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Tips and Costs of Bank Safe Deposit Boxes

Last year the FDIC published some useful tips on bank safe deposit boxes including the reminder that FDIC insurance covers only deposit accounts, and not the contents of safe deposit boxes.

A recent article on safe deposit boxes mentioned the typical rental costs of safe deposit boxes to be from $100 to $300. From my experiences you should be able to get a small safe deposit box for much less than this. And don't forget that many credit unions offer safe deposit box rentals. I only pay $12.50/year for a small box at my local credit union.

Another way you can get a deal on a safe deposit box is if you have a premium checking account at a bank. A premium type of checking account can often be free of monthly fees if you have a high enough balance in a CD. A free safe deposit box is a common perk with these checking accounts. However, it's typically only free for a small box. So if you need more space or if the bank doesn't have any more small boxes left, you may still have to pay.

When I opened a 5% 3-year Wachovia CD back in 2008, the banker upgraded my checking account to the premium checking version which qualified me for a free safe deposit box. Since my credit union safe deposit box had a low cost and was more convenient for me, I passed on the deal.

One useful tip mentioned by the FDIC is to use zip-lock bags for contents in a safe deposit box. If flooding occurs, your contents won't get water damaged.

In addition to storing important documents, I also store a backup of my hard drive in the safe deposit box. I don't have many pictures or videos so I'm able to store all my electronic documents on a USB flash drive. Each year, I'll replace the old flash drive with a new flash drive of the latest contents of my hard drive.

Do you have any tips about saving money on safe deposit boxes or what to keep in them?

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  |     |   Comment #1
Seeing the tornadoes that have passed through this area, we have started to store a credit card and a small amount of cash in the safety deposit box.  And keeping a copy of the safety box key somewhere other than the house.

You mentioned hard drive copy, with the drop in prices of portable external drives, I am looking at buying two drives and rotating them between home and the safety box.  My planning centers around what to do if I come home and home is completely gone.  Or I cannot get into the structure.
  |     |   Comment #2
If safety boxes are not covered by insurance so what is the alternative? How can I insure a safety box?
  |     |   Comment #3
Anonymous at 11:49 --A homeowner's or renter's insurance policy may cover some material contents of a safety deposit box. Check with your insurance agent.
  |     |   Comment #4
My safe deposit box is rent free.  It is a perk included in my banking account package.
  |     |   Comment #5
And then there are the banks that throw away the contents of safe deposit boxes.

There was one case on San Francisco peninsula about 3-5 years ago. New safe deposit boxes were being installed by a specialized contractor. Bank didn't go though all the old boxes beforehand. Entire banks of boxes were scrapped - with contents. Can't find the story online.

Found this case: On October 6, 2004, DBS Bank (Hong Kong) Limited announced that, during the renovation of its branch in Mei Foo Sun Chuen, in Kowloon, when the bank attempted to remove more than 900 empty safety boxes from the branch, 83 safety boxes rented by customers and containing valuables were accidentally removed. The 83 boxes were subsequently sent to a scrapyard and crushed. The bank reported that 36 boxes were recovered, although the valuables contained inside were badly damaged.

Admittedly, these are freak incidents.

Floods are fairly common, judging by what turned up in my google search.

  |     |   Comment #6
What should I do if another bank’s customer accidentally opened my safe deposit box with her key??????
  |     |   Comment #8
Good article but needs some detail orientation. $100 to $300 cost is given. Is that per month or year??
  |     |   Comment #9
i pay 100 per month for my S D B well worth it then i charge back on my taxes
  |     |   Comment #10
If the bank files for chapter 11 or bankruptcy do you still have access and take your valuables / cash?
  |     |   Comment #11
Re:  Anonymous - #10, Sunday, June 2, 2013 - 2:25 PM

From FDIC.gov  When a bank fails:

When can I have access to my safe deposit box?
When the failed bank's deposits are assumed by a healthy bank, the branch offices usually reopen the next business day. At that time, you will have access to your safe deposit boxes. In the event of a depositor payoff, the FDIC will send a letter to you informing you of the closing. The letter will instruct you on how you can remove the contents of your box. Access to the safe deposit boxes is typically granted to the safe deposit holders the next business day after the closure.
  |     |   Comment #12
I can get a free safe deposit box at my bank but stopped using them when I had a problem getting to my contents after a hurricane.  I needed certain documents so we could leave town but was told I had to wait until the bank was cleaned of damage and debris and that could be several days or more.  We finally got our contents but it was the last time I used a safe deposit box.  It just never occurred to me that natural disasters don't just close stores and businesses, they also close banks.  So I think it is important to always keep any documents you may need if you leave town in a safe place in your own home or apartment.
  |     |   Comment #15
You can insure your safe deposit box through a company called SDBIC. There prices are very affordable, I only pay $25 annually. Check them out as they are a much less expensive than I was paying through my homeowners insurance.
  |     |   Comment #16
Can /gov't/banks stop "everyone" getting access to their safe dep boxes?  They are doing it in Greece.

If one cannot get in the front door why does one think that they can get into the vault?  I recall that when the banks close, the banks close!  For example during the Great Depression everything was closed by FDR and later reopened.  Gov't action will preclude any legal action against a bank.

Can it happen here?  Yes, but what is the risk wherever the funds are?  Bank of Mattress is good until the currency is worthless and/or there is chaos/disorder in the streets, etc.  Once one spends money, the recipient knows who you are...get it!!  But this also assumes that the local currency can be converted, especially if the purchased items are foreign!  Hint/hint...where can that be?
  |     |   Comment #18
My mother just before she passed away gave me the key to her safe-deposit box, I was unable to get to it for meny resons., It's Ben going on 3 years now. It was 20.00 a month. What can I do if anything??
  |     |   Comment #19
The branch that has the box may be closed and no one received notice of same. There Is no legal requirement to close branches! The branch may have confiscated it under the ruse of Coronavirus. Try to make appointment to get into box, escalate within bank, talk to local authorities about wrongful conversion,etc. Report back.

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