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What Is a Safe Deposit Box?

how do safe deposit boxes work?

A Safe Deposit Box is a secure container, usually a metal box, located in the vault of a financial institution. These boxes are offered for account holders to rent, if available, and are used to keep valuables and important documents. The box has a dual lock system, for security, requiring two keys to open it. 

How Do Safe Deposit Boxes Work?

Let’s look at a scenario. You inherited some rare coins from your grandfather and don’t feel that it’s safe to store in your apartment. You’re in the market for a Safe Deposit Box! The first place to check will be with your bank or credit union. Safe Deposit Boxes are kept in a secure vault and are usually limited in quantity. If there are any available, you can rent them on an annual basis. 

A Safe Deposit Box takes two keys to open – your key, plus a key kept by the institution. Be sure to keep your key in a secure place since you hold the only copy. You can visit your box any time during normal business hours and the institution will have you provide proof of identification before accessing your belongings. 

As the owner of the Safe Deposit Box, only you will know the contents of what’s inside. We will provide a list of items below that are and are not safe to store in your box. Although your funds in an institution are insured, we don’t recommend keeping cash in a Safe Deposit Box, as it is not federally insured.   

What Can You Store

Safe Deposit Boxes can be used to store a number of items. They are a good place to keep hard-to-replace documents such as contracts, financial and business documents, military discharge papers, physical stock and bond certificates, jewelry, coins, photos, etc. Everything kept here should be things you don’t need frequent and immediate access to. 

Items that are needed in case of an emergency, such as power of attorneys, living wills, advanced medical directives, and other highly important documents should be kept in a secure place at home, such as a fireproof safe that is bolted to the floor. You’ll want access to these whenever necessary, not just during your financial institution’s business hours.     

What You Can’t or Shouldn’t Store

In most cases you will be provided with a list of items that are not permitted to be stored in the Safe Deposit Box. For example, at HFS we provide a lease agreement when you open a Safe Deposit Box. The lease agreement will list contents that are prohibited or restricted by any law or government to store in the safe deposit box.  

We do not advise storing any perishable goods, cremated remains, firearms, ammunition, or other weapons and any items that you may need immediate access to in case of an emergency. It is also not prohibited to store any illegal items such as illegal weapons, explosives or hazardous materials, drugs, etc.

Yes! Store in a Safe Deposit Box No! Don’t Store in a Safe Deposit Box
  • Important papers, such as original birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage licenses, and citizenship papers
  • Photographs
  • Jewelry or watches
  • Rare coins, stamps and other collectibles
  • Passports or other identification documents
  • Real estate deeds
  • Home inventory lists
  • Car title documents
  • Stock and bond certificates
  • Gold bullion
  • Firearms, ammunition or other weapons
  • Explosives and/or hazardous materials
  • Illegal substances, including drugs
  • Perishable goods
  • Cremated remains
  • Items needed in case of emergency (living will, medical directive, etc.)
  • Cash

Safe Deposit Box Costs

The cost to rent a Safe Deposit Box varies by institution. At HFS, the cost ranges from $30-$75 per year, depending on the size of the box. The sizes vary from 5”x5”x24” up to 10”x10”x24”. The cost is fairly minimal considering the importance of the items that are often stored there and the peace of mind that the security of it provides.

Are Your items Insured

The contents of your Safe Deposit Box are not insured by the institution. We do recommend that you have adequate insurance on the items that you choose to store there, especially those of high value.

Final Thoughts

Having a Safe Deposit Box can offer reassurance if you’re concerned about any of your valuables and important documents being lost, stolen or destroyed.  It is a way to ensure that your valuables are physically safe and secure..

HFS FCU Safe Deposit Boxes

If you have any questions about a Safe Deposit Box at HFS Federal Credit Union, please visit or contact us at