Just like the movies, safe deposit boxes hold people’s most valuable possessions.
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 good for keeping a wide variety of items safe and secure, just like a good savings account keeps your money secure.
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.
Read on to learn why you might need a safe deposit box and how much it will cost you.
Annual Fees for Safe Deposit Boxes
Safe deposit boxes are a sturdy metal container 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.
Although banks tend to be a bit stingy with revealing the costs of their safe deposit boxes, the following is some information about safe deposit boxes we were able to obtain from top banks:
Information About Safe Deposit Boxes From Top Banks
|Wells Fargo||Boxes run from 1 inch high, 5 inches wide and 22 inches deep to a larger cabinet that is 35 inches high, 40 inches wide and 22 inches deep.|
|Santander||Premier Plus Checking checking accounts receive the smallest safe deposit box offered at your branch, at no charge or 50% discount on any size box.|
|Citizen's Bank||15% off with Platinum Checking and Platinum Plus Checking, 50% off with Premier Checking with Interest, Premier Plus Checking with Interest, Private Checking with Interest.|
|PNC Bank||Performance Select Checking accounts receive $100 discount off annual fee and Performance Checking accounts receive $10 discount off annual fee.|
|Union Bank||Signature Banking customers receive basic safe deposit box or $40 annual rental discount for larger box, Priority Banking customers receive $50 annual safe deposit box discount, Company Benefits Banking customers receive $40 safe deposit box discount on first year rental fee, Private Banking customers receive $100 annual safe deposit box discount.|
|Fifth Third Bank||Free 3″ x 5″ box or discount on larger sizes for Preferred Banking members or High-Yield account holders.|
|Citibank||Small box fee ($0-$125) is waived for Citigold and Citi Priority members, medium box fee ($126-$250) receives a $125 discount for Citigold and Citi Priority members, and large box fee ($251+) receives 50% off annual fee discount for Citigold and Citi Priority members.|
|BMO Harris||BMO Harris Premier Services clients are eligible for a free 3" x 5" safe deposit box.|
|BBVA Compass||No monthly fee for a small Safe Deposit Box for Business Preferred clients and Premier Personal Banking clients. ClearChoice checking customers can receive a small (3" x 5") box for $3 a statement cycle.|
If you’re worried that the bank can access the items you’ve stored in a safe deposit box, think again. Banks and credit unions do not keep a copy of the key to your safe deposit box.
Only one set of keys are issued per safe deposit box. Once you enter into a lease agreement to store your items, you’re given the only set of keys.
If your keys are lost or stolen, contact your bank immediately. You don’t want someone impersonating you to gain access to your most valuable possessions.
Once you report a key lost or stolen, you’ll still need to access your items. To do this, you’ll have to schedule an appointment with the bank to rill open the safe deposit box.
Be warned, this comes with a hefty price tag in addition to the cost of replacing the safe deposit lock and keys.
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 You Should (and Shouldn't) Keep in a Safe Deposit Box
Not all valuables should be kept in a safe deposit box. Since you can’t access the box 24/7, you don’t want to store something that you might need in case of an emergency.
These are seven items you might want to consider locking up in a safe deposit box.
7 items to lock up
When deciding which items you should keep stored away in your safe deposit box (and which items you shouldn't), consider some of these options:
1. Original house or property deed
A deed is a legal document proving that you are the owner of your house or property. You only need the deed when you go to sell the house.
2. Valuable jewelry
Whether you’ve inherited a family heirloom or have an impressive jewelry collection, keeping valuable pieces in a safe deposit box limits the chances of theft.
3. Rare collections
Rare collections such as stamps or coins can be worth thousands of dollars. Brazen burglars have been known to steal home safes.
Keeping your collection in a safe deposit box will give you peace of mind and an extra level of protection.
4. Stock or savings bond certificates
Although most stocks or bond certificates are issued electronically, keep old paper certificates secure in your safe deposit box. It’s always good to keep a copy of the original at home in a fireproof safe.
5. Social security cards
Not only do you want to keep the card physically safe from fire and flood, you don’t want your social security number to get in the wrong hands.
6. Marriage certificate or divorce decrees
Unless you’re in the process of changing your name, it’s safe to say you won’t need your marriage certificate or divorce decree on a regular basis.
7. Copies of important documents
There are some documents that you could need immediate access to, so storing them in a safe deposit box isn’t ideal. However, you should keep a backup copy in case something happens to the original.
For example, keep a copy of your last will and testament, driver’s license and insurance information in your safe deposit box.
If you’re going away for a while, consider locking up any other valuables that you don’t typically keep in your safe deposit box. For example, if you’re backpacking across Europe, locking up your engagement ring is probably a smart idea.
7 items to keep with you
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
- 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.
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 bank location, the more convenient the location, the higher likelihood that you’ll use the safe deposit box.
Not all bank 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 insure 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, seals 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 the individual bank.
Denise and Michael Roche of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, came up with a way to avoid unnecessary headache 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 your 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.