What Is a Safety Deposit Box?

Safety deposit boxes are typically found in banks, post offices and hotels.
Items a person wants to pass on following their death might be stored in a safety deposit box.
Social Security cards and other important paperwork may be stored in a safety deposit box.
A safety deposit box is a good place to store expensive diamond rings and other jewelry.
Post offices often have safety deposit boxes.
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  • Written By: Donn Saylor
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2014
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A safety deposit box is a secure receptacle for storing valuables that is typically safeguarded in a safe or vault. Safety deposit boxes are commonly found in banks, post offices, hotels, and cruise ships. They are made of metal and are typically tamper-resistant and fireproof.

An institution offering safety deposit services charges a standard fee for the rental of the box. The renter is issued a key, which generally will only work in the box when it is used in conjunction with the institution's master key, thereby adding another level of security. Additional protective measures are common when trying to access a safety deposit box. These may include a signature from the box renter or authorized user or the utilization of a secret code.

There are two chief uses of a safety deposit box. First and foremost, they offer safe, trusted protection for personal items and important documents. Materials placed in safe deposit boxes are usually incredibly hard to replace, if not downright impossible. Secondly, safety deposit boxes provide a virtually impenetrable level of privacy. If someone wants to secret away a highly personal item, there is likely no better protection than a safety deposit box.


Although there is no standard list of things that must be kept in a safety deposit box, there are many items that could benefit from deposit protection. These include birth, death, and marriage certificates, last wills and testaments, Social Security cards, professional licenses, property and vehicle deeds, health records, and insurance paperwork. Safety deposit boxes also afford reliable security for valuable jewelry, rare coins, and other precious material articles. Items that could be necessary in an emergency situation — such as a power of attorney authorization or a passport — should not be kept in a safe deposit box as they may be needed after the hosting bank or institution has closed for the day.

When choosing a safety deposit box, a potential renter should make sure they are leasing the container from a reputable institution. These establishments include banks, credit unions, savings and loan organizations, and post offices. Safe deposit boxes housed in locations other than these require extra caution and more research on the part of the potential renter. Safety deposit boxes are nearly always stored in large vaults, so a possible renter should check out the security and setup of these vaults to ensure they meet his or her requirements. The best safety deposit box will be made of a sturdy metal that is fireproof, flood-proof, and resistant to tampering.


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