What Is A Safe Deposit Box?
When you’re looking for a place to store cash, important documents or other valuables, a safe deposit box is one option to consider. Safe deposit boxes can be an alternative to keeping a safe at home, although they may not be right in every situation. Before signing up for a safe deposit box, it’s helpful to understand how they work, what they cost and when it makes sense to use one.
What Is a Safe Deposit Box?
A safe deposit box is a secure container that you can rent to store important items. These boxes, which can be rented at either brick-and-mortar banks or credit unions, come in different sizes and are typically made of metal. Depending on the financial institution, they can be as small as 3 x 5 inches or as large as 10 x 15 inches.
Safe deposit boxes are kept in a secure vault at a bank or credit union branch. Typically, it takes two keys to open a safe deposit box: your key, plus a key that your bank or credit union retains. To access what’s in your safe deposit box, you’ll need to go to the branch, show proof of identity and provide your key. As the owner of its contents, only you, and not the bank, know what’s held inside it. (The bank or credit union does not hold a copy of your personal key; only you do.)
What Safe Deposit Boxes Are Used For
Safe deposit boxes can be used to store items that you may not want to keep anywhere else, including a home safe.
Having a safe deposit box could offer reassurance if you’re concerned about any of your valuables being lost or stolen or documents being destroyed. For instance, if you’ve drafted a last will and testament or trust document, you may want to give a copy to your estate planning attorney and keep another copy in your safe deposit box.
The same could apply if you’ve drafted important contracts for a business you own. In a nutshell, safe deposit boxes are a way to ensure that your valuables are physically safe and secure in the bank’s keeping.
What Safe Deposit Boxes Can (and Can’t) Hold
Safe deposit boxes can be used to store a number of items, but banks can impose guidelines on what can be kept inside them. Some of the things you might add to a safe deposit box include:
- Important papers
- Jewelry or watches
- Rare coins, stamps and other collectibles
- Passports or other identification documents
- Real estate deeds
- Home inventory lists
- Car title documents
- Stock certificates
- Gold bullion
Technically, you could keep cash in a safe deposit box, but the FDIC doesn’t advise it. This mainly has to do with the limited protections extended to safe deposit boxes. But it’s also important to remember that cash sitting in a box isn’t earning interest the way it could if you kept it in a savings account, money market account or certificate of deposit account instead.
The kinds of things that banks typically prohibit people from storing in safe deposit boxes include:
- Firearms, ammunition or other weapons
- Explosives and/or hazardous materials
- Illegal substances, including drugs
- Perishable goods
- Cremated remains
When you open a safe deposit box, the bank should present you with a lease agreement spelling out how long you’ll have access to the box, what you’ll pay for it and what you can or can’t add to it. The lease agreement may also include a clause stating that, if the bank believes the contents of the safe deposit box are unsafe, they can force it open and dispose of whatever is inside, charging any disposal fees to you.
How Much Does a Safe Deposit Box Cost?
Banks and credit unions typically charge a fee for renting a safe deposit box. This fee usually corresponds to the size of the box, with larger boxes costing more.
Safe deposit box fees can be charged monthly or annually, depending on the terms of the lease set by the bank. At the lower end, you may pay around $40 a year for the smallest size safe deposit box. At the higher end, the largest boxes could cost you upward of $300 a year, depending on the bank.
Some banks also may charge an initial deposit when leasing a safe deposit box. It’s important to review the lease agreement to understand what the fees are and when they apply.
For example, the agreement may specify that the annual rent must be paid in full one year in advance. If rent for a safe deposit box isn’t paid on time, then an additional late fee or penalty could kick in. And if you lose your keys to the box and the bank has to have a locksmith open it, then you may be responsible for those fees as well. Failure to pay rent could result in the bank terminating your lease contract.
Can Safe Deposit Boxes Be Shared With Someone Else?
It’s possible to open a safe deposit box with more than one person. This can be done initially when the box is leased. In that instance, all parties involved are considered co-renters.
Renters also can be added after the fact. This usually involves the new renter’s visiting the bank, providing ID and signing paperwork agreeing to be added as a co-renter. In either case, co-renters would each have their own key to the box and be able to store things inside it.
Co-renters share equally in the contents of the box as well as any liability associated with the box. Sharing a safe deposit box with a spouse or someone 360 capital one checking account online can be convenient if you both have an interest in what’s inside it. For example, you and your spouse may decide that you want to keep copies of your wills and family heirlooms in the same place.
But that also means that any co-renter can take items out of the safe deposit box without having to okay it with other co-renters first. This could lead to problems, since the bank takes no part in settling disputes between co-renters.
Safe Deposit Box Protections
When opening a savings account, money market account or any other type of account at a bank that’s FDIC insured, you enjoy certain protections. Specifically, if the bank fails, the FDIC will reimburse any money in your accounts up to federal limits.
Safe deposit boxes, on the other hand, don’t work that way. Since they’re not technically deposit accounts, they’re not covered by FDIC rules, and banks don’t have to provide any type of insurance independently. The FDIC advises banking customers that no safe deposit box is 100% protected against things like theft, fire, floods or other types of damage resulting in losses.
Since protections are limited for safe deposit boxes, banks may advise customers to take their own safety precautions. For example, that may include keeping a detailed inventory of the box’s contents, along with photographs of what’s inside and individually insuring valuables, such as jewelry or collectibles.
What Happens to a Safe Deposit Box If the Owner Dies?
Safe deposit box lease agreements can include provisions for what happens if the person leasing the box passes away or files bankruptcy. For instance, if the person dies, the bank can allow other people to access the box if it’s required to obtain necessary documents, such as a will or deeds to property. This usually requires official court documentation and may be limited to the deceased person’s executor or trustee.
If the box has a surviving co-renter, the bank can temporarily block access to it from third parties until the co-renter gives their consent. The bank doesn’t have to determine ownership of what’s inside a safe deposit box if one renter passes away. It’s important to keep in mind that how safe deposit boxes are handled when someone dies can ultimately depend on the buy money safe box laws in their state. In the case of a bankruptcy filing, the bank can allow access to the box by third parties when court documentation is provided.
How to Decide When a Safe Deposit Box Makes Sense
Whether to use a safe deposit box can depend on several factors, including what you want to store in the box, the value of those items and whether they’re insured in any way. Safe deposit boxes can keep buy money safe box items safe, though it’s important to remember that they’re not foolproof.
If you’re considering leasing a safe deposit box, take time to read through the terms of the lease agreement so you understand how much you’re paying, what you can or can’t keep in the box and what your rights and responsibilities are. You also should consider how long you want to keep the box and check the contents at least once annually if you plan to have it for more than a year.
Finally, it may be a good idea to let your family know you’ve opened a safe deposit box. Though you don’t have to tell them what’s in it, letting them know you have one is important for estate planning purposes in case something happens to you unexpectedly.
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8 Things to Put in Your Safe Deposit Box (and What to Keep Out)
To some people, bank safe deposit boxes seem like a relic of the past. Nowadays, it’s so easy to store financial records and other important documents in digital form that the idea of keeping important papers in a locked bank vault sounds ridiculously 20th-century. And indeed, there’s evidence that safe deposit boxes are on the decline. The New York Times reports that many banks no longer offer them, and many that do say that half or more of their boxes are currently sitting empty.
But safe deposit boxes still serve a purpose. Even in today’s largely paperless digital age, there are some occasions when you need the original copy of a paper document, such as your birth certificate or the deed to your house. And there’s still no way to make digital copies of physical objects that are valuable to you, such as family heirlooms or collectibles. For these precious papers and belongings, a safe deposit box is still the safest place.
However, that doesn’t mean you should use a safe deposit box to store everything you value. When your belongings are locked up in a box at the bank, you can only access them when the bank is open — which is a big problem for papers you might need to access in an emergency. And there are some physical valuables that, for one reason or another, are best stored elsewhere.
So if you have a safe deposit box, here’s a rundown of what’s best to store and not to store in it. And if you don’t, here are some of the items that might make you consider getting one.
How Safe Deposit Boxes Work
For those who have never seen one in person, a safe deposit box is a long, narrow metal box that’s stored in a locked room at a bank or credit union. A typical box has two keyholes, so the only way to unlock it is to insert both keys at once. You keep one key, and the bank has the other. If another person, such as a spouse, shares the box with you, each of you gets one copy of the renter’s key.
Having two keys adds an extra layer of security. If someone steals the key to your safe deposit box, they won’t be able to get into the box without the help of a bank employee. But the bank won’t open a box, or the locked room where it’s kept, for just anyone. Most banks require some proof of identity before they’ll open a box, such as a signature that they can compare with your signature on file.
A safe deposit box is an extra that isn’t included with a typical bank account. According to The New York Times, financial institutions charge anywhere from $20 to $200 per year for a box, depending on its size and the bank’s location. However, some bank accounts give you a discount on this fee. (The cost used to be tax-deductible as well, but the 2017 tax reform bill eliminated this deduction.)
Advantages of a Safe Deposit Box
A safe deposit box isn’t the only place to keep your valuables or important papers. For instance, you could safely store these items in a small fireproof safe at home. However, experts say a safe deposit box offers better security.
For one thing, most home safes are portable. It’s possible to have a safe built into the wall of your home, but it’s quite expensive. That means a burglar could simply make off with your entire safe and drill into it later to extract the contents. And if you happen to be home when criminals break in, they can force you to open the safe for them.
A safe deposit box also offers better protection against natural disasters. Bank vaults are usually strong enough to withstand fires and high winds that could destroy a typical home.
The one natural disaster they can’t always protect against is a flood. Experts recommend sealing valuable papers, photos, and other vulnerable buy money safe box inside a watertight plastic container or zip-top plastic bag before putting them in your safe deposit box. It provides extra protection from water damage in case of a flood.
Disadvantages of a Safe Deposit Box
Although a safe deposit box is the most secure place to store valuables, it’s not the most accessible. You can only get into your box during the hours when the bank is open, and you might have to wait a while at the bank for an employee to help you access the box. And since many bank branches don’t have safe deposit boxes at all, you might have to keep yours at a branch that isn’t local, which means extra driving to and from the bank.
This is an even bigger problem during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021, when many national banks, including Bank of America, have temporarily closed some local bank branches.
Another problem is that putting valuables in a safe deposit box doesn’t actually guarantee their safety. Although it’s rare, banks occasionally open a customer’s safe deposit box by mistake and lose some of the contents. According to The New York Times, every year, a few hundred people report that valuable items have gone missing from their safe deposit boxes.
Worse still, in cases such as these, the bank isn’t actually required to compensate you for the lost items, even when it’s clearly at fault for losing them. Unlike the money in your bank account, items in a safe deposit box are not covered by FDIC insurance – although the FDIC raleigh real estate guarantee that if your bank goes bust and the government takes it over, you’ll regain access to your safe deposit box within one business day. A few banks have separate insurance policies to cover the items in safe deposit boxes, but most don’t. You may not even be able to sue the bank to recover your losses since many banks have language in their safe deposit box rental agreements putting limits on their liability for lost property.
To protect yourself against the loss of items in your safe deposit box, you’ll need to carry your own insurance. Your homeowners insurance policy may provide some coverage for items stored “off-premises” — that is, not on your property — but it’s usually only a modest amount. So if you want to keep high-value items in a safe deposit box, you might need to add a special addendum, or “floater,” to your policy for this purpose. The insurance agent who handles your policy can help you create this document.
The good news is that insurers often charge less to insure valuables if you store them securely at the bank. First, you’ll need to get the individual items appraised. Then you can contact your insurance company about adding coverage for the value of the items.
What to Keep in Your Safe Deposit Box
A safe deposit box is the best place to keep documents and belongings that need the highest possible level of security. Here are some of the items you should keep in your box.
1. Property Records
When you buy a house, you have to handle a ton of documents at the closing. Some of these could be important to hold onto, such as the:
- Deed. You’ll need the deed to the property when you want to sell the buy money safe box. You might also need it to prove you’re the owner of record.
- Settlement Documents. The closing statement and other settlement documents show how much you paid for the property. You’ll need this information for tax purposes, particularly when you sell the house.
- Property Survey. This document shows the boundaries of your property. It can come in handy if you ever get into a dispute with a neighbor over property lines.
- Title Survey. The title survey and title insurance will be important if anyone disputes your claim to the property.
While these documents can be crucial in specific circumstances, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever need to access them at a moment’s notice. Storing them in your safe deposit box will keep them secure, and you can retrieve them if you ever need them.
2. Car Title
Like the deed to your home, your car title is a document that’s important but rarely needed and is a big hassle to replace if it’s lost. That makes a safe deposit box an ideal place for it. When it comes time to sell the car, you’ll know exactly where to find the title: safe and sound in your box at the bank.
3. Important Personal Records
Your safe deposit box is a good place to keep the originals of important personal records, such as:
- Birth certificates (your own or your children’s)
- Adoption records
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce certificate
- Death certificate for a spouse or other close relative
You’re unlikely to need any of these documents for everyday use, but if you do need them, it’s quite a lot of work to get hold of a copy. You need to provide proof of your identity, pay a fee, and wait days or weeks to receive your documents. It’s much less trouble to store them away safely.
4. Social Security Card
Carrying your Social Security card in your wallet is a big no-no, according to financial experts. If your wallet is lost or stolen, having your Social Security number right there puts you at risk of identity theft.
Besides, the chances that you’ll need your Social Security card for ID on any given day are pretty remote. You might need your Social Security number for all kinds of documents, but you can memorize it. You’ll only need the card itself on rare occasions, such as a real estate closing or renewing your driver’s license. The rest of the time, your safe deposit box is the best place to keep it safe from thieves.
5. Stock & Bond Certificates
These days, buying stocks, Treasury bonds, or corporate bonds is usually an electronic transaction. Your ownership of the items is recorded digitally, and the records are stored on a server, so you don’t need to worry about losing them or keeping them secure.
However, not so long ago, purchases such as these came with physical, paper certificates. According to Kiplinger, the New York Stock Exchange continued to require printed certificates for stock purchases up through 2001, and some banks still issued paper savings bonds as recently as 2011. And even today, if you use part of your tax refund to buy Series I savings bonds, you’ll receive paper bonds by mail.
If you still own any of these old-school paper certificates, they’re the only proof you have that you own the securities. The Securities and Exchange Commission has a procedure for replacing a lost or damaged certificate, but it’s complicated and time-consuming. It’s much easier to safely lock the originals away while keeping a record of the numbers — or a photocopy of the certificates themselves — on file at home just in case.
6. Small Valuables
Along with documents, your safe deposit box is a secure place to store small, valuable items you’d rather not keep in your house. Jewelry is one example. If you have jewelry you wear all the time — such as an engagement ring or a pearl necklace you regularly wear to work — then, naturally, you’ll want to keep it at home, no matter how valuable it is.
But if you have a few pricey pieces you only wear for special occasions, such as a tiara, locking them in your safe deposit box will keep them secure the rest of the time. You can also use the box to store family jewelry that you never wear but don’t want to get rid of for sentimental reasons.
A safe deposit box is also good for storing small collectibles. Obviously, some collections (such as antiques, pottery, or rare books) are much too big to fit in a safe deposit box. But if you collect any smaller items (such as stamps, coins, or vintage baseball cards), your bank can provide safe storage for them and protect them from damage. Just open the box whenever you want to add an item to your collection or take one out to sell.
However, before stashing any valuables in your safe deposit box, make sure you have insurance to cover them. As noted above, homeowners’ insurance doesn’t always provide much coverage for belongings you don’t keep at home. A safe deposit box is more secure than most places, but it’s not 100% damage-proof, and there’s no sense in taking any risks with a valuable collection.
7. Treasured Memories
Some of the items you value most aren’t worth much in dollar terms, but you associate them with cherished memories. Your safe deposit box can provide secure storage for personal papers such as letters from friends and family or old diaries — your own or a long-deceased relative’s. You can scan these items before stashing them away so that you’ll always have a backup, but that’s no substitute for a cherished object you can hold in your own hands.
You can also use the box to stash away old family photos that were taken long before digital cameras and cloud storage. If you have the negatives, you can put these in the safe deposit box while keeping the original prints in your family album. If not, scan the photos to create a backup before locking them away. Store the digital copies in the cloud, on a thumb drive, or both to make extra sure you’ll never lose them.
8. Home Inventory
If you ever have to file a home insurance claim after a natural disaster, such as a fire or flood, your insurance company will want to know exactly what you lost and what it was worth. However, you can’t necessarily rely on your memory to keep track of every single item you own. That’s why insurers recommend creating a home insurance inventory, a complete list of all your belongings and their value.
There are several ways to make a home inventory. You can write down everything you own with a paper and pencil, take photos of each room and its contents, make a video of the whole house, or use an app. Whichever method you choose, store the completed inventory — either on paper or as a digital copy on a thumb drive — in your safe deposit box. That way, no matter how badly your home is damaged in a disaster, the inventory will remain intact.
What Not to Keep in Your Safe Deposit Box
Your safe deposit box obviously isn’t a good place to store anything you’re likely to need at a moment’s notice. It also isn’t a good place for important items other people might need to access, since no one but you — or your co-signer if you have one — can get into your box. And there are some things you can’t or shouldn’t stow in a safe deposit box because of bank policies.
Items to keep outside your safe deposit box include:
Unlike the cash in your bank account, cash in a safe deposit box isn’t protected by FDIC insurance. It makes much more sense to keep your emergency fund in an interest-bearing savings account from an institution like CIT Bank. In fact, some banks explicitly forbid keeping cash in your safe deposit box.
If you want to keep a stash of cash on hand for emergencies, it’s better to hide it at home so that you can retrieve it even when the bank is closed.
2. Uninsured Valuables
As secure as a safe deposit box is, it’s not 100% guaranteed against theft or damage — and since the contents aren’t federally insured, you’re out of luck if a fire or flood destroys them. So make sure any valuables you stash in your box are covered by your home insurance, and keep a list of them.
3. Buy money safe box Original of Your Will
In many states, banks must automatically seal your safe deposit box if you die. That can create problems if your will is locked inside. Your heirs will need to jump through all kinds of legal hoops, possibly even getting a court order, to get into the box. That will significantly delay the time it takes to get your money to your heirs.
It’s fine to keep a copy of your will in your safe deposit box, but the original should go to your lawyer or executor, who can then put it in their own safe deposit box if they wish.
Pro tip: If you don’t currently have a will set up for yourself, look into Trust & Will. They can help you protect your estate in just 10 minutes.
4. Letters of Instruction
The same problems that apply to wills also hold true for other estate planning documents. One example is a letter of instruction, a document that goes with your will, expressing your final wishes about your funeral and other matters.
A letter of instruction isn’t a legal document, but it outlines what your family members will need to know when settling your estate. If it’s locked in a safe deposit box, they may not see it until long after the funeral is over. If you have a letter of instruction, make sure it’s kept with your will.
5. Advance Health Care Directive
Another end-of-life document to store outside your safe deposit box is an advance health care directive, sometimes known as a living will. This document outlines your wishes about what steps doctors should and should not take to prolong your life. However, it’s only useful if everyone who needs it has access to it, which they won’t if the only copy is locked away at the bank.
Instead, make sure your family and all your doctors have copies of it.
6. Power of Attorney
Along with an advance directive, many people choose to prepare a power of attorney, or POA. This document authorizes another person to make financial or medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. Like living wills, powers of attorney should be in the hands of the people who will need them when the time comes. Keep one copy with your will, and give copies to the person or people who will hold the POA for you.
7. Anything Your Bank Won’t Allow
When you sign an agreement to open a safe deposit box, it usually includes a list of items you are not allowed to store in the box. Typically, banks do not allow firearms, explosives, or any type of hazardous material. Illegal drugs, and anything else that’s banned in your state, are also likely to be off-limits. Read your agreement carefully and follow the rules. If they’re not clear to you, ask your banker to explain them.
8. Your Passport (Maybe)
There’s one item experts disagree about keeping in a safe deposit box: your passport. On the one hand, it’s a document you don’t need on a daily basis, and one that’s hard to replace if it’s lost or stolen. But on the other hand, if you ever have to make an emergency trip overseas, you’ll need your passport in a hurry, and you might not be able to get it quickly if it’s locked away at the bank.
Use your own judgment to decide which concern is more important to you. If you travel abroad regularly, then it makes more sense to keep your passport in a safe place at home. But if you and your nearest relatives pretty much never travel outside the U.S., then it’s probably reasonable to stow your passport in a safe deposit box for the rare occasions when you need it.
There’s one more thing you should make sure to keep outside your safe deposit box: an up-to-date inventory of what’s in it. That way, if the box is ever damaged in a natural disaster, you’ll know exactly what you’ve lost so that you can replace the missing documents or file an insurance claim for the lost valuables. And in the event of your death, this list will let your heirs know what’s inside the box if they can’t gain access to it right away.
David O’Brien, a financial planner interviewed by The New York Times, recommends checking your box regularly to make sure everything on your list is still inside. The loss of items from a safe deposit box is a rare event, but it’s not unheard of. O’Brien says he had a relative whose bank mistakenly drilled open her safe deposit box and emptied it because the bankers got her box number mixed up with another box whose owner had failed to pay the deposit. Fortunately, because she knew just what was in the box, she was able to recover the contents.
There’s another lesson in this story as well: If you have a safe deposit box, make sure you keep up to date with the payments for it. In most states, if you fail to pay the rent on your box for a long enough period, the bank is allowed to drill it open and sell off the contents to cover your unpaid fees. Keeping your payments up to date is the best way to make sure the precious items in your safe deposit box stay truly safe.
Chances are you have valuables in your home that would be difficult or impossible to replace—things like jewelry, passports and financial documents. What are the chances of any of them surviving a fire though? If you’re not keeping them in a fireproof safe of fireproof box, the chances probably aren’t nearly as good as they could be.
When it comes to securing your home, fires are a significant threat. According to a recent report by the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 354,400 home fires per year. In addition to the tragic deaths and injuries they cause, home fires are also responsible for $6.9 billion in property damage. While quality smoke detectors and fire alarms can help, fireproof safes and fireproof boxes offer an extra layer of protection for your most important valuables.
So, how do you pick the right fireproof safe? First, it’s important to note that while safes may be labeled fireproof, essentially anything (including all safes) will burn if subjected to high enough temperatures for a long enough period of time. To determine how protective a safe is, you want to look specifically at a safe’s fire resistance rating, which tells you how long it can withstand a fire up to a certain temperature. Beyond that, you’ll want to consider the size of a safe—both its interior and exterior dimensions—as well as other special features it may offer.
To help you narrow things down, SecurityNerd took a closer look at some of the most popular fireproof safes on the market. Here are our eight of our favorites.
1. SentrySafe SFW205GQC
SentrySafe is a leader in the home safe industry, and this model gets top marks all around. It provides 2.05 cubic feet of storage inside, so it’s made to hold a significant amount of your valuables, but it also comes in a variety of other sizes to fit various spaces and in models with either a dial combination lock or a digital keypad. A secondary lock requires a key for extra security. It’s certified to keep your valuables safe for up to 1 hour at temperatures reaching 1700 degrees, and an interior light is a nice extra touch to help you see the safe’s contents when it’s opened.
Beyond protection from fires, this safe can withstand a fall of 15 feet in case you need to toss it from a window, and it’s waterproof. Note, however, that if you choose to bolt the safe to the floor, it’s no longer waterproof, as you have to drill holes in it for the bolts.
- Fire rating: Up to one hour at 1700 degrees
- Exterior dimensions: 18.6” W x 19.3” D x 23.8” H
- Interior dimensions: 14.8” W x 11.9” D x 19.6” H
- Weight: 125 pounds
- Storage capacity: 2.05 cubic feet
- Secure: This safe has two locking mechanisms for extra security—both a key and either a dial combination or digital keypad.
- Sturdy: It can be dropped from as high as 15 coldwell banker burnet plymouth mn and still remain closed
- Waterproof: It offers 24 hours of protection in up to 8 inches of water, which is great in case of flooding.
- Requires batteries: Six AA alkaline batteries are required.
- Heavy: Because it weighs 125, its portability is limited, and you’ll likely need help getting it into your home.
- Fireproof safe is UL Classified to endure 1 hour at 1700°F and keep interior temperatures safe for irreplaceable documents, valuables.
- Waterproof safe is ETL Verified for 24 hours of protection in water up to 8 inches deep offering peace of mind in the event of a flood
- Set your own digital combination fire safe with secondary locking key for strong security; Digital combination safe features 6 live-locking.
- Exterior: 18.6 inch W x 19.3 inch D x 23.8 inch H; Door requires 17.5 inch of clearance to fully open; Interior: 14.8 inch W x 11.9 inch D x.
- For optimal performance, SentrySafe recommends the use of four high-quality, name branded and alkaline AA batteries with an expiration date.
2. The Steelwater Fireproof Safe
This safe from Steelwater has one of the highest fire ratings available—two hours at 1850 degrees—with inner steel walls and a steel door, so you can rest assured that your valuables will be safe even in long-burning fires. It features an electronic keypad and requires four AA batteries.
Customers say this is a well-made safe, and it’s easy to set up and use. There are some delivery limitations, however, as a full-size tractor trailer must be able to park at the end of your driveway, and they won’t ship to some remote areas.
- Fire rating: 2-hours at 1850 degrees
- Exterior dimensions: 20 7/8” H x 17 1/8” W x 17 5/16” D
- Interior dimensions: 6 1/4” H x 12 9/16” W x 12 3/16” D
- Weight: 143 pounds
- Storage capacity: 1.44 cubic feet
- High UL rating: This safe is designed to withstand temperatures up to 1850 degrees for up to two hours.
- Large storage capacity: With 1.44 cubic feet, it can hold documents, jewelry and more.
- Heavy: This safe is quite heavy (143 pounds), so you can’t take it with you or move it easily.
- Limited delivery area: There are some areas in the U.S. where this safe can’t be shipped, including remote areas and islands.
- Batteries required: Requires four AA alkaline batteries
- 2-Hour fire rated at 1850°F (1010°C) 2- Layers of Steel (Steel inner walls and door, NOT PLASTIC) -- (2)Active rectangular locking bolt.
- (1) Removable/adjustable shelf and (1) slide out drawer - (2) Stationary Rectangular Locking Bolts On Hinge Side--(4) Reprogrammable user.
- PLEASE READ BEFORE PURCHASING: Undeliverable to New York with zip codes beginning in (100-104) & (110-119), some remote areas such as.
- SEE MORE IN-DEPTH DETAILS ON THIS PAGE BELOW ADVERTISEMENTS
3. First Alert 2087F-BD
This safe from First Alert has a number of features that make it a top contender on our list. Not only is it fireproof and waterproof, but it remains so even after being secured to the floor, as it’s made with the company’s Ready-Seal technology that securely fastens it to the floor. It’s also built with multiple anti-theft features, including pry-proof hinges and four door bolts, and it comes with a five-year limited warranty.
- Fire rating: 1 hour at temperatures up to 1700 degrees
- Exterior dimensions: 16.50” H. x 14.50” W x 19.00” D
- Interior dimensions: 12.8” H x 10.38” W x 12.25” D
- Weight: 82 pounds
- Storage capacity: .94 cubic feet
- Large storage capacity: With .94 cubic feet of storage space, it’s large enough to hold documents, jewelry and other valuables.
- Bolts Down Securely: Even after being bolted down, this safe remains both fireproof and waterproof.
- Heavy: Weighing in at more than 80 pounds, you’ll likely need help getting it into your home.
- Moisture issues: Some online reviewers note that the safe gets mildewy and the contents of their safe get moldy unless they secure it inside in waterproof containers or bags.
- Ready-Seal safe protects valuables from fire, water, and theft even when bolted down
- 0.94-cubic foot capacity offers plenty of storage space for files, electronics, and more
- Fire-resistant design withstands temperatures of up to 1700 degrees F for up to 1 hour
- Waterproof seal keeps contents dry even when safe is submerged
- Pry-proof concealed hinges deter thieves and resist crowbar entry
4. SureSeal by FireKing SS104-A
This safe chest from SureSeal is a portable, relatively affordable option for protecting valuables. It can easily hold legal- and letter-size documents as well as passports and other small items, and it’s equipped with a handle for easy carrying in case you need to evacuate your home, though at 56 pounds, it’s still quite heavy. In addition to being fireproof for up to 1 hour, it’s also waterproof for up to 2 hours, and it floats, making it easier to find in case of flooding. This chest also comes with a seven-year warranty.
- Fire rating: 1 hour at temperatures up to 1700 degrees
- Exterior dimensions: 7” H x 19 ⅞” W x 17” D
- Interior dimensions: 7.32”H x 14.8125”W x 12” D
- Weight: 56 pounds
- Storage capacity: .38 cubic feet
- Portable: It’s convenient to grab in case you need to evacuate your home.
- Waterproof: It can protect your documents from flooding, and it floats as well.
- Warranty: This safe comes with a seven-year warranty as well as lifetime after-fire guarantee.
- Security: Reviewers note that the locks seems flimsy and say it doesn’t offer solid anti-theft protection.
- Weight: While it’s not as heavy as some floor safes, at 56 pounds, it’s not light either.
5. Honeywell 1104
Both fireproof and waterproof, this safe box chest from Honeywell is a good choice for storing letter- and legal-size documents as well as flash drives, CDs and other valuables. It’s certified to withstand 1700-degree temperatures for up to 1 hour and has been verified to protect contents for 24 hours in water as deep as 39 inches. While it’s a bit heavy (54 pounds), it has a handle to grab should you have to evacuate your home.
- Fire rating: 1 hour at temperatures up to 1550 degrees
- Exterior dimensions: 7.3” H x 20” W x 17.2” D
- Interior dimensions: 7.32”H x 14.8125”W x 12” D
- Weight: 54 pounds
- Storage capacity: .39 cubic feet
- Cost: At just about $85, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to provide solid protection for your important paperwork and other valuables.
- No batteries: A simple key lock is provided for privacy.
- Portable: A handle is attached, making it easy to grab this case should you have to evacuate your home.
- Weight: While it’s made to be portable, this safe box is also quite heavy, weighing in at 54 pounds.
- Not Theft-proof: As with other portable cases, the locking mechanism is reportedly flimsy. Not to mention the fact that a thief could easily walk off with the entire case.
- Molded chests – Honeywell waterproof fire-resistant chests are perfect for the safe storage of letter and legal documents, USB flash.
- Features - this fire safe box has a 1-hour UL fire protection rating for up to 1700°f and a 100-hour waterproof seal that has been verified.
- Quality made – as a Honeywell brand licensee, we have a responsibility to conduct ourselves with the highest levels of integrity in.
- Secure - Honeywell safes, paper shredders and door locks are manufactured and distributed exclusively by lh licensed products, Inc. These.
- Trusted company - the Honeywell trademark is licensed from Honeywell international Inc., a Fortune 100 company that invents and manufactures.
6. SentrySafe 1200 Fireproof Box with Key Lock, 0.18 Cubic Feet
This fireproof box from SentrySafe is an inexpensive way to keep valuable documents and other small items safe for up to 30minutes in 1550-degree heat. It’s lightweight (just 13 pounds) and has a handle, so it’s easily portable, and it features a lock with two keys for security.
- Fire rating: 30 minutes at 1550 degrees
- Exterior dimensions: 14.3” W x 11.2” D x 6.1” H;
- Interior dimensions: 12” W x 7.5” D x 3.5” H
- Weight: 13 pounds
- Storage capacity: 0.18 cubic feet
- Portable: It’s lightweight and has a handle to make carrying it easy.
- Inexpensive: At just under $15, it’s one of the most inexpensive options on our list.
- Small: Its internal capacity is 0.18 cubic feet, so it won’t hold a whole lot. (Note: It is sold in smaller and larger options)
- Limited fire rating: Its fire rating is much shorter than that of other larger safes.
- Not waterproof: The manufacturer doesn’t indicate this product is waterproof.
- Fireproof box is UL Classified to endure 1/2 hour at 1550°F to protect irreplaceable documents and valuables from fire
- Fire safe box is ETL Verified to protect CDs, DVDs, and USBs from fire damage
- Fireproof lock box features a flat key lock to prevent the lid from opening in the event of a fire; Includes 2 keys
- Document safe features convenient built-in carrying handle for easy transportation
- Exterior: 14.3 inch W x 11.2 inch D x 6.1 in H; Interior: 12 in W x 7.5 inch D x 3.5 inch H; Small capacity 0.18 cubic feet; Weighs 13.
7. AMSEC Fire Safe
While it’s significantly more expensive than the other fireproof safes on our list, this safe from American Security (AMSEC) is a strong choice if you want excellent protection for your valuables. It provides one of the highest fire ratings, certified to withstand fires up to 1850 degrees for up to 2 hours, and it can withstand a 30-foot drop.
- Fire rating: 2 hours at 1850 degrees
- Exterior dimensions: 21.5” H x 17” W x 18” D
- Interior dimensions: 15.5” H x 11.5” W x 12” D
- Weight: 246 pounds
- Storage capacity: 1.2 cubic feet
- High fire rating: This safe is able to withstand 1850 degree heat for up to 2 hours.
- Durable: It can be dropped from a two-story burning building and still remain intact.
- Anti-theft protection: With thick doors and heavy hinges, it’s pry-resistant.
- Heavy: This safe weighs 246 pounds, so it’s portability is limited, and you’re going to need help getting it in your house.
- Price: At more than $1,000, this is an expensive choice.
- Not waterproof: The manufacturer makes no claims that this safe will protect your documents from water.
- U.L. listed Class 350 degrees two hour fire and impact rating.
- Safe withstand fires of up to 1850 degrees F. and a 30' drop-equivalent to falling through a 2 story
- Increased barriers for burglary protection, U.L. listed Group II combination lock.
- Impresive 3-1/2" thick recessed door with 5/8" thick front for excellent pry resistance.
- Handle activated locking mechanism with 7/8" diameter solid steel chrome plated locking bolts
8. AmazonBasics Fire Resistant Box Safe
While this safe from Amazon has a lower fire rating than most on our list—20 minutes at 1200 degrees—it’s a solid, affordable choice to help protect your valuables. It comes in three different sizes and features an electronic keypad as well as a backup key. Online reviewers say it’s well-made and a good value for the price.
- Fire rating: 20 minutes at 1200 degrees
- Exterior dimensions: 14.2″ Lx 12.2″ W x 15.7″ H
- Interior dimensions: 12.5″ L x 8.1″ W x 14.2″ H
- Weight: 55 pounds
- Storage capacity: 0.83 cubic feet
- Value: This safe provides decent protection for valuables at a relatively affordable price.
- Weight: At 55 pounds, this safe if lighter than other safes on our list with similar storage capacity.
- Not waterproof: The manufacturer makes no mention that this safe is waterproof.
- Limited warranty: This safe comes with a limited one-year warranty, while other safes come with a much longer warranty.
- 0.8-cubic-foot fire-resistant safe for protecting important documents and other valuables from theft and fire
- Complies with modified UL 72 Standard for Safety Tests for Fire Resistance of Record Protection Equipment for 20 minutes at 1200 degrees.
- Durable 14-gauge heavy-duty steel body construction; 4 large 0.75-inch bolts for superior security
- Electronic keypad provides quick and easy access; includes back-up key for emergency use
- Adjustable shelf optimizes storage space; backed by an Amazon Basics limited 1-year warranty
7 things to consider when choosing a fireproof safe or fireproof box
When evaluating safes, pay attention to both the exterior and interior dimensions. The exterior dimensions will let you know how much space it will take up in a room, while the interior dimensions provide insight into much a safe will hold.
If you plan to move your safe frequently, you want to pay attention to its weight. Some are quite heavy and meant to stay in place, while others are lighter and lend themselves to greater portability.
The fire rating, typically issued by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or ETL Testing Laboratories note how long a safe provides protection from fire and for how long.
Beyond the interior dimensions, you can also look at a safe’s storage capacity, which is typically measured in cubic feet.
Safes come with a variety of different locking mechanisms, including traditional dial and key locks to electronic keypads.
Ease of Use
Look at how easy a safe is both to set up and to use. Some are quite heavy, so having them delivered and set up in your home may take extra planning.
Some fireproof safes are not only fire-resistant, but they’re also water-resistant (great for protecting valuable from the flood that comes from the fire hoses). Others may feature anti-theft features too such as combination locks and alarms.
What is a UL rating?
While there are various types of ratings when it comes to a safe’s ability to buy money safe box fire, UL ratings are the most common. Issued by Underwriters Laboratories, they certify how long a product can withstand fire within a particular fireproof safe or fireproof box. For example, a UL Class 350-degree 1- hour certification means the interior of the safe won’t climb above 350 degrees (paper burns at 400 degrees) in a fire that burns for one hour at 1,700 degrees, while a UL Class 125-degree 1-hour certification means the interior won’t reach above 125 degrees (recommended for media such as DVDs and CDs). Most manufacturers simply state the maximum length of time and heat their products are certified to withstand. UL also offers ratings for water resistance and impact resistance.
The bottom line on fireproof safes
While a fireproof safe can’t protect your entire home, it can help protect some of your most important possessions should disaster strike. Consider how many valuables you want to protect, the size of the space you have to house a safe and your own personal circumstances to select the best one for you.
You may also like: Our picks for the best overall home safes
This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.
Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.
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Safe Deposit Boxes: Store This, Not That
Safeguarding your valuables can be worrisome. There are many things you have to consider, including where you to put them and how much you want to pay for their safety. Sure, you can put hide your valuables under your mattress with all that cash you've been stashing away. But that's probably not a great idea.
You may consider buying a home safe or keep your valuables in a locked vault behind your uncle's portrait. Another option is a safe deposit box, which you can rent from a local financial institution. You may also hear them referred to as safety deposit boxes. Although you'll have to make a special trip to ensure your valuables are safe and retrieve them, you shouldn't keep everything in there. Read on for tips on what you should store in your safe deposit box and what you might need easy access to and should keep with you at home.
- Safety deposit boxes are designed to withstand natural disasters such as fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes.
- Never store the only copy of an important document in a safe deposit box.
- Safe deposit boxes are especially useful for people who aren’t comfortable with digital storage.
- Although it's wise to have a co-lessor for your box, think carefully about assigning the best person.
How Safe Deposit Boxes Work
A safe deposit box is an individually secured container—usually a metal box—housed in the vault of a federally insured bank or credit union. They're one of a number of services beyond banking your institution may offer. You can rent a safe deposit box to keep your valuables, important documents, and sentimental keepsakes secure.
When you rent one, the bank gives you a key to use. You'll want to hold on to this key in a safe place because if you lose it, the bank will have to charge you to install a new lock. This key is used with a guard key held by the bank—if your bank uses a keyless system, though, you’ll scan your finger or hand instead. Either way, you’ll have to provide identification every time you visit the bank. You'll also have to sign in every time you want to access your box.
You can rent a box in your name only, or you can add other people to the lease. If you opt for co-lessors, they will have equal access and rights to the contents of the box, so think carefully about whom you're thinking of adding. For example, people who have addiction, financial, marriage, or judgment issues may not be ideal candidates—even if they’re family. Still, it’s usually a good idea to name someone else to the account, so they can access the box when and if you can’t.
Benefits of a Safe Deposit Box: Security for a Small Cost
Safe deposit boxes are a great option for people for a number of reasons. For starters, they're undoubtedly more secure than most people’s homes. So whatever valuables you own, whether that's gold coins, family jewelry, or stock certificates, banks are much harder to break into and located in secure areas with alarms, video cameras, and top-notch locks. The vaults that hold safety deposit boxes are also reinforced to withstand fire, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters.
What does all this security cost? When you rent a safe deposit box, you can expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $300 each year and up. The price depends on several factors including the size of the box you rent and the bank that holds your box.
But remember, just because you have a box doesn’t mean you should put all your valuables in it. Here are tips to help you decide what to keep in—and keep out of—a safe deposit box.
What to Store in a Safe Deposit Box
Safe deposit boxes are a good place to keep hard-to-replace documents such as contracts and business papers, military discharge papers, and physical stock and bond certificates, along with small collectibles and family heirlooms. Keep in mind that the largest safe deposit boxes are usually just 10 inches by 10 inches and two feet deep. This leaves plenty of room for irreplaceable photos and Grandma’s wedding ring, but not your antique doll collection.
Good things to store in your safe deposit box are important items you won’t need frequent access to, including:
- Personal papers, such as original birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage licenses, and citizenship papers
- Copies—but not the only copies—of wills and powers of attorney
- Military records and discharge papers (e.g., DD 214s)
- School transcripts and diplomas
- Sensitive documents you wouldn’t want roommates, children, relatives, and visitors to find
- The deed to your house, along with any car titles
- Paper stock and bond certificates (though most are issued electronically these days), including U.S. savings bonds
- An inventory of your home’s contents, in case you need to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance policy
- Important business papers, records, and contracts
- Hard drives and flash drives with backups and important data
- Financially or sentimentally valuable jewelry, collectibles, and family keepsakes
- Other documents or small items that would be difficult or impossible to replace
Even though safe deposit boxes are designed to withstand natural disasters, it’s a good idea to put anything that could be damaged by water into a waterproof container such as a zippered plastic bag. This adds another layer of protection and can also help you keep your safe deposit box more organized. And before stashing those important papers and photos, make copies to store electronically on your computer or in the cloud. Just be sure your family knows how to access them.
Items You Shouldn't Keep In a Safety Deposit Box
You can access your safety deposit box during banking hours, which means you won't be able to get into it on holidays and, in some cases, on weekends. Store items you know you won't need in an emergency. Passports, medical directives, the only copies of wills and powers of attorney, and other documents that you may suddenly need are better kept in a secure spot at home, such as a fireproof home safe that’s bolted to the floor or wall.
Safe deposit boxes can’t be accessed 24/7, so don’t put anything in them that you might need in a hurry.
You’re better off keeping the following items out of your safe deposit box:
Even if you’re not a frequent international traveler, you never know when you’ll need your passport for business, a spontaneous trip, or to help a relative or friend overseas.
The only copies of important documents
The only copies of living wills, advanced medical directives, and durable powers of attorney are of little value if they are hidden away in a safe deposit box that no one can access. Tell your loved ones about the arrangements you’ve made and where they can find the documents.
The only copies of your will
This is especially true if you haven’t designated a cosigner to your safe deposit box. If buy money safe box pass away or become incapacitated, it can be difficult for your loved ones to access your safe deposit box, and thus the only copy of your will. It’s better to keep wills, living wills, medical directives, and powers of attorney in a secure place at home (such as that fireproof home safe) and tell a trusted relative or friend where they are and how to access them. Remember to give your medical proxy and the person who has your power of attorney copies of relevant documents.
Valuables you haven’t insured
Even though items in a safe deposit box are secure, you should make sure they’re covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy or a special rider, just in case—there are even companies that specialize in insuring safe deposit box contents.
Keep in mind that the money you have on deposit in a federally insured bank or credit union is protected, but items in a safe deposit box are not. Tell your insurance company that the items will be kept in a safe deposit box. You might get away with a lower premium, as the items will be more secure than they would be in your home.
Again, the money you deposit in a federally insured bank or credit union is protected up to $250,000 per depositor per bank, but the cash in your safe deposit box is not. You’re much better off keeping your money in a savings, money market, or other type of bank account where it will be insured. You may also be able to earn a little interest, something that won’t happen if your cash is in a box.
Firearms may or may not be permitted, so ask your bank for clarification if it’s relevant. Explosives, hazardous materials, and illicit drugs are a no-no, needless to say.
The Bottom Line
While safe deposit boxes have been offered by banks for about 150 years—with various other types of safekeeping offered long before that—fewer people today are renting safe deposit boxes, opting instead for digital storage and home safes. This can make it easier to find an available box—or more difficult if your bank no longer offers them. Betty Riess, a Bank of America spokeswoman, said demand for boxes has dropped “significantly,” especially among younger customers who are more likely to rely on digital storage, adding that fewer than half of its safe deposit boxes are rented.
Still, safe deposit boxes can be helpful, especially if you aren’t comfortable with the digital storage environment. Some banks offer the boxes for free if you have a certain type of account or a certain balance with the bank. If you’re interested in renting a box, start with your local bank or credit union. If it doesn’t offer the service, ask a representative if they know who does or look online to learn about the options in your area.
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