Not every financial institution that calls itself a savings bank really is one.

The 465 "real" savings banks have unique charters that give them different powers than banks or savings and loan associations. Prevalent only in New England, they are state-chartered and insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

When the savings and loan industry got into trouble a few years back, federal regulators allowed S&Ls to avoid stigma by calling themselves savings banks or using the initials FSB -- Federal Savings Bank. Despite the names, such institutions still have S&L charters and are regulated by the federal Office of Thrift Supervision.

Virginia and the District of Columbia do not have savings banks and Maryland has only one -- Glen Burnie Mutual Savings Bank near Baltimore. Such institutions as Virginia's Perpetual American FSB and Maryland's Chevy Chase Federal Savings Bank are savings and loans that changed their names.

Even in New England, it is difficult to tell the difference among financial institutions from their names. Several institutions that call themselves "savings banks" actually are chartered and regulated as conventional banks. Massachusetts also has about 80 small "cooperative banks" that are FDIC-insured and considered to be part of the savings bank industry.