Money IQ: Consider a Safe Deposit Box

Money IQ

By Fidel L. Gutierrez


Consider a Safe Deposit Box for Valuables and Digital Media Storage/Computer Back-up


As the old saying goes “you cannot put a price on peace of mind.” In today’s complex world, one of the oldest banking service that is often overlooked is the good old fashioned safe deposit box. 


I still remember as a kid going into the bank lobby with my mom and being in awe of the massive bank vault door. 


With the proliferation of on-line banking (virtual bank branch)  and “mini” branches (including grocery store branches), I find that many younger banking customers are not even aware that this service exists because these branches  don’t’ have vaults.


A safe deposit box is a secured safe-like box (only you have the key) that is located in a vault. A vault can provide more protection for your valuables than a filing cabinet or a home/office safe. Safe deposit vaults are resistant to fire, flood, earthquakes, tornados and explosions.


They also can protect your most valuable items in case your home or office is ever burglarized. Sometimes, insurance companies charge lower insurance premiums on valuables kept in a safe deposit box instead of at home.


Some valuables that are “top of mind” to keep in a safe deposit box include family heirlooms, medals, stamp and/or coin collections, and other collectibles.


It is also useful to store documents that are not easily replaced such as birth certificates, citizenship papers, military records, real estate deeds, and adoption and divorce papers. 


A safe deposit box can be used to store digital media (video, photos, scanned documents, etc.) You can also use it as a place to store your “computer back-up files.”


Many times I’m asked if you should keep your passport (and your family member’s passports) in a safe deposit box. While it is true that having a safe deposit box helps keep important items from being lost or misplaced, you need to keep in mind that access to your safe deposit box is usually limited to the lobby hours of your financial institution.


Some of you might remember seeing a “feel good” television commercial about a Bank Branch Manager letting a customer into their safe deposit box on a Sunday. While this scene makes for a good commercial, it is very unusual for a financial institution to not have their safe deposit box vault equipped with a time lock. 


The time-lock prevents the vault door from being opened during “non-banking” hours. This is an important security feature. Over the years, I know of a few times that people had to change their international travel plans because they forgot to get their passport from their safe deposit box. 


Also, if you know you might have to travel out of the country on short notice, you don’t want to have your passport in a place where it isn’t immediately accessible. Safe deposit boxes come in various sizes and the annual rent is very reasonable. 


As digital storage devices have become smaller, many times a smaller safe deposit box will meet your needs. If you feel that a safe deposit box might be beneficial to you, please check with your financial institution for more details.

Editor’s note: Fidel Gutierrez has worked for Los Alamos National Bank for 25 years and is a Senior Vice President.

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