Great advice for consumers from The Consumerist blog. First, some background:
"... FDIC insurance covers banks and NCUA insurance covers credit unions. Not all credit unions are insured by the NCUA, the ones that aren't often have insurance from American Share Insurance (ASI)..."
Here's the important information:
"The best and only way you can confirm that a bank is FDIC insured is by using the FDIC's Bank Find tool. The search will tell you whether or not the bank is in the database but it's not very robust because it does a broad match search. If you search for ING, as in ING Direct, you'll get every bank with 'ing' in its name which is is pretty much every single bank with the word "Savings" in it. An alternative is if you go to the site and find the FDIC certificate number. On the FDIC Bank Find page, click on "More Search Options" and you can enter the certificate number."
For consumers who use credit unions:
"The NCUA has a similar Find a Credit Union search that lets you find the credit union you're interested in. Again, the search is broad match so it might be easier to get the Charter Number of the credit union and entering it directly... Finally there's ASI and you can search for credit unions insured by ASI at their credit union search. FDIC and NCUA are effectively backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, ASI is not."