Safe Deposit Boxes

Should You Have a Safe Deposit Box?

Safe deposit boxes can be a great way to keep valuables safe. Many people don’t realize how affordable it can be to have extra protection for your most valuable documents, data, and heirlooms.

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.

Originally published February 17, 2009. Updated March 28, 2012. Image by danxoneil / flickr

7 thoughts on “Should You Have a Safe Deposit Box?”

  1. I’ve been thinking about getting a safe deposit box. Probably a better place to keep stuff than in a drawer in my desk. But I’ve always lived in places for only a short time and so I’ve never gotten around to it.

    I would really like a fireproof safe. But at the rate I buy non-essential items, it may take a while to get one.

    1. I’ve wanted a safe for home for a long time, but have never done it either. I always look at them when I go to Walmart, Target, or Sam’s Club. I like the safes at Sam’s best for the price.

  2. Definitely safe deposit box is good option where we keep our document copies. I am also using Safe Deposit Box, before keep document and other item, I make proper list like 1) Jewels, gems, precious metals. 2) Important documents like wills. 3) USB stick if you have important data that’s always helpful for me.

    1. Having a list of documents in the box is a great idea Shawn. In the rare event that something happens at the bank, it is good to have that list for insurance claims.

  3. I don’t personally have a SDB but at the bank branch where I work we have a waiting list for all sizes. I used to think that it was just older people who had SDB but a lot of younger people want to have one too. I still don’t understand why people keep cash money in their SDB. Great post Eric, I amg oing to share it next Friday on the Dinks Finance weekly roundup.

    1. Thanks for sharing the post!

      The only reasons I can think of to keep cash in a safe box would be to avoid taxes, cover up drug money, or because of a serious distrust of banks and the FDIC. But if you don’t trust banks, why use a safe box to begin with?

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