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A safe deposit box, sometimes incorrectly called a safety deposit box (neologism from verbal "safe de"), is an individually secured container, usually held within a larger safe or bank vault. Safe deposit boxes are generally located in banks, post offices or other institutions. Safe deposit boxes are used to store valuable possessions, such as gemstones, precious metals, currency, marketable securities, important documents such as wills, property deeds, and birth certificates, or computer data storage that need protection from theft, fire, flood, tampering, or other perils. When renting out a safe deposit box in a bank in the United States does not mean that the property is automatically insured. An individual should still purchase insurance for the safe deposit box in order to cover theft and other natural disasters.
In the typical arrangement, a renter pays the bank a fee for the use of the box, which can be opened only with presentation of an assigned key, the bank's own guard key, the proper signature, and perhaps a code of some sort. Some banks additionally use biometric dual-control security to complement the conventional security procedures. The security measures utilized by many institutions often make safe deposit boxes questionable repositories for wills, powers of attorney and other estate planning documents if the owner has not authorized additional signatories on the account.
Many hotels, resorts and cruise ships also offer safe deposit boxes or small safes to their patrons, for temporary use during their stay. These facilities may be located behind the reception desk, or instead be securely anchored within private guest rooms for privacy.