What to Put in a Safe Deposit Box

These valuables and documents, along with some items you hold dear, should be stored securely at your bank's safe deposit box.

Mature man wearing a business suit opening a safety deposit box, looking inside.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Since digital records and cloud storage are increasingly becoming the norm, those bank-building-based safe deposit boxes might seem quaint, dated and perhaps unneeded, even at the best bank for you.

Not so fast. Don’t rush to declare the safe deposit box a relic of the past just yet, though many banks are eliminating them (in some communities, private enterprise is stepping in). There likely will be times when you’ll need to be able to produce certain original documents (including ones that have a raised seal) rather than digital scans or photocopies. Plus, some valuables simply can’t be digitized.

A safe installed in your home is one alternative, but these devices aren't foolproof, said Luke Reynolds, chief of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Outreach & Program Development Section. Home safes are more susceptible to fire and water damage, not to mention theft, than bank safe deposit boxes, Reynolds said.

On the other hand, access to your safe deposit box can be limited, more so during emergencies. For example, the coronavirus pandemic reduced operating hours for some bank branches, and limited access or required appointments for in-branch services, such as access to safe deposit boxes. Situations like that complicate your ability to retrieve important documents or items when you need them.

Also note that banks, and the safe deposit boxes within, aren't natural-disaster-proof. If they’re in the way of Florida and East Coast hurricanes, some of the most expensive natural disasters, or the wildfires and floods regularly seen in California and other parts of the West, they could fall victim like the other buildings washed away or burned to the ground. Safe deposit boxes aren’t fireproof or hurricane-proof.

Taking all that in, here's our best advice: Use a safe deposit box and a home safe. Hard-to-replace items that you might need frequently or in a hurry, such as your passport, are best kept in the home safe, while other important items you rarely need stay in the safe deposit box. 

Here are 11 of the best things to keep in a safe deposit box at your bank, updated for 2023 (as opposed to things you'll regret keeping in a safe deposit box). This guidance should also help you determine the size of the safe deposit box you wish to rent — important legal documents may take up a lot of room.

Bob Niedt

Bob was Senior Editor at Kiplinger.com for seven years and is now a contributor to the website. He has more than 40 years of experience in online, print and visual journalism. Bob has worked as an award-winning writer and editor in the Washington, D.C., market as well as at news organizations in New York, Michigan and California. Bob joined Kiplinger in 2016, bringing a wealth of expertise covering retail, entertainment, and money-saving trends and topics. He was one of the first journalists at a daily news organization to aggressively cover retail as a specialty and has been lauded in the retail industry for his expertise. Bob has also been an adjunct and associate professor of print, online and visual journalism at Syracuse University and Ithaca College. He has a master’s degree from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a bachelor’s degree in communications and theater from Hope College.