Compare Bank Account Rates and Features
The average cost of a safety deposit box changes according to the size of the box and the location of the bank where it is stored. On average, the banks we surveyed charge about $60 annually for their smallest boxes, which are usually 3"x5"x24". While all boxes tend to be 18" to 24" in length, larger sizes are available with faces measuring 5"x5" or 10"x10". These respectively cost an average of $87 and $173 each year. Because many banks allow their individual offices to set safety deposit box prices, we called up multiple branches in different cities to find out what they charge.
|Box Size (in):||3x5||5x5||3x10||5x10||10x10|
|Bank of America||$75||$125||$150||-||$300|
Of the banks we surveyed, only Chase and Regions confirmed that their prices for safety deposit boxes were the same at all branches. Each of the other banks noted that prices are determined on a local basis by individual branches. And finally, not every location will have the same safety deposit box services available. Some of PNC's branches, for instance, have "express" boxes located outside the bank's vault, so that customers can walk in and access them immediately and on their own. This isn't nearly as secure as standard safety deposit boxes, which require a banker's key and sit behind the bank's strongest security measures.
Getting Discounts on Safety Deposit Boxes
People who already have active checking or savings accounts often get significant discounts on safety deposit boxes at their banks. For instance, Regions Bank will provide 50% off the annual box fee for people who have active LifeGreen Checking Accounts, while US Bank does the same for Platinum Checking account-holders. To make sure you receive the appropriate price, you may need to print out the terms of the deal when you visit the bank. A deposit account agreement or schedule of fees from your bank's website will often include the relevant information.
Having an account at the same bank with your safety deposit box also saves you money on the invoicing fee, a common annual charge on box rentals. Banks often waive this fee if you pay for your safety deposit box through automatic debits from your checking account. At a few places, you receive discounts of $10 or 10% off the total cost if you opt to set up automatic payments. While this may save you both time and money, it's important to save the date when you first rent the box. If you forget about the charge, you may end up unprepared for the withdrawal and run into overdraft fees twelve months later.
Issues to Consider Before Getting a Safety Deposit Box
The primary issues with safety deposit boxes are low availability, difficulty of access and lack of FDIC insurance. While many people like the idea of stashing important documents in a secure vault, banks in general don't emphasize safety deposit box services in their business models. This means that banks don't really provide a large supply of boxes in any region. In the course of our research, we frequently found that branches often have waiting lists of over a year for safety deposit boxes.
In addition, safety deposit boxes at most banks only permit access during bank hours. If you need to retrieve anything you've placed in your box in an emergency scenario, you won't be able to do so until the bank is open for business. As a result, items like passports, wills and powers of attorney may not be ideal for this kind of long-term storage. Losing the key is yet another common danger: not every bank provides more than one copy of the customer key, and drilling open your safety deposit box can cost you at least $150 in fees and locksmith's charges.
Finally, the contents of your safety deposit box are not covered by your bank's FDIC insurance, which applies only to its deposited funds. Storing cash in a safety deposit box is actually riskier than putting that money into a savings account, and some banks actually prohibit the practice to discourage tax evasion. While most banks offer separate insurance plans that cover their boxes, these policies represent yet another added cost to the consumer. If you are planning to stash cash in your safe deposit box, consider opening a federally insured, interest-bearing account for that money instead.
Finding Safety Deposit Boxes Near You
Since some banks reserve their boxes for existing account-holders, we recommend that you start your search at the bank you currently use for checking and savings accounts. In one case, we found that BB&T Bank rents safety deposit boxes exclusively to its existing account customers. If you find that none of your nearby bank branches have any boxes, the next step is to use other bank websites to locate and call up branches close to you. Even if you don't have an account at those banks, the low availability of safety deposit boxes means you might not have a choice.
People in larger cities also have the option of renting boxes with private vault companies. While such companies tend to charge much more than even the best banks, their exclusive focus on security services means that you'll get better value from their safety deposit boxes. Private vaults will often have better availability, larger box sizes, 24/7 access and a slew of enhanced security measures not found in a typical bank branch. Some private vaults also offer built-in insurance coverage for the contents of your deposit box, up to a certain amount.