Bail-Ins: What It Is, How It Works, and Real-life Examples


A bail-in is a financial strategy that aids failing institutions by canceling debts owed to creditors and depositors, in contrast to bailouts using external funds. This detailed exploration covers the differences between bail-ins and bailouts, their applicability, requirements, real-world examples, along with their advantages and drawbacks in Cyprus and the European Union.

Understanding bail-in

Bail-in vs. bailout: explaining the differences

Bail-ins compel creditors to absorb losses for stabilizing faltering institutions, differing from bailouts relying on external support. This was notably highlighted during the 2008 Financial Crisis, revealing how bail-ins mitigate the burden on taxpayers.

Applicability of bail-ins and their requirements

Governments turn to bail-ins to avert systemic risks associated with a financial institution’s collapse. This strategy is favored when a government lacks bailout resources or deems a full bailout unfeasible. Bail-ins are particularly chosen when an institution’s failure is unlikely to trigger widespread systemic issues.

Requirements for a bail-in

Implementing bail-ins: conditions and framework

Bail-ins are applied under specific circumstances: when a collapse won’t incite systemic crises, when a government lacks bailout resources, or when minimizing taxpayer funds is crucial. The U.S.’s FDIC secures depositors up to $250,000, reducing potential losses.

Real-world examples of bail-in

The Cyprus experiment: a case study

In 2013, Cyprus implemented a bail-in approach, resulting in substantial losses for uninsured depositors at the Bank of Cyprus. These depositors received bank stocks in compensation, but the value failed to cover their losses adequately.

Bail-ins in the European Union

The European Union explored bail-ins as a critical resolution mechanism in 2018. Discussions proposed integrating bail-ins and bailouts, positioning bail-ins as a prerequisite to accessing bailout funds in financial crises.


Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.

  • Reduces reliance on taxpayer funds
  • Potential prevention of systemic crises
  • Creditors and depositors face losses
  • Potential negative impact on market stability

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between bail-ins and bailouts?

Bail-ins shift losses to creditors, unlike bailouts relying on external funding, often from governments.

How are depositors protected in a bail-in scenario?

In the U.S., depositors are safeguarded by the FDIC, ensuring individual bank accounts up to $250,000.

Key takeaways

  • Bail-ins transfer financial institution recovery responsibility to creditors, aiming to reduce taxpayer reliance.
  • Deposit insurance, like the FDIC in the U.S., mitigates potential losses for depositors in bail-in scenarios.
  • Real-world bail-in examples include Cyprus and the European Union, serving as resolution strategies.
View article sources
  1. Bail in Criminal Cases – Case Western Reserve University
  2. Bail-Ins and Bailouts: Incentives, Connectivity, and Systemic Stability – The University of Chicago
  3. Bailouts, Bail-ins, and Banking Industry Dynamics – Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  4. What Is a Bail Bond And How Does It Work? – SuperMoney