Do I Need a Safety Deposit Box?

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Quick, where’s your birth certificate? How about your will? That piece of heirloom jewelry your grandmother left you? If you didn’t say in a safety deposit box, you could be at greater risk of losing these valuables in a fire, flood or other natural disaster, even if you have them in a safe at home.

You’re also at greater risk for identity theft in the event your home is burglarized if important documents that include personal information like your Social Security number, credit card numbers and other personal facts are easily accessible.

While a safety deposit box isn’t absolutely foolproof in guarding your valuables, it can offer a layer of protection and assurance that the average person’s home simply can’t. Here are the pros and cons of using a safety deposit box.

The Pros

1. They’re Cost-Effective

Safety deposit boxes come in various sizes and range in price from roughly $15 to $500 per year. That can be a small price to pay for top-notch, ’round-the-clock security and surveillance, particularly if your belongings are highly valuable.

2. More Protection From Natural Disasters

If your home is hit by a flood, fire, earthquake or other natural disaster, personal items like jewelry and documents can be destroyed. Safety deposit boxes are typically installed within vaults that are not as prone when it comes to natural disasters, meaning your valuables have an extra layer of protection.

3. Keeping Track of Valuables is Easier

Knowing that all your valuables are in one secured place can provide peace of mind, particularly for aging people who might forget where some items are filed in their homes. It’s also easier for family members to access important documents in case of emergency or even death. Of course, you still have to keep track of the key(s).

4. Better Theft Protection

Home safes may seem like a cost savings, particularly if you have a lot of items you need to store, but in some cases they’re easier for thieves to open and even remove from your home.

The Cons

1. Limited Access

Access to your safety deposit box is limited to bank hours, which can be inconvenient for some people and circumstances. And in the event the owner of the box dies and there is no one else with access, the box could be restricted for weeks, so any important documents — like wills — would be inaccessible.

2. Limited Space

You’re only going to get so much room in a safety deposit box, so if you have a lot of items you want to secure, you might need two or more — and forget large items altogether. The largest safety deposit boxes are usually only about 15″x15.”

3. Items Can Still Be Damaged or Stolen

Safety deposit boxes are typically safer than keeping documents at home, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be damaged. Banks advise placing your items in waterproof containers within your safety deposit box and also taking photographs of the contents so that your chances of recovering your items after a disaster are improved.

Safety deposit boxes are also safer when it comes to theft, but that doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. It’s wise to still insure any valuables you might have in the box with a homeowners or renters insurance policy rider, and keep copies of all important documents in a different location.

As you weigh the pros and cons of getting a safety deposit box, it’s good to remember that your credit score is one of the most valuable assets you have. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep track of your credit scores by checking your two free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com, and also pulling your free credit reports each year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

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Image: Susan Chiang

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