How Do Safe Deposit Boxes Work?
Safe deposit boxes have a very telling name. They are paid, secure boxes stored inside a secure vault at a bank. Not all banks have safe deposit boxes, but many do. If your bank has several locations around your city, you can likely find a branch not too far away that offers safe deposit boxes.
When you rent a safe deposit box, you can keep whatever you want it in (as long as it is legal to own). Whenever you go in to the bank, you can access your safe deposit box with a key (you get a pair when you rent the box) that has to be used in conjunction with a key held by the bank. Banks offer private space to open your box, add, and remove items.
How Much Does a Safe Deposit Box Cost?
Surprisingly, safe deposit boxes are not very expensive. The smallest boxes, which are generally 2″ x 5″ and 12″ deep, start at $15-$25 per year. That is only $1.25-$2.08 per month. That is a very low cost for peace of mind and the safety of your most valuable possessions.
If you need to upgrade, you can usually find larger sized boxes. Some banks have a variety of sizes, but most common sizes for a medium box are 4″ x 10″ and large boxes are 15″ x 22″. Those usually cost between $40-$65 per year for a medium box and several hundred dollars per year for a large box.
What Should Be Kept in a Safe Deposit Box?
So, you got your safe deposit box. What should you keep in there? Keep your most important documents and possessions that you do not need on a regular basis and never need in an emergency.
The best items to keep in your safe deposit box:
- Copies of legal documents such as wills, deeds, and titles.
- Copies of insurance documents such as home owner and renter policies
- Life event documents including birth, death, adoption, and marriage certificates
- Copies of legal case settlement paperwork and contracts
- Social security cards (not in your wallet!)
- Pictures and lists of household items, or a video
- Digital backup copy (flash drive or external hard drive) of important records
- Digital backup copy of important photos and home videos
- Family heirlooms
- Valuable jewelry, collectibles, and precious metals
What Should Not Be Kept in a Safe Deposit Box?
Do note keep anything in a safe deposit box that you may need in a hurry. I can come up with a big list of examples. One of the most common is a passport.
If you have family outside of the country, you never know when emergency travel plans may come up. If your passport is in the safe deposit box, you can only get in during bank hours. I would suggest keeping a color photocopy in your safe deposit box, but not the actual passport.
Also, not the items above that say “copies” before the document. It is important to have easy access to a copy of important insurance and legal documents in case of emergency. If your house burns down, you want to be able to get your files from the safe deposit box. However, if it is damaged, you should have copies on hand to call your insurance agent right away.
Items like that are best kept in a secure, waterproof, fireproof home safe. Also consider keeping digital copies of files, legal documents, medical records, safe deposit keys, spare home and car keys, and other valuables that you need more frequently in a home safe.