Do you have important valuables and documents lying around in the house? A robbery or fire can be especially devastating when your most important documents are all kept at home. For this reason, a safe can be useful.
Let’s examine what a safe is and when it makes sense to use one. We also warn you of some potential drawbacks that you may not have considered.
How does a safe work?
A safe provides a way to keep your valuables in a safe place outside of your home. When you visit your locker in person, it looks like a long, rectangular metal box kept in your financial institution.
The box has two keyholes in which both keys must be inserted at the same time to open the box. One of the keys is in the possession of your bank or credit union. You, and only you, hold the second key.
Note that after renting a box, you don’t have to worry about your valuables, but you do need to keep an eye on your key. If you lose it, your bank will most likely have to call a special locksmith to open it. And you can expect a fee to be charged for their problems.
The double key system enables extremely secure storage of valuable objects. It would be next to impossible for someone to steal the items in a safe. Even if a thief stole your key, the bank will need information to verify your identity before opening the box.
What can you keep in a safe?
Some things you might consider keeping in a safe are:
- Rare coins
- Share certificates
- Irreplaceable documents (including old family photos)
- Insurance policies (but not your insurance ID)
- Savings bonds
- Title deeds
- Birth certificates
Of course, not everything belongs in your box. Some things that would be more appropriate in a different location are cash, an original copy of your will, letters of instruction for your estate, an extended health policy, or any item that is deemed illegal by your state.
Advantages of a safe
Here are the two main advantages safes offer.
The biggest advantage of a safe is that it is secure. It is probably one of the safest places for a public person to keep something. After all, a bank offers multiple layers of security that most homeowners don’t.
Some of these increased security measures include alarms, guards, cameras, safes, and motion detectors.
What’s more, it’s not in your home either. Because it is in a secondary location, some risks like fire are minimized.
On average, you pay around $ 60 a year to use a safe. However, the size of the box has a dramatic effect on the cost. A larger box leads to a higher annual bill.
In addition, different banks have slightly different prices. For example, Bank of America offers a 3 by 5 inch box for $ 75 per year. But Chase Bank offers the same box for $ 50 a year.
Despite the benefits listed above, lockers can also lead to more annoyance and headaches in certain situations. When considering whether or not it makes sense to rent one, keep these warnings in mind.
Access only during banking hours
One of the biggest downsides to a safe is the hassle of going to the safe to get everything I need. The nice thing about it is that what I store there is very rarely needed. I also had to leave during bank opening hours, which could be difficult when I was working.
In addition, it is important to consider what could happen if the bank is closed for an extended period of time. For example, during the COVID-19 crisis, many banks closed their doors to the public for weeks. As a result, many were unable to access their valuables for a long period of time.
A second concern is the annual cost. While the cost may seem relatively small, it’s another expense to add to your annual budget. An alternative is to buy a fireproof safe for your home. However, these can easily cost hundreds of dollars.
Although the security precautions within a bank are very high, this is no guarantee against possible losses. In fact, a recent New York Times research article found that several hundred customers report missing items from lockers every year.
If something is lost in your box, most banks have no obligation to cover the loss. Of course, you can also insure the items yourself. But that’s another cost factor to consider.
Complications when the owner dies
As mentioned earlier, the bank can only open a safe deposit box to the owner of the safe deposit box. It is important to consider what will happen to the box if the owner dies.
It is possible to make someone else co-renter the box. For example, many spouses will add their partner as a roommate. But without a roommate it gets more complicated. Anyone seeking access to the box after the owner’s death essentially needs the assistance of a court order.
This is an important point as certain important documents, such as a will, could be difficult and expensive to access due to the involvement of judges and attorneys
Not all banks offer safes. As people embraced digital storage, the need for it has decreased, and so has the number of banks that offer this service.
Some banks that still offer safe deposit boxes are Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, US Bank, Truist, Regions, and PNC Bank. Local financial institutions can also offer them.
Related: Kubera is a digital wealth tracker that also has an online vault for important documents and a heartbeat monitor to send things to a beneficiary when needed.
A safe can be a useful way to store your valuables, but it’s not a hassle-free option and comes with recurring costs.
A safe may still be the best option for storing physical items like jewelry, coins, and other collectibles. However, if you only want to store paper documents, you should look into digital storage alternatives instead.