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How to Use A Safe Deposit Box

Are you using your safe deposit box correctly? Some items can be digitized now and don’t need to take up the space. Others are better kept in a fireproof home safe deposit box, or should exist in multiple copies.


What You Need to Know

Remember, safe deposit boxes are not federally insured. You may want to buy theft, flood or fire insurance on the contents. You wouldn’t want to include anything you might need to access quickly, especially during times the financial institution is usually closed. Home safe deposit boxes, however, aren’t a replacement for a financial institution’s safe deposit box. For personal, legal, and business records, these boxes can be very helpful.

Do Include:

  • Inventory of household possessions: If your property gets damaged, it will be helpful to provide your insurance company with a list of lost items. Tip: It may be easier to take a photo or video of the contents of your home.
  • Personal records
    • House deed
    • Car title or lease agreements
    • Social Security card
    • Copies of family photos and videos
  • Legal Records
    • Copies of driver's license
    • Tax returns (dating back 7 years)
    • Trust documents
    • Bonds

Remember, keep copies of these records at home.

Don't Include:

  • Cash: Cash devalues due to inflation over time. The best place to put it is in a savings account, where it’s not only safer than in a deposit box, it’s earning interest. Most importantly, cash that’s not in an account is not insured by the NCUA. 
  • Insurance cards, agent contact information, and related documentation.
  • End-of-life Requests: While it's not fun to think about, your family will need easy access to these.
    • Your will, if it's the only copy. You can certainly include a copy as the original can be easily accessed by your executor upon your death. (Your executor will need to obtain a court order to open the safety deposit box, if that’s the only location of your will.)
    • Power of attorney
    • Medical directives
    • Burial instructions, funeral arrangement requests, and cemetery deeds
    • Life insurance policies

Optional:

  • Passport: Only keep it in a deposit box if your international travel is infrequent.
  • Birth certificates, marriage license, death certificates, and citizenship paperwork: Keep either a copy or an original in the box, and the other at home.
  • Family heirlooms, jewelry, and collectibles. If not frequently accessed, these may be safer at a trusted financial institution than in a home safe. Be sure to check your homeowner's insurance - you may need a special rider to cover these items.

Safe Deposit Box Alternatives

Here are a few options for storing important documents and items:

  • Secure Online Document Storage
    • There are online services that allow you to securely store, access, and share important documents in a safe online environment. Do your research - be sure to look for ones that offer full encryption. A couple to explore are fidsafe.com and securesafe.com.
  • Digitizing
    • Consider digitizing important photos and videos. Services such as ScanCafe.com can do this for you for a fee.
  • Private Storage Facilities
    • Certain types of storage facilities provide safe deposit box alternatives and may be the right option for you. One in VA to consider is Commonwealth Vault & Safe Deposit Company.
      • Located in Loudon County, Commonwealth is a private vault facility. While a bit of a drive from Richmond, it’s the only one of its kind in VA. For information visit commonwealthsafebox.com.
  • Nationwide Banks
    • Major financial institutions including Wells Fargo, BB&T, Suntrust, Chase, and Bank of America offer safe deposit boxes at many of their branches. Call a location near you to ask about safe deposit box availability and pricing. Tip: Check to see if you are already eligible for a safe deposit box at a discounted rate at your other financial institutions as an existing customer.

Please note that Dominion Energy Credit Union does not endorse or guarantee the entities mentioned.

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