Understanding the Use of a Safety Deposit Box

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Updated on Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Understanding the Use of a Safety Deposit Box

People have mixed feelings about safety deposit boxes. While some might think they should store everything inside of one, others may have a hard time trusting them at all. But what’s really the best way to make use of a safety deposit box? We’ll dive into that here.

Things you should keep in a safety deposit box

At its most basic, a bank safety deposit box is a secure place to store important and valuable items outside your home. The things you store inside it should be items that you don’t need regularly (since access will be more difficult) and that aren’t easily replaced. Examples of this might include:

  • Birth certificates
  • Keepsakes
  • Collectible items
  • Property deeds
  • Car titles
  • Savings bonds
  • Pictures or videos of items in your home for insurance claims
  • Irreplaceable objects, like heirlooms or photo albums

The benefit of storing these items in a safety deposit box is that they may be better protected from damage due to natural disasters or home break-ins.

While some people might think an in-home safe can do the same job, it’s good to remember that not all safes are fire and water resistant, and they can still be stolen from your home during a break-in.

Things better kept elsewhere

While safe deposit boxes have a lot of benefits, there are some things better kept elsewhere.

Anything that you may need fast access to, like a passport, should be stored securely at your home or somewhere you can easily retrieve it.

Storing actual cash in a safety deposit box is also something up for debate. While the contents of your box will be available to you regardless of bank failure or closure, it isn’t necessarily the best place to keep your savings since it won’t earn any interest and will therefore decrease in value over time.

It’s also important to remember that cash (and anything else valuable, for that matter) stored in your safety deposit box won’t insured by the bank or the FDIC. Cash is only insured by the FDIC when kept in a deposit account, and you’ll need to work with an insurance agent to get other valuables in your box properly insured.

To have fast access to valuables and documents at home, try storing them in water tight containers or a safe rated for fire. Depending on where you live and what situations are most likely to occur — be it a natural disaster or even a break in — you should develop a secure storage solution that makes sense for you.

The bottom line

No secure storage system is entirely foolproof. Disasters and theft can happen anywhere, and you may need to ask yourself what makes the most sense for your situation. In any event, it’s always a good idea to make backup copies of your important documents and store them safely in multiple locations, so that if and when disaster strikes you’ll always have access to them.