If you have valuables or important documents that you don’t want to keep at home, renting a security or safe-deposit box at a bank is an option to consider. The process for renting a box isn’t difficult, and it means added safekeeping. A safe-deposit box offers you an alternative place to keep anything of value that would be difficult to replace. People often keep insurance policies, property deeds, bond certificates, powers of attorney, marriage and birth certificates and jewelry in a bank safe-deposit box.
Check the rental rates offered by more than one financial institution. Rates vary depending on the bank and size box you want. Average annual fees for a bank safe-deposit box rental range from about $20 to $200. Bigger boxes can cost you even more at some banks. You may be able to rent a box at a discounted fee if you choose a bank where you have an existing credit or deposit account. Banks often require that you be a customer to rent a box.
Prepare to provide proof of identity for yourself and anyone else listed as a joint account holder who is authorized to access the box. A photo driver’s license, U.S. passport and military I.D. card are generally accepted as proof of identity.
Complete the safe-deposit box lease rental agreement and pay the rental fee. Read the contract carefully before signing. Normally, the rental period begins on the date you sign the agreement. As a rule, banks charge rental fees for safe deposit boxes on a monthly or annual basis. Fees are paid in advance. Some financial institutions automatically debit the rental fee from your account.
Pay the key deposit fee. Banks usually refund the fee when you surrender the box and the key. If you don’t return the key, the bank won’t refund the key deposit and may even charge you an additional fee. Some banks give you more than one key when you rent the box in which case you must return all keys. The bank charges you for the cost of opening the box and replacing the key if you lose the key during the time you rent the box.
Make an inventory list of the documents and items you store in your safe-deposit box. Keep one list in the safe-deposit box and a copy in another secure location outside the bank. Update the list whenever you add or remove items from the box. Make copies of any documents you put in the box so that you can get information you might need when the bank vault is closed.
Note the bank’s regular business hours so that you know when you can get into your safe-deposit box. Some banks post additional hours when you can access your box.
Contact your insurance provider. Banks don’t insure the contents of safe-deposit boxes, but your homeowner’s policy may cover the contents. If your regular policy doesn’t insure valuables you store in a bank safe-deposit box or if it limits the amount of coverage, you can usually add a rider to the policy. However, most policies specifically exclude insuring cash you keep in the box.
- Don't put documents in a safe-deposit box that you may need in an emergency. Your will is a document you should not keep in your safe-deposit box. Leave the original with your attorney and give the executor a copy.
Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.