When bank branches close over coronavirus fears, customers may find safe-deposit boxes suddenly off-limits

Arizona News Business
CLOSE

When several banks closed some of their Arizona branches out of social-distancing concerns this month, most customers did little more than shrug.

After all, in-branch visits, for most people, aren’t the preferred way to interact with banks and haven’t been for many years. Conducting banking over the internet and using mobile apps is much more popular.

Besides, few banks shut down their entire networks but rather, only a portion of their offices. That meant customers still could drop by another nearby branch in the network if necessary.

But for those people with safe-deposit boxes held at a specific bank location, the closures come as yet one more coronavirus-related inconvenience.

Snowbirds affected

Ray McCarty, an 80-year-old snowbird, said he found that out the hard way when Chase closed his branch in Bullhead City on March 19.

McCarty, a veteran and retired Los Angeles motorcycle police officer, said the Bullhead City branch at 1465 Palma Way was popular because it offered safe-deposit boxes and a full range of banking services.

“Many RVers from out of state and Canada choose this one branch of Chase each year because it is the only full-service branch in a wide radius offering safety-deposit boxes and large open parking for motor homes,” McCarty said in an email. “I personally have been with Chase more than 25 years.”

Along with Chase, which temporarily closed about 1,000 branches nationally — one-fifth of its branch network — competitors including Wells Fargo, BBVA USA and Johnson Financial Group also have shut down some of their Arizona offices out of precautions not to spread the coronavirus. 

Chase reopened the Bullhead City branch late in the morning of March 24, but various other offices are still closed.

Key documents off-limits

McCarty said it has became worrisome because he and many of his friends and neighbors in the area keep important documents in their safe-deposit boxes, including health records and estate-planning directives, vehicle or home titles, passports and valuables.

McCarty said the closure came without warning,and he said the company didn’t do a good job of keeping customers informed. Maura Cordova, a Chase spokeswoman in Phoenix, said the company is “actively working on a solution to safely and securely give our customers access to safe-deposit boxes located in temporarily closed branches.”

AIRBNB WOES:  Widespread cancellations devastate Arizona hosts amid pandemic

McCarty worries that others might need to return to their home states or countries without having access to their safe-deposit boxes, at branches that remain shuttered.

For people with safe-deposit boxes who never thought twice about having access to the contents, the lesson in this new age of social distancing seems clear enough: Make sure you know what’s in your box, and if there’s any possibility of needing those items over the next few weeks, take them out now. 

Reach the reporter at russ.wiles@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8616.

Read or Share this story: https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/consumers/2020/03/24/safe-deposit-boxes-inaccessible-to-some-as-bank-branches-close-over-coronavirus/2899914001/

Leave a Reply