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Your Guide to the Insured Cash Sweep (ICS)

Investing
Published: 2 weeks ago, Last Updated: 2 weeks ago
Jessica Lee
Writer: Jessica Lee
Jackson Rhodes
Reviewer: Jackson Rhodes
Listen minutes

Bank failures are a potential threat and a real fear for many people. That’s why many turn to an insured cash sweep (ICS) to manage and maximize their savings across multiple bank accounts. These accounts give you access to insurance that exceeds the standard limits of a single financial institution, making sure your deposits are more secure.

In this article, we’ll look at how do ICS accounts work and all the nitty gritty details you need to know about them. 

What is an Insured Cash Sweep (ICS)?

Generally, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) provides an insurance limit of $250,000 to your deposits per account. If you invest more than $250,000 in a single account, the extra funds won’t be insured by the FDIC.

If you plan to invest over the FDIC insurance limit, opening an insured cash sweep account can provide complete protection for all your funds. An insured cash sweep is a financial service that distributes your deposits among multiple financial institutions. Each institution holds up to the $250,000 limit, ensuring all your funds are FDIC-protected. 

An ICS account primarily benefits individuals who make large deposits that exceed the standard limit at a single bank. These accounts are also available to businesses as they are to individuals, meaning that you can also open an ICS account if you own a business.

How Do ICS Accounts Work?

When you open an ICS account in a given bank, it becomes your primary relationship bank where you manage your funds. Here’s how it usually works:

  1. You open an insured cash sweep account at a given bank and invest over the $250,000 limit. 
  2. The bank takes your deposit and distributes it within a network of 3,000 partner financial institutions in small increments that do not exceed the $250,000 limit. The bank organizes the distribution meticulously to ensure your funds stay within FDIC limits at each institution.
  3. The other banks receive the deposit and open separate accounts for you, ensuring that your funds are within the FDIC limit and that the entire amount remains insured. The banks in the ICS network offer varying interest rates on your investment. 
  4. Even though your funds are dispersed across institutions, you still manage your account from a single bank. Each month, your primary bank sends you a consolidated statement that discloses how your money is distributed across the network of banks, how much interest is earned, and other account information.
  5. If you need to make withdrawals or deposits, you will make the transactions with your primary bank. There are no limitations on accessing your ICS funds. 

The insured cash sweep system blends security with convenience, as it allows your money to stay accessible and secure without having to pay more for higher insurance coverage. 

Are Sweep Accounts Safe?

An ICS account is highly secure because it disperses your deposits across multiple banks. Each participating bank guarantees your deposit of up to $250,000, therefore increasing the security of your funds. 

Wooden blocks spelling FDIC on top of $100 bills

Banks that participate in the ICS network are required to meet specific criteria, including financial health and regulatory compliance. Participating banks are also regulated by the FDIC and required to meet operational standards, further securing depositor funds.

The FDIC is a U.S. government agency that insures bank deposits, offering a safeguard against bank failures. 

Benefits of an Insured Cash Sweep Account

An insured cash sweep account offers numerous distinctive benefits that can be attractive to anyone looking to increase the security of their deposits. Here are some to name a few:

  • Enhanced FDIC Insurance Coverage: The prime advantage of an ICS is the extra protection you receive by disbursing your funds across different participating banks. By doing so, you ensure your funds do not exceed the $250,000 limit and remain fully insured. 
  • Competitive Interest Rates: ICS accounts typically yield high interest rates compared to traditional savings accounts, with the average currently being around 5.50%. Since your funds are distributed between different banks, you can take advantage of the best rates offered by some of them.
  • Simplified Account Management: Managing an ICS bank account is not as cumbersome as it might seem. In fact, you can manage your funds through a single account available through your primary bank. You receive one consolidated statement that reflects your monthly interest earnings from all chunks of your deposits.
  • Accessibility and Liquidity: The distribution of your funds to multiple banks does not prevent you from accessing your funds when needed. The liquidity and flexibility of adjusting your deposit remains untouched or similar to a traditional savings account.
  • Peace of Mind: Finally, knowing that your money is safe in case of a bank failure provides you with substantial peace of mind. By dispersing your deposit within different financial organizations, you’re spreading the risk and reducing the negative consequences of one bank going bankrupt.

How Do I Open an Insured Cash Sweep Account?

If you’re interested in opening a cash sweep account, here’s a quick guide on how to start:

  • Step 1: Choose a Participating Bank. Begin by identifying a bank that is part of the ICS network, such as JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. Most banks offer these services and can provide you with the necessary support to get started.
  • Step 2: Review the Terms and Conditions. Book a consultation with a bank representative to discuss the terms of your account. Make sure to clarify the interest rates, fees, and withdrawal limits. Typically, maintenance fees range between $20 and $50 monthly, and most banks allow up to six withdrawals each month without charging an additional fee.
  • Step 3: Complete the Application Process. Submit the application form along with personal identification (driver’s license, passport) and financial proof (recent bank statements, proof of address). The bank needs this information to verify your identity and financial status.
  • Step 4: Set Up Your Deposit. Once your ICS account is set up, you can initiate your deposit. Your primary bank representative will identify which banks in their network have the best interest rates and will distribute your funds accordingly. If your balance fluctuates, they can also help you set automatic sweeps that will redistribute your funds as needed to maintain optimal insurance coverage and interest earnings.
  • Step 5: Monitor Your Account. Now that your insured cash sweep account is up and running don’t forget to check the monthly consolidated statements from your primary bank. These statements reflect where your funds are held and how much interest you earn.

Differences Between ICS and Other Savings Options

The biggest difference between an ICS and other savings options is that it spreads your money across different banks to protect large investments.

piggy bank with an umbrella

Let’s look at how they differ from other types of savings accounts:

  • ICS vs. Traditional Savings Accounts: Both of these accounts provide liquidity and the possibility of earning interest. However, the difference is in their insurance limits. Funds in an ICS are spread throughout various banks, each portion being insured up to $250,000 at each bank. A traditional savings account only protects up to $250,000 in a single account at one bank. If you invest over $250,000 in a traditional savings account, the overage will not be FDIC-insured. 
  • ICS vs. Certificates of Deposit (CD): When you open a CD, you lock your funds for a predetermined period, known as the maturity date. Until you reach the maturity date, you’re not able to withdraw the money or make new deposits. On the other hand, ICS allows you to make withdrawals and new deposits without penalties or limitations.
  • ICS vs. Money Market Accounts (MMA): An MMA is similar to a savings account but often yields higher interest rates. However, unlike an ICS, it is a single account at one bank with a $250,000 insurance limit.

Final Thoughts

So, whether it’s for yourself or for starting a business, an insured cash sweep account universally helps you increase the security of your deposits. With the information you have now, you can confidently integrate an ICS into your personal financial strategy. 

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