Like the movies, safe deposit boxes hold the most valuable possessions for people. Unlike the movies, most don’t hold a 100-carat diamond ring or wads of cash that attract the most elaborate bank heists.
Safe deposit boxes are ideal for saving and hold a wide variety of things, just like an ideal savings account keeps your money safe. Banks and credit unions offer safe deposit boxes in a variety of sizes.
The cost of a safe deposit box depends on the size of the box and the bank branch. In fact, the same bank might charge a different fee depending on the location of the branch.
What is a Safe Deposit Box?
A safe deposit box is a secure container usually made of metal that’s used to store valuables at a bank or credit union. These boxes are often kept in vaults and can be rented throughout the lifetime of a customer for an annual fee.
Modern safe deposit boxes have been around since the mid-1800s. Some banks today consider them to be an outdated service and have stopped offering safe deposit boxes altogether.
But there’s still a demand for them, says Dave McGuinn, president and founder of Safe Deposit Specialists.
Annual Fees for Safe Deposit Boxes
Safe deposit boxes are sturdy metal containers made of a combination of aluminum and steel.
They’re stored in a bank’s vault and the size of the safe deposit box determines the price you will pay each year.
Sizes can vary greatly. We researched the costs of safe deposit boxes from branches at the top 20 U.S. banks and found that they can be as small a 1-inch by 5-inches to as large as 10-inches by 24-inches.
You can select the best size based on the items you plan on storing. Not surprisingly, the annual cost rises with size. We found that the fee ranges from $15 to $350.
Safe Deposit Box Annual Fees at Major U.S. Banks
|Bank||3” x 5”||5″ x 5″||3″ x 10″||5″ x 10″||10″ x 10″|
The cost of a safe deposit box varies greatly — the annual fees we researched out are rough averages we were able to calculate based on prices charged by banks in the NY-metro area and from customer forums.
If you are seriously considering opening a safe deposit box, it’s important you go into your local branch to get an accurate estimate of the price you’ll pay for the box.
To help you understand the pricing of safe deposit boxes, our research shows leasing a safe deposit box in New York City is more expensive in comparison to one in, say, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
To open a safe deposit box, you’ll need to have an existing deposit account with that specific bank. However, don’t expect the cost of a safe deposit box to be standard across all branches.
Common Fees for Safe Deposit Boxes at Top U.S. Banks
|Bank||Drilling Fee||Late Fee||Key Replacement Fee|
|PNC Bank||Cost of box||$10 if payment is 30 days past due||$15 for 2 keys|
|Regions Bank||$150||$10 if payment is 30 days past due||$25|
|BB&T||$150||$10 if payment is 30 days past due||$25|
|Wells Fargo||$125 to $175||$10 if payment is 60 days past due||$20 for 2 keys|
|Union Bank||$150||$10 if payment is 30 days past due||$20|
|U.S. Bank||$150||$10 if payment is 30 days past due||$10|
|Columbia Bank||Cost of box||$10 if payment is 30 days past due||$10|
What Should You Put into Your Safety Deposit Box
As a general rule of thumb, a safety deposit box should be used to store any personal possessions that you simply can’t afford to lose. That could mean anything from your marriage license to your grandmother’s antique brooch.
When deciding what to put into a safe deposit box, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about protecting those items from theft. You should also consider what could be lost through negligence or natural disaster.
For example, if you have stock certificates stored in a lock-box in the den they could easily be lost in a fire or flood, and that could mean a substantial financial setback for you and your family.
The most common items people store in their safety deposit boxes include:
- Family Documents (birth certificates, marriage licenses, passports, etc)
- Property Deeds and Titles
- Mortgage Documents
- Insurance Policies and an Inventory of Personal Possessions
- Personal and Business Contracts
- Financial Documents (stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit)
- Miscellaneous Valuables (jewelry, antiques, collectibles, family heirlooms, etc)
What NOT to Put into Your Safe Deposit Box
The items you keep in a safe deposit box are secure, but you can’t always access them. You can only access a safe deposit box during normal bank branch business hours.
You don’t want to keep anything in a safe deposit box that you might need right away.
Here are seven examples of important items that should not be kept in a safe deposit box.
- Driver’s license
- Last will and testament
- The original power of attorney
- Funeral or burial instructions
- Safe-deposit keys
And just in case you were wondering, the law prohibits drugs, firearms (both legal and illicit), and explosives from being stored in a safe deposit box.
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Other Factors to Consider When Opening a Safe Deposit Box
When you decide to open a safe deposit box, you’ll need to sign a lease agreement. The lease agreement will list who can have access to the box. That person must be present to sign the lease agreement as well.
Whenever you visit the bank to access your safe deposit box, you’ll need to show identification and sign a signature card. Once your granted access, a bank employee will escort you to the bank’s vault.
There is a two-step process to access the induvial box. To access your safe deposit box inside the bank’s vault, a bank employee inserts a key alongside your individual key.
You will then be allowed to remove the contents in a private location.
As an added level of security, only one bank customer is allowed to be in the safe deposit box area at the same time.
Although annual fees vary by the bank location, the more convenient the location, the higher likelihood that you’ll use the safe deposit box.
Not all banks or credit unions offer safe deposit boxes. Contact your bank to find a branch near you that offers safe deposit box services.
The contents of your safe deposit box are not insured by your bank or credit union. You’ll want to ensure your valuables from events like fire, flood, theft, and natural disasters.
To protect your valuables, consider adding a Scheduled Personal Property Endorsement to your homeowners or renter’s insurance. Check with your insurance company to find out the specific requirements for adding this additional coverage.
In addition to insurance coverage, you’ll want to add an extra layer of protection with some basic common sense. To prevent water damage, seal items in an airtight bag or container.
It’s also a good rule of thumb to keep an inventory of items in your safe deposit box. Keep this list in another location, such as a fireproof safe at home.
After death, family heirs could experience difficulty gaining access to your safe deposit box.
In the event that the owner of the box passes away, the executor of the owner’s will and last testament will have to provide documented proof of death plus the will, among other documents.
Specific requirements vary depending on the individual bank.
Denise and Michael Roche of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, came up with a way to avoid unnecessary headaches down the road. They added their eldest child as a joint owner of their safe deposit box.
That way, he can access the box in case they aren’t able to go with him. Adding a trusted individual, such as a spouse or child, relieves the burden of having to prove access is warranted in the case of an emergency.
Maintaining a safe deposit box is an inexpensive way to secure some of the most valuable possessions that you cannot afford to lose.
If you want help learning about the best safe deposit box, contact your local bank branch to learn about the different sizes available and how much it will cost.
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