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How to get a bank locker

Zeenat Nazir

Posted: May 07, 2007 at 1431 hrs IST

So, your grandmother has finally gifted you that coveted set of bejewelled earrings. A few days of publicly flaunting the ornament, and it is time for a more important task — securing the precious family heirloom. Enter, safe deposit vaults. With banks offering a range of options on lockers, picking the right one can be quite a challenge. Here’s what you need to know to make the right choice.

Who can get it
A locker can be assigned to any adult, firm or association, on a single or joint basis. All you need to do is fill out a simple locker application form and locker agreement, agreeing to abide by its terms and conditions, and pay the deposit and the rent.

Most banks insist on some kind of financial collateral. So, they give a locker only to their existing account holders, or to those who agree to open an account (savings or current) or make a fixed deposit that covers rentals for three years and charges for breaking open the locker in case of an eventuality.

For instance, account holders of Punjab National Bank (PNB), by virtue of having an account, are automatically eligible to get a locker with their branch. Those without accounts can avail of the service by opening an FD that has sufficient balance to cover the rent for a year — in PNB’s case, Rs 4,000 for small lockers, Rs 6,000 for medium lockers and Rs 10,000 for large lockers.

Another public sector bank, Bank of Baroda, too, gives lockers only to its customers. From others, it demands a deposit of at least Rs 5,000 when the annual locker rent is Rs 1,000; Rs 10,000 if the rent exceeds Rs 1,000. The deposit is accepted as a three-year FD. Options are also available for those who don’t want to open an account with the bank to avail of its locker facility. ICICI Bank, for example, asks for just an upfront annual rental payment.

What’s available
As with eligibility requirements, locker sizes vary across banks. Most banks offer basic options: small, medium and large. But it’s not necessary that the ‘small’ locker in ICICI Bank will be of the same size as the ‘small’ locker in Bank of Baroda. So, when you compare, ask for dimensions in all options. Dimensions are measured in cubic inches (length x height x depth). At HDFC Bank, for instance, lockers come in four sizes: small (864 cubic inches), medium (1,728 cubic inches), large (3,456 cubic inches) and extra-large (30,824 cubic inches). To put it in perspective, the small locker (864 cubic inches), if it is a cube, will be about 9.5 inches each in length, height and depth.

How much does it cost
Besides size, rentals depend on the city you are in; sometimes, even where the branch is located within a city. The rule of thumb is the more economically progressive a city or location, the higher the rental. So, for instance, rentals in New Delhi will be generally higher than in Pune. And within Delhi, a branch in the prime Connaught Place area will charge more than in a suburb like Mayur Vihar. Says Neeraj Jha, spokesperson, HDFC Bank: “Our rentals vary from Rs 500-20,000 depending on the size and the city. We have categorised cities into major metro (Mumbai, Delhi), small metro (Chennai), mini metro (Pune, Coimbatore) and others. So, an extra-large locker — about 10 times the size of a large one — in a major metro will cost Rs 20,000 a year.”

Not only is there great variance within a bank, there is also variance in rentals across banks. While HDFC charges an annual rental of Rs 500-20,000, ICICI’s rates range from Rs 2,000-5,000. In general, public sector banks charge less. Vijaya Bank, for instance, charges Rs 1,000-3,800. Of the many banks we screened, the most competitive was another public sector bank, PNB: Rs 550 for small, Rs 1,000 for medium and Rs 2,000 for large, regardless of the city you are in.

Some banks are offering sweeteners and discounts to woo customers. Says U.S. Bhargava, general manager, PNB: “We are offering personal accident insurance cover — death only — of Rs 2 lakh to all our new locker holders, for one year from the date of leasing the locker. We also giving concessions of up to 20 per cent if the hirer pays the rent in lumpsum for five years.” Similarly, HDFC is offering discounts on rentals, of 25-50 per cent across different customers.

How to choose
While choosing a locker, your first consideration should be location, as you wouldn’t like to travel long distances with valuables. So, look at branches in your neighbourhood. If you are in a metro, even a tier-II city, you should have ample options.

Your next consideration should be ease of transaction. Having your locker in the same branch in which you hold an account means you can pack in a locker transaction with your other banking transactions. But, if your bank is charging more, shop around. Making a fixed deposit with another bank — the precondition for a locker if you don’t have an account with it — is not a big ask. It’s worth it if it ensures safety of grandma’s earnings at a lower cost.

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