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Going on holiday? Why not keep your valuables in a safe deposit box?

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Gold bars, important documents, expensive family jewelry – if you want your valuable belongings to be kept safe, you can rent a safe deposit box for this purpose. Because keeping valuables in the desk drawer or under the mattress is very careless. 

Although a safe at home can be an alternative, it just does not have the same measure offered by a safe deposit box. Find out more about safe deposit boxes offered by German banks below.

A look at the crime statistics makes it clear: Valuables such as jewelry, gold, collectibles or important documents are not safe in your own four walls. Burglaries have been rising steadily since 2006, and in 2014 the number rose again by 1.8 percent. Around 153,000 cases were reported to the police, and burglars captured stolen property worth a total of 422.3 billion euros.

The break-in rates are particularly high in large cities. So it’s no wonder that the demand for safe deposit boxes is increasing here in particular. Security technology is advancing rapidly and with a high-quality safe, valuables can be protected from thieves in your own house, but keeping them in a safe deposit box seems to be the safer option for many.

safe deposit box

The most common reason given for renting a locker is to protect against theft. In addition, there is the current low interest rate level and general uncertainty due to the financial crisis. More and more investors are therefore relying on real assets in the form of gold. This begs the question of where these valuables can be kept safe and how safe they are in a safe deposit box.

The basic rule is that the lockers are only as secure as the safe walls behind which they are located. Once they have been overcome by burglars, they have an easy job, because the locker itself can be broken open quickly with a crowbar and a little muscle. But don’t worry: the armored doors of a bank are difficult to crack, so your belongings are in any case much safer than under the mattress.

There are usually waiting lists for safe deposit boxes in Germany

You cannot rent such a safe deposit box from every bank. For example, Postbank, Santander Consumer Bank or Targobank do not offer any lockers. So first ask your house bank whether they offer this service. 

If you can’t get one there, there are numerous banks, such as Sparkassen and Volksbanken, that also provide safe deposit boxes for non-customers. If it happens that no free subject is available for you, you can usually put yourself on a waiting list.

How to rent a safe deposit box in Germany

If you have decided to rent a safe deposit box, either contact your house bank of which you are already a customer, or look for an institute that also provides safe deposit boxes to people who are not customers. The process is then quite straightforward:

  1. Legitimation
    First you have to legitimize yourself, similar to opening an account. To do this, present either your identity card or your passport with a registration certificate.
  2. Authorizations
    If the locker is to be opened by more than one person, they must all be present and identify themselves.
  3. Key
    issue Depending on the type of security, you will receive either a key or a chip card for your locker.
  4. Depositing items
    The size of safe deposit boxes is not standardized, but banks usually offer lockers in different sizes. Small compartments have a capacity of around 3.5 liters, large ones can even hold around 550 liters and are as big as a bookshelf. The decisive factor here is what and how much you want to store in the locker.

You can decide for yourself what is stored in the locker. It is best to store valuables there that are difficult or impossible to replace and that you do not need all the time, for example:

  • Jewelry, gold reservescand other precious metals
  • Personal documents such as letters, photos and heirlooms
  • Important documents such as family records, documents, ID cards, certificates or wills
  • Collectibles such as postage stamps or coins
  • Important data on hard drives or USB sticks

Please note, however, that cash does not belong in a safe deposit box. Because if it is stored there, it won’t bring you any interest. Even when interest rates are low, it doesn’t make sense to keep money there, as inflation is gnawing at the value of money. In addition, a locker costs money – so it would be a losing proposition in every respect. 

Many banks also exclude cash from insurance cover. In the event of damage, you must make credible what has been destroyed or stolen, for example with photos or proof of purchase. This is difficult to do with cash.

safe deposit box

The safe deposit box renter is responsible for the content

What you keep in your locker is your secret. Banks do not have any knowledge of the content, because the safe deposit box contract is only a pure tenancy agreement. You are solely responsible for the content. 

However, you should document exactly what is in the locker, preferably with inventory lists, receipts and photos. You can put a copy of this in the locker, and keep another copy at home or at the notary’s office. This is the only way for the insurance to pay in the event of a claim.

The cost of renting a safe deposit box in Germany

Usually, the fees for a safe deposit box are paid in the form of an annual rent, but there are also banks that offer a short-term service, for example for the duration of a trip. However, long-term rental over many years is common. How much you have to pay for a locker per year depends on the bank you choose, the size of the locker and additional insurance. With some banks, the insurance is already included in the rental price, with others it can be taken out at an additional cost. The following overview shows you an example of annual rental prices at various banks:

providersCheapest locker / sizeMost expensive locker / sizeSum insured included in the rental price
Frankfurter Volksbank25 euros / 5 liters170 euros / 60 liters2,000 euros
Taunus Sparkasse *40 euros / 5 cm high300 euros / 60×60 cm0 euros (additional insurance possible)
Deutsche Bank *59.90 euros / up to 9 liters476 euros / from 144 liters0 euros (additional insurance possible)
Commerzbank *75 euros / up to 8 liters445 euros / from 50 liters26,000 euros

NOTE

*The above banks only rent to their own customers. You will have to have an account with one of them to be able to rent a safe deposit box with them.

safe deposit box

Access to the safe deposit box

Only you or other people with whom you have rented the safe deposit box have access to the safe deposit box. You will either receive a key or a chip card to open the compartment. In principle, the regulations can vary from bank to bank. It is common that you and a bank employee each have a key to the locker and the lock can only be opened together. There is also the rule that you or the authorized person must identify yourself and leave a signature before access to the locker is granted.

In the case of compartments with electronic security, you have access to an electronic chip card and a secret number that only you know. At some banks, these locker systems can even be entered outside of business hours. The conventional key systems can only be entered during the bank’s opening hours.

Only you know the contents of your locker yourself. For this reason, the utmost discretion is maintained in the locker room. If you are in the vault, access is blocked for other people, including bank employees. There is no video surveillance in the room, at most in the entrance area.

Procedure in the event of key loss

Losing the locker key is of course annoying. However, you do not have to worry that a stranger might clear out your subject. The name of the bank is never noted on the key. You should therefore not mark it accordingly. Usually you will receive two keys, so you should keep one in a safe place. To be on the safe side, you should in any case inform the bank of the loss so that they can block the compartment.

If both keys actually no longer appear, new keys often have to be applied for and the lock replaced. In addition, if you fail to present one or both keys when canceling the locker, you will have to pay a fee, the amount of which varies from bank to bank. So it can be expensive for you if one or both keys are lost.

Insurance coverage

Insurance protection, for example against fire and water damage or theft, is not included in the rental price at every bank. If you want to know whether your locker rental includes insurance, you should take a look at the terms and conditions. With most banks it is possible to take out additional insurance for a surcharge – the insurance coverage can, however, vary greatly from bank to bank. For example, the Frankfurter Volksbank only covers up to 2,000 euros, while Commerzbank covers up to 26,000 euros. If you do not have insurance, you will receive nothing in the event of damage.

However, in some cases you can also take out the contents of your safe deposit box with househld insurance. The best thing to do is to check your policy. It should be noted here that the household contents insurance only pays for the damage if there is not already insurance through the bank. In addition, household contents insurance usually only covers very small insurance values, for example only around ten percent of the total sum insured. In the event of damage, you will only be paid if you can prove what items were in the locker.

My safe deposit box was robbed – what now?

In order for the insurance to actually pay in the event of a claim – and this applies to both household insurance and insurance through the bank – you must provide evidence of what was in the locker. It is therefore advisable to draw up an inventory list on which you record all items in detail. You should supplement this inventory list with proof of purchase and photos. In the case of inherited jewelry, an expert opinion from the jeweler can also be useful.

In any case, keep the list in a safe place, for example with a notary. A copy of the list can also be kept in the locker itself. If your locker is robbed, you can use these receipts to prove to the insurance company what was in it and the value of the items. If you really want to store cash, it may be advisable to photograph the individual notes so that the serial number is visible. But be careful: some banks generally exclude cash from insurance.

It is generally advisable to secure your valuables. This is the only way to avoid going empty-handed in the rare case of a bank robbery.

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Expaturm aims to help educate Expats in Germany on key issues that they will have to deal with while living in Germany by providing everything you need to know about Banking, Healthcare, Lifestyle, and Housing in Germany
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