15 Things You Should Know about Safe Deposit Boxes

I’ve had a safe deposit box for over a year now. When I first got mine I did some research on safe deposit boxes and thought I’d share some of what I found out.

1. Safe deposit boxes are pretty affordable. I have one that is roughly four inches high by six inches wide and two feet long, which costs me $20 per year. The larger the size the higher the price. Annual fees for boxes typically range in price from $20-$150.

2. The contents of a safe deposit boxes are not covered by FDIC insurance.

3. Store copies of important documents in multiple locations. Don’t leave the only copy of an important document such as a will, mortgage, title, or insurance policy in your safe deposit box.

4. Seal documents in a zip lock bag or Tupperware for added protection. According to a few articles I’ve read, flooding is one of the most common hazards to safe deposit boxes.

5. If given the choice, choose a box that is higher up off the floor to give you greater protection from flooding.

6. Never store a passport or any document you might need to get a hold of in emergency in a safe deposit box. What would you do if you needed to get a hold of an important document in your box when the bank is closed.

7. When you first get your safe deposit box ask the bank if there is a number you can call to get access to your box in case of an emergency when the bank is closed.

8. Consider giving a trustworthy person such as a parent or sibling access to your safe deposit box in the event you become disabled or are out of the country and need access to an important document inside your box. This person will need to sign a signature card to gain access to your box.

9. Talk to your insurance agent to see whether your homeowners coverage extends to items in your safe deposit box.

10. Keep an inventory of what’s in your safe deposit box and take a picture of the contents to help you with making a claim.

11. Make sure to pay the box rent as the contents of the box may be seized as unclaimed property by the sate if it goes unpaid.

12. When I opened up a safe deposit box the banker told me that it was illegal to store U.S. cash in your box. The banker said this is considered taking currency out of circulation which is against federal law. I read an online post by another commenter whose attorney and banker confirmed this. However, I don’t believe it is widely known that you are not allowed to store cash in your safe deposit box. I asked my banker if you could store foreign currency in a safe deposit box but she didn’t know. I assume it’s ok.

13. Many people use safe deposit boxes to store precious metals like gold and silver. In the 1930’s it became illegal to own gold and it was confiscated by the U.S. government. When you went to your box a bank representative would have to make sure there was no gold in your box. If there was, they confiscated it and paid you the prevailing price for your gold in cash. I don’t believe this will happen again, for one thing, back in the thirties the dollar was pegged to gold which was the primary driver of the policy. We have since gone completely off the gold standard and the dollar is no longer pegged to gold.

14. If you just want to store copies of important documents you might want to consider an online safe deposit box as an alternative. Some banks are starting to offer these, but check the price because they can sometimes cost more than physical safe deposit boxes which doesn’t make much sense to me. If you’re not too concerned with security you could also store documents with an online e-mail service like gmail or Yahoo mail.

15. Safe deposit boxes are pretty popular. At one of my local banks not one single box was available. If you are considering getting a box you may want to enquire with your local bank as to availability and move quickly if there are only a few left.

Do you have any safe deposit box tips? Please share them in the comments below.

Photo credit: cliff1066’s