Should You Bother With A Safety Deposit Box?

Should You Bother With A Safety Deposit Box?

How many of you have a safety deposit box?

I do, and I don’t even know how much I pay for it. How bad is that? As for documents in it, I have a copy of the title of my house, (which is kind of pointless, since copies are easily accessible via the internet, at least here in Alberta) as well as a copy of my will. I don’t have any jewels, or any rare baseball cards, or anything cool like that. All I have are copies of documents that wouldn’t really be that hard to replace if I ever lost them. I’m pretty sure a will is still valid if you make a bajillion photocopies of it.

I’m pretty sure I pay $39 a year for the privilege of having this box. From my crack research, (read: asking someone who works at a bank) I think I’m getting off pretty easy. If you rent a safety deposit box from another bank, you can easily end up paying double what I do – and that’s just for one of the little ones. Those are so tiny that calling them a safety deposit box is almost misleading.

This begs the question: should you even bother with a safety deposit box?

Use a Safe Instead of a Safety Deposit Box

These days, there are all sorts of companies that will sell you either a small sized safe that sits on the ground, or a wall mounted unit. I took a quick look on eBay, and there were a dozen sellers just waiting to sell you a decent safe for around $100. Obviously, these aren’t the huge safes they used to make back in the day. They’re smaller, not a whole lot bigger than a safety deposit box.

But, if all you’re doing is keeping important documents in it, size isn’t important. Security is a bit of an issue, but most come equipped to be bolted to the floor, meaning a prospective crook is going to have some work to do before they can steal it. Since most crooks don’t want to linger around your house any longer than they have to, they’ll just steal your TV instead.

Most safes are fire resistant, so your important documents will be fine if the rest of your house burns down. However, not all safes are water resistant. Meaning, if there’s a fire, your documents may not get burned, but they may get waterlogged from the water being sprayed on the fire. If you do end up buying a safe, keep that in mind.

As for your jewels and whatnot, your home safe can keep them safely locked up when you’re not using them. As long as your safe is somewhat hidden in a dark corner and you don’t tell your friends about it, I don’t think you have too much to worry about. Although, if you enough in jewels to equip a princess, a safety deposit box may not be a bad idea.

Just Keep Copies of Important Documents Somewhere Else

If you’re anything like me, you have nothing really cool in your safety deposit box. It’s just a bunch of papers. It’s worth nothing to anyone except me (and I guess my heirs).

Like I mentioned earlier, a copy of your will is still a valid copy. So, if you’re scared of losing your will or other important documents, why not just make copies of them and give them to people you trust to hold onto? You’ll still keep the original copy, and if something ever happens, you have the security of knowing copies of everything important are just as far as your trusted friend’s house or your parents’ house.

Even if you can find a safety deposit box for $40 a year, that means you’re paying $400 per decade. That’s a lot to keep a bunch of documents.

Other Cons to Safety Deposit Boxes

A safety deposit box can be tax deductible, but only if you use it to store your investment certificates. Considering most of us don’t hold physical stock and bond certificates anymore, chances are you’re not going to be able to deduct the expense.

Also, having a safety deposit box means you can’t access your important documents unless the bank is open. Imagine going to the airport at 7 at night, being nice and early for your 10pm flight. Once you arrive, you remember your passport is in your safety deposit box. You would have been able to go home and get your passport if it was in your home safe, but now you’re stuck waiting until the bank opens in the morning.

After writing this post, I’m seriously considering punting my safety deposit box. I don’t even know what the thing costs. They take the fee out of my bank account once per year, and I never miss it. The stuff I’m storing in there could easily be stored somewhere else.

Readers, what do you think of safety deposit boxes? Are you willing to pay the fee to keep your valuables safe?


  1. krantcents

    I have a safe deposit box for free! I do not like paying for things never mind fees. I do not recall how I pulled it off, but I have had one for 40 years. I keep my important papers there such as passports, wills, marriage certificate, expensive jewelry or other important papers. Woulld I pay for it? I would find a way to get it for free.

    • Mike

      Why would you keep any of those things in a safety deposit box? All your documents are easily replaced at relatively low cost. The only thing that saves you is that your box is free. If it cost even $1 a year it wouldn’t be worth it.

      1. Passport – if its stolen, report it stolen and pay the $120 to get a new one. $120 is peanuts and is not worth a box. Plus you have to make a special trip to the bank to get it when you want to travel, and another trip to put it back when you return. What a waste of time.

      2. Will – Keeping your will in there is a dumb idea. When you die, your heirs are going to have to spend money getting a court order to crack open your safety deposit box just to get at your will.

      3. Marriage certificate – if you ever lose this, there is a public record of your marriage, so get it replaced for a small fee

      4. Expensive jewellery – if it’s in your box, it can’t be worn. Jewellery typically only depreciates, so if you’re not wearing it, you might as well sell it and invest the cash.

      5. ‘Other important papers’ – these days there are no other important papers. Everything is replaceable. Insurance policies, property deeds, etc. All accessible online for free or nearly free. The only thing I can think of that might be worth a box is some stock certificates if they are very old, but still valid, and of very high value.

  2. passiveincome

    I never have a safety deposit box…..
    I never thought about the safety of the documents….
    It is not like I have anything important to store anyway though.
    I think I should start thinking more about where to keep my tax return documents.May be I will just scan it and keep it in my backup USB Stick.

    • Irene Craig

      DO NOT store important documents or valuables in your fridge or freezer. That’s the FIRST place thieves check when they break into your home. I know that for a fact! And your passport cannot be easily replaced – it will take a long time for you to satisfactorily prove your identity to the govt. Besides, in this day and age, your passport is a valuable commodity and can be sold very quickly. Be smart, people. Safe Deposit boxes are not infallible, but if you don’t have a safe, that’s the best place for valuable documents

  3. CV

    I don’t have a safety deposit box anymore, there just didn’t seem to be any point.

    I have heard though that a good alternative to a safe is to put your documents in a ziploc bag in your freezer. In case of a fire, your fridge should manage fairly well and should also be well-sealed against water. Bonus is it’s a highly unlikely place to be searched during a break-in.

  4. Joe

    The fridge idea above is great. But if you have a safety deposit box, definitely keep your insurance policies in it. If your house burns down, you may just be shocked by how ‘friendly’ your insurance company and their adjuster(s) are! For a true story, see Whiten v. Pilot Insurance. Given how shamefully Pilot Insurance acted, it’s no surprise they changed their name to Aviva Insurance.

    • Mike

      Nonsense. You don’t need a copy of your policy to make a claim. And if you really want to have a copy, scan your documents and store them in encrypted on your Google drive or similar online service.

  5. Mac

    @CV, @Joe

    I like the fridge idea too. How about putting your documents inside a ziploc bag, put that in a small safe, then bolt that small safe inside a freezer.

    Think about it.

    • Joe

      The only concern I’d have is maintaining the full seal when bolting. But if you could pull this off and maintain the fridge’s efficiency, it sounds brilliant. It’d be easy to walk away with a small fireproof safe, but the whole fridge? Not likely.

  6. Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey

    I don’t need to pay for a safety deposit box. I do not have much to secure, except some important documents and a few pieces of jewelry. So we just bought a small safe and hid it under our bed, sometimes in the darkest corner of our closet.

  7. Edwin @ Big Money Part Time

    I’ve never even considered getting one. You can get copies of just about anything nowadays. Keeping digital copies is also a good idea and storing them in the cloud works for me.

  8. Brian

    If you don’t have stock certificates, baseball card, coin or stamp collections then there is not much use for a safe depoist box EXCEPT your fire insurance policy and will. Making a bazillion copies of your will won’t help your family or executor when you die. YOur bank, credit union AND the court will want to see the original. Keep a copy somewhere safe & leave the original with your lawyer. They have their own vault to store such things.

    • Mike

      Why would you put your will in a safety deposit box? You’re forcing your heirs to spend money in order to get a court order to crack open that box in order to get access to your will. And that assumes your heirs even KNOW that you have that safety deposit box. If they don’t, you could be deemed to have died without a will if it is not found in a timely manner.

  9. Patrick

    Interesting read

    There are images from the Slave Lake fire and others where those “fire proof” safes used by home owners have all the contents destroyed and melted. I’m sure they all have burn ratings and time, and would a bank survive a fire of that magnitude?

    It’s kind of like backing up data. You can do that in house but for added protection storing data off site is a higher level.

  10. vivian

    There is definitely a place for Safety Deposit Boxes — for instance, storing a collection of irreplaceable and expensive heirlooms/jewelry which you do not need access to in short-notice situations (e.g. unlike your passport).

    I store all my invaluables in the bank deposit box, and though the fee is expensive ($300 per year), I would say it’s worth the price for the peace of mind it provides me.

    My home safe, on the other hand, stores various paper documents which are not exactly “irreplaceable” (albeit they would still be a pain in the neck to replace). Birth ceritifcates, passports, business contracts, etc…

    • Mike

      Why do those documents need to be in a safe? They’re not valuable to thieves. Thieves steal what they can sell. None of those items can be sold.

  11. Jerry

    SAfety deposit fees are no longer considered a deductible expense by Revenue Canada (since 2013)

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