Roughly 125 banks that currently enjoy cost-free protection from the nation's two deposit insurance funds may pay premiums in mid-2000.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which administers both funds, has redesigned a two-part test to identify which banks should be paying more. Currently 94% of banks and 92% of thrifts covered by the insurance funds have what's called an A-1 supervisory rating and therefore do not pay premiums.

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