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The coverage limits imposed by Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. never look so skimpy as when you’ve sold a house and need safe parking for the proceeds.

CDIC covers up to $100,000 in principal and interest in each of seven account categories, including deposits held in one name, in joint accounts and in a tax-free savings account. With a $603,344 national average resale house price nationally in November, it’s quite likely that someone who sells a house and wants to put the money in savings will not get CDIC protection for the entire amount at one bank.

A reader recently wondered about this balance of risk in exceeding CDIC limits and convenience of having money in one bank account. “How concerned should I be that CDIC only insures up to $100,000?” he asked. “I recently sold my house and want to put the proceeds in a high interest savings account, but I’d rather not have to open a separate account at a different institution for each $100,000.”

The risk of losing money in a savings account because a Big Six bank collapsed is very small, but not zero. It’s a personal judgment call whether the safety of dividing up the money into chunks and parcelling them out to separate banks is worth the effort.

But there’s another consideration here – the interest rate you’re getting from your bank. Big banks pay close to zero right now, whereas alternative banks paid as much as 1 per cent to 1.8 per cent as of mid-December. With proceeds of, let’s say, $500,000 from the sale of a home, 1.5-per-cent interest gets you $7,500 a year before taxes.

There are enough CDIC-member alternative banks with competitive rates to absorb the multiple deposits of $100,000 or so that would be generated by the sale of an average-price home. The inconvenience of managing these accounts is the price you pay for better rates and confidence that the risk of dealing with smaller financial institutions has been contained.

The reader who asked where to put the proceeds for a home sale is a resident of Ontario, where credit union deposits are insured for up to $250,000 by the Deposit Insurance Corp. of Ontario. There’s unlimited coverage in registered accounts, including TFSAs.

In other provinces, notably Manitoba (home to several online banks owned by credit unions), there is no limit on deposit insurance coverage. Read my take on how this Manitoba coverage compares with CDIC, online at tgam.ca/carrick-DGCM.

A question for home sellers: Would it bother you to park half-a-million dollars or more with a big bank and get next to no interest while it lends the money out for a much higher rate? Thought so. That’s why the preferred approach for home sellers who want to stash cash safely is to suck it up and use a bunch of alternative banks. It’s worth the effort to get deposit insurance and a better rate.

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