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Reader question: What’s the safest place to keep my valuables in Switzerland?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Reader question: What’s the safest place to keep my valuables in Switzerland?
If you own crown jewels, you'd better keep them in a safe. Image by Alexander Lesnitsky from Pixabay

Whether it’s expensive jewelry or important documents, you may prefer not to keep these valuables under your mattress. Where in Switzerland can you place them for protection?

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If you are not too persnickety about your possessions and don’t really care much whether they are safe in your house, you probably keep them in such open-access places like drawers, cupboards, or in a box under your bed.

And if you have an item that you really, really hope will get stolen or broken — like that ugly vase that someone gifted to you — you may even adapt a devil-may-care attitude and leave it out in the open.

But if own objects that are worth a lot of money or have sentimental  value, or have  important documents you need to safeguard, then the best way to keep them safe is in a…safe.

What you should know about renting a safe deposit box in a bank

In order to access a safe, you must have an account in a bank in which you want to rent this storage space.

Some banks have additional criteria for the renting of safe deposit boxes.

For instance, according to Moneyland consumer platform, banks “may require that you hold a specified minimum balance on the linked account to guarantee payment of rental fees."

The minimum rental period is typically one year, though some banks don’t impose minimum terms.

These rental agreements can be terminated at the end of each calendar year. If notice is not given, the contract is automatically extended for an additional year, according to Moneyland.

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How does the system work?

Safe deposit boxes normally have double locks. The key to one of the locks is held by the bank and the other remains in your possession.

While kept separately, they are interconnected. So if you lose your key, the entire lock would have to be replaced, incurring costs that could reach 1,000 francs.

Also, safes come in different sizes, which you can choose based on the volume of the items you need to keep there.

Their size is measured in litres — with the smallest one having the capacity of 10 litres, and the largest 20,000 litres — not quite enough to keep an elephant, but almost.

As for the cost, logically the smaller boxes are cheaper than the larger ones, though prices depend on the bank and the branch.

Just as a general indication, Moneyland cites between 60 and 200 francs per year for the smallest size, and as much as 10,000 francs for the largest.

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What are the advantages of a bank safe deposit box?

Aside from its primary purpose — that is, to keep your possessions safe — it also offers what many Swiss banks no longer guarantee for foreign clients: privacy and confidentiality.

READ ALSO: What you should know about Switzerland's banking secrecy

While details of your financial accounts can, and are, revealed to fiscal authorities in your home country, the contents of your safe are not.

The bank can’t unilaterally open your safe to inspect what it contains, and would do so only by court order.

Nevertheless, you are not allowed to store certain items, such as weapons and dangerous chemical or biological substances.

What about undeclared cash?

Many people stash money in their safes.

These assets should, of course, be declared, though realistically speaking, many people have been known to hide their money from tax authorities in a safe deposit box.

If this is your case, know that this is illegal — though, as mentioned above, unless a court order is in place, chances are nobody, except your conscience, will know.

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