Best Luggage Locks: Selecting a TSA Lock

BY Travel Writer

Guide to TSA Luggage Locks – Which Lock to Choose

Many travelers ask,”should I lock my luggage?” Yes, however,you should only travel with a luggage lock that has the dual function of locking your luggage while still allowing for inspection of your bags by the TSA. You may need to upgrade your luggage lock to a TSA approved lock, here’s why. The Transportation Security Administration of the United States Department of Homeland Security know as the TSA protects the nation’s airports and screens all commercial airline passengers and their baggage to keep us safe while flying. If you don’t use TSA accepted luggage locks you risk removal of your locks by a TSA inspector and potential damage to your bags.

What are TSA Approved Luggage Locks? 

TSA approved means the TSA has a master key that will open any TSA approved luggage lock, instead of breaking, cutting, or damaging a standard (non-TSA) lock to open it and gain access to your luggage. Two lock manufacturers—Travel Sentry and Safe Skies have worked with the TSA to create TSA-approved locks under various brands that can be opened with a TSA master key.  What is good for you is that the TSA’s master keys feature a special mechanism that enforces re-locking of the lock after inspection. This is accomplished by the functionality of the master key. The key cannot be removed from the luggage lock body until the luggage lock is re-secured by the TSA screener. TSA screeners no longer have to cut locks or force your bag open and risk damaging it, if you travel with a TSA accepted lock. If you do not use a TSA accepted luggage lock they have the right to damage and remove your lock to gain entry to your luggage for inspection.

Where are TSA Locks Recognized? 

In addition, to the US and US territories, the UK, Canada, and Australia are also using this system.  In other countries, they may flag your bag for inspection. Usually, they require you to open it at the counter when you are physically present unlike the US, where they may do it later after you have checked your bags. In this case, you are not present to unlock your luggage lock, and the airport agents have the right to break your luggage lock if it is not a TSA accepted lock.

What is Search Alert? 

TSA approved luggage lock

When a TSA agent needs to check your luggage and uses their override device on the TSA accepted lock, the SearchAlert window on the lock changes from “Green” to “Red.”   If upon arrival your luggage lock’s Search Alert window is “Red” you’ll need to open your luggage to see if a TSA “Notification of Baggage Inspection” has been placed inside. If no notification is found then, you should check to see if anything is missing or if something has been added to your luggage. Do this at the airline baggage claim office. If the window shows green, your bag has not been opened. Only you, the owner of the lock can reset the window back to green; the TSA cannot do it so you’re good to go.

Different Types of TSA Luggage Locks & Their Unique Functions

 Triple Lockdown Luggage Lock

Lewis N Clark triple lock lugggae lockOne of the most common methods thieves use to enter bags with zippers is to split the zipper open with a pen or similar tool, take what they want, and reseal the zipper by sliding the zipper pull over the open portion of the zipper.  When your luggage bag is opened in this manner, it leaves no visual clue that your bag was broken into. Double flexible cable technology stops this type of theft. Attach one end of the lock to your bag handle and the other to the zipper pulls. This prevents the traveling of the zipper pulls by keeping them in place. Click here to read more!

TSA Flexible Cable Luggage Lock 

This lock design is probably the easiest to use. A strong, durable, flexible steel cable, (coated in rubber) is designed to thread more easily through the holes in zipper pulls than a hard formed shank. Also the wider design has dials that are easier to see and use. The Search Alert security window changes from green to red if the lock has been opened by the TSA. If your window is red, you know to check your bag for missing items prior to leaving the airport. Click here to read more!

Sure Lock- Easy to Read and Many Colors

The  SureLock uses an ultra tough alloy body to protect it from the harshest of baggage handling. The hardened stainless steel internal lock mechanisms won’t rust or freeze up even after years of use. This locks is backed with a complete money back guarantee. Available in many colors and multi-packs. Click here to read more!

Brinks Solid Brass Key Lock, 2-Pack

The best feature of this lock set is that the locks are keyed alike, so one key works on both locks. No fumbling trying to find the right key and no remembering of a combination code. The lock body is made of solid brass and the shanks are solid steel. If you need more locks they are also available in a 4 pack that are keyed alike. Life time warranty from a company that is synonymous with security. Click here to read more!

Pacsafe Strapsafe 100 Luggage Strap

pacsafe strap safe tsa luggage strapBaggage Constrictor TM technology means the strap cannot be loosened when locked. Great for hard case luggage! When the TSA secured access device is used to open the lock, the lock’s security window changes color from green to red. When you retrieve your luggage, all you have to do is look at the Search Alert security window. If it is still green, no one has entered your bag.  Click here to read more!

Buying New Luggage?

Now you can purchase suitcases with built-in TSA-approved locks. This feature eliminates the chances of you losing a lock during the baggage handling process or otherwise. Another reason to consider a new bag with a built-in TSA lock is that most bags with built-in locks are “hard sided” and virtually impossible for an opportunistic thief to breach, offering more security for your possessions than soft-sided bags which could be sliced open.

Beyond Luggage Locks and Checked Bags

Locked bags discourage opportunistic thieves who will take advantage of bags without locks. However, even the most robust locks will not keep out those who are truly determined to break into your bag. That’s why we always recommend that you should place any valuables, including medications, electronics, and jewelry in your carry-on bag and not your checked luggage. If you must place an item of value in your luggage, take photos of it and your bag. It’s also worth it to investigate various travel and trip insurance polices to see if they cover loss as airlines typically don’t accept liability for the loss of expensive items such as jewelry, electronic equipment, or fragile souvenirs.