Peace of Mind with a TSA-Approved Luggage Lock
According to the Daily Mail, there were more than 200 thefts per day from checked luggage at JFK Airport in New York in 2012. Worse, it was claimed that airport employees were doing all of the thieving and that the airlines often just marked items as "lost."
If you have had items mysteriously go missing from your checked luggage, this story may not surprise you. While it's nearly impossible to completely prevent theft from your checked bags, there are steps you can take to at least slow down a creep trying to sneak into your luggage to see what they want to take. One of these measures is a TSA-approved luggage lock.
A TSA-Approved Luggage Lock: What It Is and How It Works
A TSA-approved luggage lock is simply a small combination or hasp padlock that fits into the ends of your luggage zipper. When it's locked, the zipper can't be opened and no-one can just open your bag and take whatever looks good. But since TSA agents sometimes need to open luggage for security reasons, you can't just lock your bags and leave. Locks that are TSA-approved have a a feature that allows security to open and check your bag with a master key. When they're done checking, they lock your luggage back up and you're good to go.
These luggage locks are used by millions of travelers every day, and are described as a basic theft prevention tactic by the official TSA website.
"A CNN story on the TSA from 2010 to 2014 found people filed 30,621 claims of missing valuables, either from checked luggage or disappearing at security checkpoints."
1. UltraTuff TSA-Approved Luggage Lock - RED OPEN ALERT Indicator
This is the TSA-approved luggage lock that I use, and I have never had a performance issue with it. Other than the new bags with a built-in TSA lock described below, it's the best option I have found for luggage security when your bag is out of your sight.
It's tough and solid, and prevents my luggage from being opened by anyone other than me, and a TSA agent with a master key. I have traveled extensively through the years, and have always been bothered by the issue of unlocked luggage -- but using a regular lock meant I had to either be paged and run through the airport to be on hand while the TSA agent searched my bag, or find the lock had been cut off of in my absence. Both of these things have happened to me in the past!
I like this luggage lock because it's easy to deal with and very affordable. The red "open alert" is a good feature as well.
- High grade zinc alloy
- Tested to withstand the rigors of travel
- Relock Protection: Locks ensure the TSA agent must relock your suitcase before they can remove their key. Your luggage will be relocked & secure.
- Internal locking mechanism clicks solidly into place
- Lock can be set to a code of your choice with easy to follow instructions & pictures.
- Many uses: suitcases, travel bags, gym bags, lockers, laptop bags
- Available in a variety of colors to customize your luggage
- 365 day warranty & award winning personal customer service
- Ships directly from the US.
Reviews for this luggage lock are very positive. Users commented on the ease of operation, the open-alert indicator, and the feature that requires TSA agents to re-lock your bag after they open it -- until they lock your luggage back up, they can't remove their master key. This takes care of one of the possible drawbacks to luggage locks. With over a thousand reviews and a 4.7 star rating on Amazon, this product is an all-around winner.
Update: The New Generation of Travel-Lock Suitcases
I just started using this Oxford Luggage Expandable Suitcase Spinner with TSA Lock, and I really like it. It's a very affordable spinner bag -- under $70 -- that has all of the features a good-quality roller bag has, plus built-in TSA locks. I like this option because I no longer need to keep track of my travel locks, because they're built into the bag itself.
This design is quickly becoming the wave of the future for travel bags, even mid-price units like this one.
The Lock Graveyard: Non-TSA-Approved Locks Cut From Luggage
Right of Removal: Why a TSA-Approved Luggage Lock Is a Good Idea
According to travelinsurancereview.net, one of the best things a traveler can do to protect their belongings is to use a TSA-approved luggage lock. As a traveler, you have basically no privacy rights regarding your belongings whether you check them or carry them on board. TSA retain what is called "The Right of Removal" to search or remove your bags from any flight.
The Right of Removal
According to DepartSmart.com, "Privacy rights are not included in yourflight rights. Any member of airport security can open any bag at any time. These searches can be arbitrary or targeted. There is no way to keep Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents out of your luggage if they make a determination to search. They must have access for safety’s sake. In the most extreme cases, the agent will cut the lock off of the bag if necessary."
TSA-approved locks are by no means foolproof, but they are virtually your only option if you have a bag that zips closed. Small yet sturdy, these hasp locks hold the ends of your baggage zipper together so it can't be opened. You have the key, but the locks are designed so a verified TSA security agent can open the lock if necessary for screening.
2. TOOGOO Blue 4 Dial TSA Combination Padlock
I like the bright blue of these locks for two reasons. One, their presence on your luggage is hard to miss on the baggage carousel, so you won't accidentally pick up someone else's bag, which has happened to me, and probably also to you, and can be just a little embarrassing. Two, they could make a thief think twice about picking up a bag with such a distinguishing feature. Thieves prefer darkness and uniformity, and a bright blue lock makes their work a little bit harder.
This lock also has a four-digit code, which may make it more difficult to pick. But no matter what the number of digits, always make sure your combination isn't 000 or 123!
- Bright blue metal
- 4-dial combination lock for improved security
- Tri-circle combination padlock
- Perfect for lockers, tool boxes, luggage, sheds & bikes.
- TSA-approved lock system ensures that your bag won't be damaged by an agent who needs to open it for inspection.
The Worst Airports for Baggage Theft
The better-quality TSA-approved luggage locks now have an "open-alert indicator," which is simply a red button that pops up when the lock has been opened. Since TSA agents typically leave a notice in your bag that it was opened and searched, you can expect to find a note if your lock has been opened. If the lock's open-alert indicator says it's been opened but there's no notice, you need to contact the airline: someone may have illegally opened your luggage, a fact you wouldn't know if the lock hadn't told you.
3. TravelMore TSA Approved Luggage Locks
I love the innovative design of this lock, though I haven't tried them myself. Basically, you detach the long piece from the base, pass it through your bag's zipper, and lock it into the base. I don't know if this is an actual improvement over the traditional hasp design, but you have to give them points for trying.
- One-of-a kind straight barrel luggage lock
- 100% Travel Sentry complaint
- Made from high-strength zinc alloy.
- Stem easily slips through zipper pulls, duffle bags, purse latches, computer bags, backpacks, suitcases, briefcases and most carry-on items.
- Includes two keys
- 100%, no questions asked money back guarantee
These locks are very well-reviewed, with a solid 4.7-star rating on Amazon, and are in the top ten for 2018 according to the reviews on the HQText website. Reviewers found them dependable, affordable, and easy to use.
Baggage Thieves Caught in the Act
Luggage Locks Slow Thieves Down!
You can protect your belongings simply by making your luggage less attractive to a person with larceny in mind. A quality TSA-approved luggage lock will make a luggage thief think twice about breaking into your bags to take your things -- given the choice between a locked bag and an unlocked bag, thieves will typically go the easy route and open up the bag without a luggage lock.
4. Tarriss TSA Lock with SearchAlert (2 Pack)
This solidly built luggage lock is well-reviewed and has an open-alert feature that tells you if someone, even an approved TSA agent, has opened the lock and gone in your luggage, This lock is highly rated on several consumer report-type sites, and I like the design, which makes operating the combination a little easier. This luggage lock has a steel cable rather than a solid hasp; this may make it a little easier to cut, if a thief is determined to get into your bag.
- 100% satisfaction guaranteed; Lifetime Warranty
- Search Alert indicator turns form green to red
- Large dials with easily visible numbers
- Flexible cable allows for easier threading through zippers
- high strength Zinc Alloy
This lock sports a 4.5-star approval rating from Amazon customers. Typical user reviews mention the new wider design, which also has brighter and larger numbers for easier reading.
"Overall, nearly 14,000 travelers each year report items missing from their luggage."
Tips to Prevent Baggage Theft
- Avoid placing your more valuable possessions like cameras and computers in your checked luggage. Keep them with you in your carry-on bags.
- Write up a list of everything that's in your luggage. Don't trust your memory! Refer to the list when you arrive to make sure nothing is missing.
- Don't let your bags out of your sight when you are on a shuttle bus or checking in to your hotel.
- Brightly colored luggage deters thieves -- they don't want to be seen wheeling away your bright-green bag. Thieves prefer dark bags that look like everyone else's.
- Go straight to the baggage claim when you land. If you leave your bag circling on the carousel, you give thieves more time to get to it.
5. Brinks 22mm Solid Brass Luggage Lock
My experience with key locks, as opposed to combination locks, was good. The reason I switched from these strong key luggage locks to a combination was that I was worried I would lose the key. Not being a TSA agent, I didn't have a master key in case that happened.
These Brinks TSA-approved luggage locks are solid brass and look sharp. The design is classic and clean, and the manufacturer, Brinks, has been in the business of securing valuable for a long, long time. If you're looking for a good TSA lock and don't mind keeping track of keys, these are an excellent choice.
- Solid brass construction
- Brinks name is among the most recognized and trusted
- Good looking locks help make your back identifiable
- Excellent value for the price
- Lifetime Warranty
Happy, Secure Travels!
Here's a Good Place to Find Cool Luggage Tags
Hey if you have the time, check out my recent article about some pretty cool luggage tags::
The following sources were used in writing this guide: