Wachovia branches and ATMs or online. Customers can still use their ATM cards, credit cards, checks and other products until the bank issues new ones.

Q: I have CDs with Wachovia and Citigroup. How will the deal affect me?

You do not need to make changes at this time. Wachovia CDs will be separately insured by the FDIC for six months after the companies combine, or until maturity.

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