Family heirlooms, expensive jewelry and valuable collections are just a few of the items which you may not feel comfortable storing at home where the danger of fire or theft is ever present. Although you may be able to insure your valuables (at least in part) with household insurance or specialized insurance, there is no way to recover the sentimental value of stolen or damaged goods. In the case of one-of-a-kind items, a loss can be devastating, regardless of insurance benefits.
Because of this, many people store their most valuable items in safe deposit boxes. Many Swiss banks cater to this need by hosting secure storage units at some locations. Aside from individuals storing personal possessions, these boxes are popular among people who prefer to hold their wealth in precious metals or banknotes rather than as debt in a bank.
Valuables held in safe deposit boxes are not affected by bank insolvencies, while only a very limited portion of assets held in banks are insured against bankruptcy. Keeping your money in a safe deposit box also allows you avoid the limitations on withdrawals imposed by almost all banks.
Additionally, as explained in the moneyland.ch guide to bank safe deposit boxes, storing your wealth in this way can also safeguard it from negative interest rates. In that case, the cost of renting a safe vs. the negative interest charged by your bank is the deciding factor.
Advantages of non-bank safe deposit boxes
Unfortunately, access to bank-operated safe deposit boxes is limited. In order to hold a safe deposit box at a Swiss bank, you are usually required to have an account at that bank.
Cross-border workers and non-resident Swiss citizens have found it increasingly difficult to open Swiss bank accounts in recent years. As a non-resident foreigner, opening a Swiss bank account can be almost impossible, especially if you are a low-value, private customer.
Non-bank safe deposit boxes provide a more accessible alternative for people who cannot or prefer not to store their valuables at a bank. A number of private organizations rent out safe deposit boxes in Switzerland.
What does a non-bank safe deposit box cost?
Rental on private safe deposit boxes is typically higher than that charged for bank safe deposit boxes. However, because a bank account is not needed, you avoid paying account fees. This is especially beneficial in the case of non-residents who pay high non-resident fees at many Swiss banks, if they can open an account at all.
Prices vary broadly, so comparing the price in addition to the security and location of storage units is important. While price is the deciding factor when storing insured cash, gold bullion or other replaceable items, location and security play a much more important role if you are storing irreplaceable items which no amount of insurance compensation can bring back.
Safes Fidelity in Geneva is among the more affordable providers, with an annual rent of 200 francs for its smallest boxes. Pro Aurum provides safe storage solutions in Kilchberg, just outside of Zurich. Its prices start at around 350 francs per annum and include 50,000 Swiss francs of insurance coverage.
Degussa provides safe deposit boxes in Zurich and Geneva, with prices starting at more than 400 francs per annum. Insurance can be taken out at an extra cost. Swiss Gold Safe has some of the highest prices, with rentals for its vaults starting at 500 francs and premiums for insurance being charged separately. The higher price may be justified by the fact that vaults are located deep inside a mountain in a former military bunker.
If you are looking for secure storage in Switzerland for your valuable possessions and you cannot open a Swiss bank account, a non-bank safe deposit box provides a viable alternative to bank safe deposit boxes.