Bank safe deposit boxes, also known as safety deposit boxes, are individually locked boxes held within a larger vault, generally found in a bank. The boxes come in many sizes and can be rented annually. They’re used to store valuables, documents, and other valuable items for safe keeping.
Unfortunately, if you hold an account with a bank, these boxes usually don’t come free. You must rent them or opt for a premium bank account to use them at no cost such as the Chase Premier Plus Checking account.
Table of Contents
Are Bank Safe Deposit Boxes Secure?
Safety deposit boxes are very secure to access. Typically, each comes with two keys needed to open the box: one held by the bank and the other held by the box’s owner.
Banks require identification when you go into the bank to access a safety deposit box. If someone else needs to access your box, they’ll need prior authorization from you.
For your security, don’t put any identifying information on your safe deposit box key such as the box number or bank’s name. This way, if you lose your key or someone steals it, no one will know what it belongs to.
Safety deposit boxes are housed in vaults with thick doors and walls. They’re reinforced to keep them safe during hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. However, no space is entirely safe from natural disasters. You may want to put your items in waterproof containers or a plastic zip-lock bag to prevent water damage.
It might not sound better than putting your items in a safe at home, but a criminal can break into your house easier than into a bank vault and deposit box. They won’t be able to open your deposit box without your key anyways.
Although storing your items in bank safe deposit boxes are safe, in the event that they’re somehow stolen, they may be less protected. Neither the bank nor the FDIC insure the contents of safety deposit boxes. Banks won’t reimburse you for damage or theft either. If you want to insure your items, you’ll need to get that coverage yourself via insurance.
What Should You Store?
Because they’re secure, bank safe deposit boxes are an ideal place to store valuables and important documents. Some examples include personal and property files, original birth certificates, insurance policies, property deeds, car titles and U.S. bonds. You can also store other priceless items like gold coins, family heirlooms and photo negatives. Again, you may want to place paper items in waterproof containers for extra protection.
Bank safe deposit boxes shouldn’t be used to store passports, revocable living wills and powers of attorney. You can always get those documents replaced if you lose them. You also should avoid storing cash in your safe deposit box. It’s actually against the rules of many banks.It’s also safer in an FDIC-insured bank account. Plus, if you put cash in a high-yield savings account, you can grow your money rather than letting it sit idly.
Don’t use bank safe deposit boxes to store any items you might need quickly, especially in an emergency. Boxes can only be accessed during the bank’s business hours.
Remember that no one can get into your safety deposit box unless you have pre-authorized them. Therefore, you probably shouldn’t store anything like medical directives or funeral arrangements. You may not have time to pre-authorize anyone to access those documents.
If you must put these documents in a safety deposit box, you may want to authorize a trusted partner to access your safe deposit box in case of an emergency. That can minimize the risk of losing the box’s contents.
Rental Cost Of Bank Safe Deposit Boxes
The cost to rent a bank safe deposit box depends on the size of the box and location of your bank. Generally, it ranges from about $20 for a small box to $200 for a large one. A small box is typically 3 inches by 5 inches, the size of an index card, and one foot long. Safe deposit boxes come in a range of sizes up from there. The largest is 10 inches by 10 inches and two feet deep.
Prices not only differ between banks but can also vary by bank location. Call your local bank branch to find out the annual rental costs for their safety deposit boxes. If you have a checking account, it may include a free or discounted box in its perks. If you don’t pay your rent for the box, the bank will seize the contents, so be sure to pay.
Here’s a table of common rent prices for a safety deposit box at six major banks. Remember, prices are subject to change and may vary by bank and location.
|Box Size (in.):||3×5||5×5||3×10||5×10||10×10|
|Bank of America||$75||$125||$150||–||$300|
Chase and Regions are the only banks that have the same prices at all branches. Other banks’ prices are determined on a local basis by individual branches. Not every location will have the same safety deposit box services available. For example, some of PNC’s branches have express boxes outside the bank’s vault so customers can walk in and access them immediately and on their own. It’s not as secure as standard bank safe deposit boxes, but it’s useful for quick access to items you need.
Where To Rent A Bank Safe Deposit Box
The safest place to rent a safety deposit box is a bank where you have an account. Banks specialize in storing money. Therefore, they typically have dedicated, secured vaults for safety deposit boxes. If you want to rent a safety deposit box, call or visit your local bank branch. There are often waiting lists for safety deposit boxes. This means, you may not get a box at the same time you go to open one. You may even decide to shop around to find a bank with available space.
If you just need to store copies of important documents and information, you can also try a virtual safety deposit box. Fidelity is one that offers this service, providing free encrypted storage space to users. It’s a convenient way to keep copies of files like birth certificates, passports, property deeds and more. In addition, you can access the files from any computer in the world, in case of emergency while traveling.
Bank safe deposit boxes offer a secure place to store your most valuable items. Many banks have heavily protected vaults designed to protect its contents safe from theft and natural disasters. However, it’s not ideal for all valuable items, like passports or your will. You’ll still want to keep these items safe but more accessible than in a safety deposit box. Those wanting to open a safety deposit box with your bank should call sooner rather than later since there may be a wait list.
No matter where you bank, your money and information are at risk of being stolen and used by fraudsters. Make sure you monitor your checking and savings accounts periodically. Check your bank statements carefully to make sure you authorized each transaction.
If you’re ever transferring money electronically, make sure you know exactly who you’re sending it to. This is true for transactions like wire transfers, where it’s crucial you have all the correct information.