What You Should (and Should Not) Keep in a Safe Deposit Box

January 1, 2024
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Joel ChristophersenBy Joel Christophersen
Vice President of Retail Banking

When you think of a “safe deposit box,” it's easy to picture a super spy like Jason Bourne or James Bond rifling through a hidden stash of cash, guns and fake IDs.

For the rest of us normal citizens, however, safe deposit boxes can serve a more practical, useful purpose.

What is a Safety Deposit Box?

 A safe deposit box (or safety deposit box) is private container to store and protect valuables, held safely within the vault at a financial institution like Security National Bank of South Dakota. Safe Deposit boxes are an ideal place to secure important personal documents, collectibles, family heirlooms and keepsakes that you do not need on short notice. 

It’s a general rule of thumb to not store anything in a safe deposit box that you will need on a daily basis or in an emergency – because you’ll only have access to your valuables when the bank is open (see SNBSD hours and locations).

Here’s a basic breakdown of what to keep (and not to keep) in a safe deposit box:

What Should Go In a Safe Deposit Box?

  • Rare Collections (stamps, coins, baseball cards, etc.). If you do place any collections in a safe deposit box, just keep in mind that you won't be able to look at them that often!
  • Jewelry or Family Heirlooms. Aunt Margie’s brooch might be worth a lot of money, but it also might not be your style— so it’s probably better to keep it in a safe deposit box than your dresser drawer. This goes for any jewelry or family heirlooms that you don’t actually use on a regular basis.
  • Important Contracts & Business Papers (deeds, titles, stock and bond certificates). The only time you’ll need your deeds or titles is when you’re preparing to sell your home or trade in your car. And although most stock and bond certificates are now issued electronically, if you have paper versions it’s good to keep them locked away.
  • Personal Documents (birth certificate, marriage license, baptismal certificate, military discharge papers, social security card copy).  If you think you’ll need these more often, for verification or identification purposes, you can always keep copies of the same documents at home. You could also keep a copy of your passport in a safe deposit box — just not the original (more on that in a second). 
  • Inventory of Valuable Household Possessions. If a disaster ever destroyed your home, would you be able to identify all of the possessions you lost? In the event of a catastrophe, it’s helpful to have a list of your possessions to reference, so you can file insurance claims and claim tax losses. Whatever type of list  you keep — paper, digital, photo or video — it is best to store somewhere outside of your home (like a safe deposit box).

What Should NOT Go in a Safe Deposit Box?

  • Cash. We recommend you keep your money in a savings account, CD or another type of account that can collect interest.
  • Living Wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, Medical Directives & Trust Documents. Only someone listed on your signature authorization card can access your safe deposit box. If you are the sole authorized owner of your box and you become disabled or die, your attorney would need to obtain a court order for your family to authorize entry — which is a difficult and time-consuming process. Therefore, keep these documents outside your safe deposit box and in a place where a trusted person can access them. (By the way, don’t forget to tell that person where they are hidden…)
  • Passports. There is one caveat here – if you hardly ever travel abroad and are prone to losing things, keeping your passport in a safe deposit box might be worth the effort. Otherwise, keeping your passport at home will save you time.
  • Valuables Not Inventoried. You should always keep a running list of what you have in your safe deposit box, along with photos and appraisals for these items.
  • Insurance Policies & Agent Information. If an emergency happens, you’ll need this information right away.

How Secure is a Safe Deposit Box?

A safe deposit box offers the highest degree of protection because the box is usually stored inside a large permanent vault in a bank. The law requires the safe deposit box vaults to be a permanent structure constructed of materials and monitored with alarms to make unauthorized entry almost impossible.

Furthermore, safe deposit boxes are secured by double locks — one for the customer, and one for the financial institution staff. There are no other copies of the customer’s key, since the law prohibits the bank from keeping a key for both locks. If the renter’s keys are lost, the only recourse for entry is to have a locksmith drill out the renter’s locks at the renter’s expense. Access is also limited to only those names on the signature authorization card, or those legally authorized to enter by court order.

Are Safe Deposit Boxes Insured, Like My Bank Account?

No, safe deposit boxes are not federally insured, and are not insured by your financial institution whatsoever. We recommend you speak with your insurance agent to see if you can add a special “personal item floater” to your homeowners insurance, to cover valuable items in a safe deposit box. There are also companies that specialize in insuring safe deposit boxes. Talk to one of our personal bankers for more information.

How Much Does a Safe Deposit Box Cost?

At SNB of South Dakota, the rental fee and pricing for safe deposit boxes varies by size and dimension — anywhere from $25 to $176.95 per year.* Other fees may also apply (including drilling, lost key, expedited re-key and late fees). Discounts are available, if you automatically withdraw the fees from an SNB checking account. For more details, contact us today.

How Can I Get A Safe Deposit Box?

Contact us if you’re interested in setting up a safe deposit box at any SNB of South Dakota location. Or, schedule an appointment for a day and time that work best for you. We're here to help!


*NOTICE: The fees may be changed by the Bank at any time after giving you written notice of not less than 30 days. For more information, visit your local branch, or contact us at (605) 977-9000 in Sioux Falls or (605) 232-6060 in Dakota Dunes.


About the Author

Joel Christophersen

Joel Christophersen is the Vice President of Business Banking at Security National Bank in Sioux Falls. Christophersen joined the Bank in 2006 and has served several financial roles during his tenure, including as Bank Secrecy Act & Information Security Officer. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University, where he earned a degree in Commercial Economics.