App version: 0.1.0

Bank Safe Deposit Boxes

Bank Safe Deposit Boxes
Susan Guillory
Susan GuilloryUpdated August 18, 2023
Share this article:
Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Do you have valuables that you don’t feel comfortable storing at home? A feature your bank likely offers is a bank safe deposit box, or safety deposit box, which can be used to store important items and valuables. In this article, we’ll explore what a safe deposit box is, as well as what you can (and shouldn’t) put in a safe deposit box.

What Are Safe Deposit Boxes?

A bank safe deposit box is a physical box, usually made of metal, that bank clients can rent to store valuables. Banks with safe deposit boxes may include national banks, credit unions, and community banks, though not every bank offers them.Safe deposit boxes were invented in the late 1800s to provide privacy and protection of valuable keepsakes, such as jewelry and important documents.

How Safe Deposit Boxes Work

When opening a bank account, you can also opt to rent a safe deposit box for a monthly or annual fee. The boxes are securely stored in a vault at the bank, and customers need a key to access them. A bank employee will have a second key that is also needed to unlock the box as an added measure of security. Banks with modern facilities may use codes or even fingerprints as the security measure to access the box.A safe deposit box can have one or multiple lessors. Sometimes, everyone on the contract must be present (with their own keys) to access the box.Recommended: Guide to the Different Types of Savings Accounts

What Can You Store in a Safe Deposit Box?

You can use a safe deposit box to store anything of value that you don’t feel is safe in your home, either for worry of theft or natural disasters like a fire or flood.People often store high-value jewelry, collectibles, or stamp and coin collections in safe deposit boxes. They may also keep important paperwork, such as legal documents, birth certificates, military records, school transcripts, contracts, and paper savings bonds, in their safe deposit box. You can also store documents that might be needed by family members upon your death, though make sure there are copies elsewhere, such as a copy of your will left with the family attorney.Safe deposit boxes can also be used for businesses to store physical documents they want off-site from their offices, such as business bank statements or tax documents.And finally, you can store a hard drive that has important digital documents on it so you always have a backup.

What Should You Not Store in a Safe Deposit Box?

One thing you should not store in a safe deposit box is money. Money is better off in a bank account, such as a checking or savings account. Some savings accounts even allow you to earn interest on your money, known as a high-yield savings account. Money in a bank account is also insured by the FDIC, which is not the case if you store money in a safe deposit box.It’s also not a good idea to put anything in the box that you might need in case of an emergency, because you can only access the box during bank hours. This includes things like your passport or will. These items should be kept in a more accessible place, such as your house, though having a copy of important documents in your box is smart.

Are Your Belongings Insured in a Bank Safe Deposit Box?

Your money is insured by the FDIC at the bank, so it stands to reason that anything you store in a bank safe deposit box would also be insured, right?Wrong.Unfortunately, anything you put in your box is not insured by the bank. If you’re concerned about your valuables, you can add a rider to your home insurance policy, and your insurer may even give you a discount to insure the valuables since they’re in a secure box.

How Much Is a Safe Deposit Box?

The cost of a safe deposit box will vary depending on where you live and what your bank charges, as well as the size of the box you plan to rent.  Most banks charge an annual fee to rent a box, ranging from $15 to over $300. Banks also charge fees to replace your key or drill into the box, if needed.

Banks With Safe Deposit Boxes

Not every bank offers safe deposit boxes, so you may have to look around to find a bank that does. Each may have its own requirements about what you need to rent a bank safe deposit box. Your bank may (or may not) require that you have other accounts with the bank to open a bank safe deposit box, so visit a local branch to see what the requirements are and what you’ll pay.Here are a few of the banks in the U.S. that offer safe deposit boxes.
  • Bank Financial (Illinois): $25-495 a year, depending on the size of box
  • United Bank & Trust (Iowa): $28-125 a year
  • ENT Credit Union (Colorado): $15-65 a year
  • Washington Federal Bank (Washington): $15-150 a year
  • People First (Pennsylvania): $30-110 a year
  • First Bank & Trust (Virginia): $20-61.75 a year
  • First Southern Bank (Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas): $20-75 a year
Some large bank franchises, such as U.S. Bank and Bank of America, offer safe deposit boxes at some of their branches, though they don’t post prices online. Some may also offer discounts to existing customers, so ask your banker what you qualify for. 

The Takeaway

If you have valuables that you don’t feel safe keeping at home, opening a bank safe deposit box can bring you peace of mind. Just remember to store your safe deposit box key in a safe place, as banks charge high fees to drill a lock on a box. Also, banks charge late fees if you don’t pay your rent on time, so put it on your calendar.And if you’re in need of a bank to store your money, consider a high-interest savings account, where you earn interest on the money you keep in the account. Lantern by SoFi allows you to compare multiple banks all in one place, including interest rates, minimum balance requirements, and fees.Compare high interest online savings accounts and find today’s best rate with Lantern.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to keep cash in a safe deposit box?
Can bank employees access my safe deposit box?
Are bank safe deposit boxes fireproof?
Photo credit: iStock/kali9

About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Su Guillory is a freelance business writer and expat coach. She’s written several business books and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and SoFi. She writes about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards.
Share this article: