All but seven of the nation's more than 10,000 banks and thrifts are prepared for the year-2000 date change, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said this week.
But federal regulators said banks still must convince skeptical customers that computer systems will not crash when the calendar turns in less than two months.
"Now is not the time to get complacent," said Ellen Seidman, director of the Office of Thrift Supervision.
Ms. Seidman and FDIC Chairman Donna A. Tanoue, in Orlando this week to speak at the annual convention of America's Community Bankers, expressed concern about recent surveys showing that consumers plan to withdraw large sums in the days leading up to Jan. 1.
A Gallup survey last month found that 25% of bank customers expect to withdraw large amounts, and 10% said they would withdraw all their cash.
In a September survey of 14,000 people by GartnerGroup Inc. of Stamford, Conn., 55% said they plan to withdraw two to six weeks' worth of cash before Jan. 1.
"Clearly, there is a need for accurate information on how prepared banks, savings institutions, and credit unions are for the century date change," Ms. Tanoue said.
Both Ms. Seidman and Ms. Tanoue urged bankers and their trade groups to step up communications efforts in the next two months to reinforce the message that money will be safe in a bank.
To reach customers who remain unpersuaded, Ms. Seidman suggested offering such perks as free safety deposit boxes.
An upcoming television movie about the impact of the Y2K bug could heighten people's fears.
Scheduled to be broadcast Nov. 21 on NBC, the film plays on Y2K anxiety by depicting nuclear meltdowns, coast-to-coast power outages, and ATM breakdowns, all caused by malfunctioning computer systems.
Lou Marcoccio, research director at GartnerGroup, said the film could have the same chilling effect as such movies as "Jaws" or "Airport."
"Believe it or not, a lot of people wouldn't fly after seeing 'Airport,' and a lot of people wouldn't go into the ocean after seeing 'Jaws,' " Mr. Marcoccio said.
Still, if the predictions of mass cash withdrawals prove true, banks and regulators will be ready.
In a recent survey of 294 members of America's Community Bankers, more than half said they would have cash on hand in December equal to as much as 10% of assets. The OTS is requiring that thrifts have a minimum of 4% of assets available as cash.
And if demand exceeds all predictions, Ms. Seidman said, the Federal Reserve will be prepared.
"The Federal Reserve has more cash in it vaults around the country than there is cash in circulation," she said.