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Gringotts is considered rather safe, but its security has been under question since the attempted robbery back in the first book. Furthermore, as shown in that book and in Deathly Hallows, it's a bit of a pain to visit your vault and withdraw from it. I'd also speculate that the goblins don't store your wealth for free, but that is speculation.

Now, take someone like James and Lily Potter. That is, any two people with valuable shared stuff to protect (emphasis on "shared", we don't want another Wormtail), enough money to afford good protection, and with both knowledge of the existence of the Fidelius Charm and access to someone who can cast it. I'd pick a better example like the Malfoy family, but I can't recall anything that shows that they know of the Fidelius Charm. Under these circumstances, why bother with owning a bank vault? I can see the following advantages of using the Fidelius Charm to hide your valuables rather than using a bank vault:

  • You can hide your valuables anywhere that you want. There's no need to bother with the trip to and through Gringotts. Just Apparate.
  • You only need to get the spell cast once. If need be, the location of the "vault" can be passed down your family line.
  • The protection of the charm is unbreakable, unlike Gringotts, which is merely very safe and vulnerable to impersonation.
  • It costs nothing to maintain a Fidelius Charm "vault". At worst, you only have to pay for initial casting of the spell.
  • Nobody knows what you're storing in there, unlike Gringotts where you've got bring your valuables to the bank, risk getting robbed or seen on the way, and give them to a goblin who might take a look.
  • No ministry involvement. If the Malfoy family used this to hide their dark artefacts back in book 2, they'd have safely survived the ministry's raids. If Dumbledore wants to will you a really good sword, he can!
  • If you need a really good place to hide from a nasty dark lord, you can hide in your "vault".

So, knowing all of that, why bother using a Gringotts vault if you have access to Fidelius?

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  • 4
    The Fidelius Charm isn't exactly foolproof? Did you read the tale about what happened to the Potters? Now imagine the Secret Keeper knowing all your wealth is stored away somewhere. People do silly irrational things for wealth all the time.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 12:40
  • @TheLethalCarrot Oh, I forgot to make a note about that. Give me a moment to fix.
    – J. Mini
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 12:42
  • You know banks give you money to store your own money there? Gringotts goblins aren't going to charge you rent, they're going to loan and invest, like every other bank. Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 13:09
  • @marcellothearcane That doesn't apply to all banks, all bank accounts, or even all countries. We have no idea if Gringotts pays interest or not. In fact, given that you can walk in to your vault and see the gold, they're probably not reinvesting it.
    – J. Mini
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 13:20
  • 1
    @marcellothearcane Going by both the first and last books, Gringotts Vaults appear to act more like Safety Deposit Boxes (for which you pay rent to the bank) than savings accounts (for which the bank pay you interest) Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 15:22

3 Answers 3

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There are a few things you will need to consider:

You can hide your valuables anywhere that you want. There's no need to bother with the trip to and through Gringotts. Just Apparate.

Not so, you will have to own the space before trying to turn it into your personal vault. It's much easier to get money (and other services, like forgery identification, currency conversion, etc) right in the street where most of the commerce is - Diagon Alley

You only need to get the spell cast once. If need be, the location of the "vault" can be passed down your family line.

The Fidelius charm has a flaw where once the person that cast it died, everyone who knows now has the power to divulge the secret. I'm sure we've all read enough about naïve/prodigal family members to know that having thoughtless children in power of the family fortune is a bad idea. There's also the question of divorces. Having revocable access to vaults (like how Hagrid and Bill were able to withdraw money on Harry's behalf) is very useful.

The protection of the charm is unbreakable, unlike Gringotts, which is merely very safe and vulnerable to impersonation.

The protection is not unbreakable - dark wizards broke the Fidelius charm on the burrow and other places in book 7. Also there's the flaw about transferring knowledge I mentioned previously.

It costs nothing to maintain a Fidelius Charm "vault". At worst, you only have to pay for initial casting of the spell.

As I mentioned earlier, you have to own the real estate. Yes, you could possibly protect a garden shed, but then that causes issues for where to store your lawnmower. It's much easier for the upkeep of a vault at Gringotts to be covered by goblins than trying to keep another piece of property up together.

Nobody knows what you're storing in there, unlike Gringotts where you've got bring your valuables to the bank, risk getting robbed or seen on the way, and give them to a goblin who might take a look.

Goblins are very laissez-faire about the contents of the vault, as shown by the Lestrange vault, and vault 395. The goblins would not rob vaults within Gringotts themselves, or they would lose all their customers, the same way your bank doesn't rob you.

No ministry involvement. If the Malfoy family used this to hide their dark artefacts back in book 2, they'd have safely survived the ministry's raids. If Dumbledore wants to will you a really good sword, he can!

The ministry has no control over Gringotts, so dark objects can be stored with impunity. The Malfoys stored dark objects under their living room floor, which is entirely different.

If you need a really good place to hide from a nasty dark lord, you can hide in your "vault".

There was a really nasty dark lord hiding inside the Malfoy Manor at one point, so this is a moot point. And really nasty dark lords don't like being subject to another person remembering to feed of them.

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  • Was the Burrow under a Fidelius Charm in Book 7? Grimmauld Place was, but it's never explained whether or not a Secret Keeper taking someone to a location that is under Fidelius counts as "revealing the secret" or not... (Plus, Snape) Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 14:58
  • @Chronocidal I'm not so sure now - I thought Tonk's parents + other order houses were - "We've given them every magical protection we can" but Harry was able to enter without knowing the secret. Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 16:33
  • @marcellothearcace I'm looking though the book now; Bill says that Arthur & Molly are at Aunt Muriel's, protected by the Fidelius Charm, and also says "we've done it on this cottage too; I'm Secret Keeper here" - except, in the previous chapter, Ron tells Dobby "Bill and Fleur's, Shell Cottage on the outskirts of Tinworth". The question then becomes, is the secret "Bill and Fleur Weasley live at Shell Cottage", allowing Ron to reveal that they have a house, and that Shell Cottage is on the outskirts of Tinworth, without people connecting the two facts? Or, is it just a huge plot hole? Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 19:57
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In "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", Professor Flitwick describes the Fidelius charm thusly:

An immensely complex spell involving the magical concealment of a secret inside a single, living soul

This suggests that it might be beyond the capabilities of the typical Witch or Wizard.

In addition, the Potters were told about the spell by Dumbledore (whether they did not know about it before that, or just had not considered it before that is unknown), while "average" members of the Wizarding world do not know what the spell does:

Fudge dropped his voice and proceeded in a sort of low rumble. "[…]Well, of course, You-Know-Who wasn't an easy person to hide from. Dumbledore told them that their best chance was the Fidelius charm."

"How does that work?" said Madam Rosmerta, breathless with interest.

I suspect (although there is no evidence in the books to suggest so) that Minister Fudge may have been made privy to certain Fidelius-protected secrets when he became Minister for Magic. Professors Flitwick and McGonagall both knew the Potters (and that they were put under Fidelius), plus as a Charms Master, Flitwick is likely to know some obscure or unusual charms. Meanwhile, Madam Rosmerta, our "everywitch" stand-in for the scene, has apparently never heard of the Fidelius charm.

This would make it somewhat difficult for her to use the spell to protect her gold.

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  • I´m a scientist, and I know a lot of things that would be useful to many other people in their everyday life, but they don´t know and don´t care.
    – Karl
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 21:06
  • Or, citing Arthur C. Clarke: Any sufficiently advanced technology is undistinguishable from magic. ;-)
    – Karl
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 21:07
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One reason why people use Gringotts is because they probably don't know about the Fidelius charm.

A second possible reason is prestige: People like Tom Riddle didn't own a vault. To own a Gringotts vault is a privilege.

2
  • 1) Do you have any evidence that Fidelius is not common knowledge? 2) Do people brag about having a vault?
    – DavidW
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 13:24
  • 1
    this seems more like a guess than an answer
    – Shreedhar
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 13:39

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