Safe deposit boxes are an integral element of the product lineups of most Swiss banks and are still deeply embedded into the Swiss banking legend.
For the study, moneyland.ch compared the prices of the smallest, a mid-size and the largest safe deposit boxes at 30 different Swiss service providers. In addition to mid-sized and big Swiss banks, the study also included five non-bank service providers. You can request a free copy of the comparison using the form at the foot of this article.
The results: “Differences with regards to the annual rents charged can be significant, sometimes even between different branches of the same bank,” states moneyland.ch analyst Silvan Wehrli. The rule of thumb is that the larger the safe deposit box is, the lower the per-liter rental cost is. Services offered – such as 24-hour access or the option to deposit safe keys - also differ between banks.
Safe deposit box offers and occupancy rates compared
Many mid-sized banks have thousands of safe deposit boxes in their vaults: The Glarner Kantonalbank has 2250 safes; the Migros Bank has 5280; the Banque Cantonale du Valais has more than 8200; the Schwyzer Kantonalbank has more than 10,600; the Basellandschaftliche Kantonalbank has 11,900; the Freiburger Kantonalbank has more than 12,800; the Basler Kantonalbank has more than 14,800; the Aargauische Kantonalbank has more than 15,400; the Valiant Bank has 32,000; the Berner Kantonalbank has 38,000; the Zürcher Kantonalbank has more than 62,000; UBS has more than 240,000 safe deposit boxes. PostFinance, on the other hand, does not offer safe deposit boxes.
The bank safe deposit box offers and occupancy rates at most banks have not changed significantly in recent years, as a comparison with the 2015 bank safe deposit box study by moneyland.ch shows. Occupancy rates at many banks are still between 40 percent and 70 percent. Pricing has remained largely unchanged as well. The occupancy rate for UBS safe deposit boxes is still around 50 percent.
Comparison: Smallest safe deposit boxes
The smallest category includes safe deposit boxes with a capacity of up to 10 liters. Annual rents charged by banks vary between 60 and 200 Swiss francs per year. Rents charged by non-bank service providers range between 185 and 474 francs per year. That means the price per liter and year ranges between 6 and 70 francs depending on the service provider. “The most expensive offers are more than 10 times higher than the most affordable offers,” concludes moneyland.ch CEO Benjamin Manz.
Comparison: mid-sized safe deposit boxes
For its mid-sized safe deposit box comparison, moneyland.ch studied safe deposit boxes with a capacity of around 50 liters. The exact sizes of safes in this category may vary somewhat between service providers. The annual rents for mid-sized safe deposit boxes from banks range between 145 and 480 francs, while those from non-bank service providers range between 750 and 2400 francs. That means the per-liter price ranges between 3 francs for the most affordable offer and 18 times more – or 54 francs – for the most expensive offer.
Comparison: Largest safe deposit boxes
Banks offer exceptionally large safe deposit boxes which can accommodate very large items. The effective costs of the largest safe deposit boxes are more difficult to compare fairly on a price-per-liter basis. Depending on the service provider, the largest safe deposit boxes have capacities of anywhere from 100 liters to 10,000 liters. Rents are similarly disproportionate, ranging between 300 francs per year and 10,000 francs per year (at non-bank service providers). The per-liter price ranges between 20 centimes and 42 francs, depending on the service provider.
Safe deposit boxes and 1000-franc notes
According to the Swiss National Bank (SNB), the cumulative value of all 1000-franc notes in circulation comes to 48 billion francs. That equates to 48 million 1000-franc notes and makes up more than 60 percent of the total value of all Swiss franc banknotes in circulation. Many of these banknotes are stored securely in safe deposit boxes.
Even the smallest bank safe deposit boxes can hold a large amount of money. The new 1000-franc banknote released in 2019 allows for even more value to be stored than was previously possible. The new notes are 17 percent smaller than the former 1000-franc notes. With a capacity of around 3.4 liters, the smallest safe deposit box offered by the banks included in the survey can hold around 3000 banknotes with a value of 3 million francs. A mid-sized safe deposit box with a 50-liter capacity can hold around 44 million francs, while the largest safe deposit boxes with 15,000-liter capacities can hold more than 13 billion francs.
Safe deposit boxes from non-bank service providers compared
In addition to banks, moneyland.ch included safe deposit boxes from bank-independent service providers Degussa, Pro Aurum, Safes Fidelity, Sincona Trading and Swiss Gold Safe in its comparison. The results show that rents charged by non-bank service providers are notably higher than those charged by banks. But services from non-bank providers differ from bank services on several key points.
The most important difference is that unlike banks, non-bank service providers do not require you to open an account with them. This is primarily beneficial to non-residents because they can avoid the high non-resident account fees charged by Swiss banks. Where safe deposit boxes are offered by precious metal dealers – as is often the case – the ability to store assets directly at dealers cuts out the costs of transportation to an external vault.
Insurance is another service offered by non-bank service providers, and a certain amount of insurance is included in safe deposit box rents in some cases. Service providers like Swiss Gold Safe, Degussa and Pro Aurum, for example, include insurance for up to 50,000 francs worth of assets as a complimentary benefit. Some provide high-security storage outside of urban areas. Swiss Gold Safe, for example, stores assets in ultra-secure bunkers in the St. Gotthard region.
There are other costs in addition to rent which should considered by those looking to rent safe deposit boxes. Some banks offer safekeeping services for safe deposit box keys, but this supplementary service costs between 40 and more than 400 francs, depending on the bank. If a renter loses a safe deposit box key, they have to cover the cost of force-opening the safe – which can be as high as 1000 francs. in the case of bank safe deposit boxes, rentals do not include insurance coverage.