Tired of Trusting Your Valuables to a Safety Deposit Box?

Tired of Trusting Your Valuables to a Safety Deposit Box?


The safety deposit box rage began in the late 1800s when the design of a “receptacle for storing and preserving papers” was patented. Banks across the nation invested heavily in fortified rooms filled with personally-sized, forged metal receptacles that could be rented. 

Unfortunately, for many institutions, safety deposit boxes have become antiquated. As these old-school security boxes have been phased out, individuals and businesses are looking for safety deposit box alternatives.

The following explores what a safety deposit box is, why you might consider a safety deposit box alternative, and what the best safety deposit box alternatives are.

What is a Safety Deposit Box?

As mentioned above, a safety deposit box is a rentable storage receptacle. However, there’s a wide range of procedures, rental agreements, and levels of security offered. These differences could include, but are not limited to: 

  • Access Procedures (such as time of day and required forms of validation)
  • Size
  • Material of the Safety Deposit Box
  • Cost
  • Security Levels

Why Consider a Safety Deposit Box Alternative?

In 2008, banks began phasing out safety deposit boxes. “When bank executives realized the massive vaults weren’t resulting in any additional income — in fact they barely covered their own operating costs,” according to a research article published in LEADERS

The process wasn’t something banks widely publicized. Rather, it was done quietly. It wasn’t until 2018, and even more so in 2019, that the disappearance of safe deposit boxes began making the news. For large institutions, phasing out safety deposit boxes made sense financially. But for consumers who were entrenched in the old system, it posed some difficulty.  

There appeared, at least for a while, to be a supply and demand issue. 

Furthermore, the imposing reality that safety deposit boxes aren’t all that safe, has left many individuals scrambling for alternatives. In July 2019, the New York Times shared a detailed account of, “When Philip Poniz opened Box 105 at his local Wells Fargo, he discovered it was empty — and that he was totally unprotected by federal law.”

What’s more, many individuals aren’t interested in storing physical cash at all. In part due to the lack of federal protection and in part due to the cumbersome nature of cash in today’s digital world. As this list is getting long, let’s break it down.

Safety Deposit Box Cons

  • Lack of Supply
  • Contents Are Not Federally Protected
  • Access to the Contents Can Be Limited by the Time of Day and Holidays
  • Cost of Renting
  • Lack of ‘Disaster Proofing’ Safety Deposit Boxes 
  • Keeping Track of the Deposit Box Key

storing valuables in a home safe

What Happens to Your Possessions in a Safety Deposit Box if the Bank Closes?

If a bank fails or ownership is transferred, those who have a safety deposit box don’t automatically lose access to the contents of their box. But, it could be extremely difficult to access the contents. Furthermore, according to the FDIC, “Federal law requires unclaimed deposit accounts to be transferred to the state after 18 months.”

At the point of transfer, regaining access (and ownership) of the contents could range from difficult to nearly impossible. Ultimately, if a bank closes (for any reason), safety deposit box users at that institution face a legitimate and serious concern over losing the contents.

It’s strongly recommended that you act quickly and keep written records of ownership and request to access, in the event of a closure. 

Opening a Liberty Safe

What to Consider When Shopping for Safety Deposit Box Alternatives?

Another reason users are abandoning their safety deposit boxes is the affordability and convenience of at-home security options. High-tech alarm systems have become commonplace. The evolution of home safes and gun safes has provided models that are more affordable, secure, and fire-resistant than ever before. 

Additionally, virtual security options — like high-security cloud storage and online banking — allow individuals to store important documents and large sums of cash online. Yet even those capitalizing on virtual security storage solutions are likely to have some tangible valuables they want to protect. These could include:

  • Jewelry
  • Family Heirlooms
  • Important Documents that Can’t Be Stored Virtually
  • Precious Metals and Gold
  • Cash You Want to Access Quickly
  • Guns and Ammunition
  • Proprietary Information (such as patent-pending documents)

When it comes to selecting the best safety deposit box alternative, we always recommend taking the following into consideration:

What is the Value of the Items You’re Protecting?

Not all safes and security measures are built equally. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. Yet, we see people buy entry-level safes to store thousands of dollars. This is certainly the customer’s choice, but it’s one we would caution against. The higher the value you’re protecting, the more secure the setup should be.

A Safe Shouldn’t Be Your Only Line of Defense

Another thing to think about is the levels of defense. Even the most secure safe or vault is penetrable with enough time and expertise. The more levels of defense you have in place, the longer it takes a robber to breach each one. Time, in this instance, is your biggest friend. It gives you the best opportunity to catch someone in the act or scare them off. 

Are You Worried About Fire or Water?

Perhaps even more threatening than a break-in is the potential for fire or water damage. Depending on the items you’re storing, this could result in catastrophic loss to your valuables. The more fire-resistant your safe is, the better chance you have to extinguish the fire before the contents inside are destroyed. 

Furthermore, for those individuals worried about water damage, air-tight containers can be utilized inside the safe. These containers can help reduce the chance of moisture damaging or destroying items. 

USA made gun safes

What are the Best Safety Deposit Box Alternatives?

As we touched on above, we recommend multiple layers of protection. A high-tech security system can help alert you to issues 24-7 (both man-made and natural). That being said, we also believe in utilizing a secure storage receptacle, such as:

  • Gun Safes
  • Home Safes
  • Vault Rooms

Fire-Rated Gun Safes

Gun-safe fire ratings range widely. At the bottom of the barrel, some gun safes don’t even have a fire rating. At the most secure, gun safes can have up to a 2.5-hour fire rating. In addition to layers of fire protection, these safes tend to be harder to break into and more difficult for smoke to penetrate. Among the top picks for the most secure fire rated gun safes include:

High-Security Home Safes

There’s not a huge difference between a home safe and a gun safe. The primary difference is that the internal configuration of a gun safe is designed to hold at least one firearm.

That being said, you can (and many people do) store a gun within a home safe — making that home safe a gun safe. (This is an important distinction to remember when shopping, as gun safes are tax-free in some states.) Among our top home safes are Liberty’s new line of American-made home safes featuring 2 Hour fire ratings and adjustable shelving. These safes are a nice alternative to safe deposit boxes for moderate value storage of important paperwork, jewelry and other valuables. If you’re protecting irreplaceable value, we would recommend investing in a higher security commercial safe we reference below. 

Commercial Safes

Entering the commercial safe realm takes security to a whole new level. These high-security safes have been tested by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and awarded a UL Listing based on their security level. UL has five commercial burglary ratings (listed from least to most secure):

At the most affordable end of the spectrum, the TL-15 is rated to withstand a tool attack on the door of the safe for 15 minutes. At the most secure, a TRTL-60x6 is rated to withstand a torch and tool attack on all six sides of the safe for 60 minutes. Depending on overall value storage, a TL rated safe is typically more appropriate to replace a safe deposit box in a residential setting.  

Vault Rooms

Vault rooms (aka panic rooms) are another security solution for many individuals. Like a bank vault, these highly-fortified rooms are typically built with extremely thick walls and an incredibly thick steel door that’s nearly impenetrable. 

Additional Considerations When Storing Personal Valuables at Home

How to Hide a Gun Safe in Plain Sight

With enough time and the right tools, any safe is penetrable. By hiding your safe, you reduce the risk that anyone can even attempt to break in. If they don’t know your safe is there, they can’t try and get inside. 

Get Discrete Protection with a Wall Safe

Unlike large gun safes or smaller fire safes, these safes don’t take up any floor real estate. Rather, they can be discreetly mounted within the cavity of your wall. This can limit the attention they attract, helping to provide additional protection.

What to Consider When Shopping for a Closet Gun Safe

Many folks are against installing gun safes in locations such as the garage or the master bedroom closet. However, we’re of the belief that there’s no wrong place to install a gun safe as long as you’re aware of your choices and take the appropriate steps for proper installation.

Our Favorite Range Bags & Accessories

How to Pick a Home Safe

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