Hotel Room Safes: May Not Be as Safe as You Think

BY Beth Williams

You know not to leave your valuables out in plain view when you leave your hotel room and to use the hotel room safe to secure them. Thefts of valuables from hotel room safes, while not rampant, are a real problem, even in the best of hotels. Master keys, master key cards, and override codes in the wrong hands make it easy to open a hotel safe. Most new safes come with an override code of 0000 or 9999. When safes get installed in a hotel room it is the responsibility of the hotel to change the override code that the safe came with. Thieves and dishonest hotel employees that have access to your room can use the code to access your safe. Typically one of a few codes, like 0000 or something similar, will open the safe.  Learn what you can do to not be a victim of hotel room safe theft.

How Does Hotel Room Safe Theft Happen?

Theft from hotel in-room safes is not an everyday occurrence, but it does happen. Hotel guests do forget their safe codes or safe electronics may malfunction. Therefore, the hotel staff has to have some way to open a hotel room safe. Hotels all have a special “electronic backdoor” that allows them to use a special digital code, key, or electronic device to open the safe if needed. So you are truly not the only one with access to your safe. This short video offers a quick overview.

Multiple Ways Hotel Staff Can Open a Hotel Room Safe, A Clear Explanation

Video – See How Easy it is to Unlock a Hotel Room Safe with Simple Tools

The below video shows that the metal nameplate on one brand of common hotel room safes can be easily removed revealing a backup keyhole underneath. Using nothing more than a simple pocket tool and a short length of wire, the safe can be easily opened. The interesting part is when the safe door is then closed, it automatically locks itself again like nothing’s happened. So when a traveler returns to their hotel room they’ll see the safe door is closed and assume it’s locked and secure.

Solution Use a Hotel Room Safe Lock or A Personal Portable Safe to Safeguard Your Valuables

Milockie Hotel Safe Lock - Use your own lock to prevent unauthorized entry

Milockie Hotel Safe Lock Use your own lock to prevent unauthorized entry

Milockie Hotel Room Safe Lock

A secondary lock, the Milockie, is a visual deterrent in addition to blocking the opening of the safe door even if a passcode or key is used. The Milockie prevents the hotel safe door from swinging open even if the safe is unlocked and is kept in place with a padlock that only you know the code to.

Alternative security solutions include bringing your own portable safe. Available in different sizes a portable travel safe is highly effective. Most thieves are opportunistic. To breach a portable safe a thief needs a large wire cutting/bolt cutting tool that most hotel employees or others don’t have on their person.

Typically a portable travel safe folds flat so that you can pack it in your luggage for use at your destination. Most safes are made of puncture or cut-proof fabric and cinch closed with a steel cable. Some portable safe have wire mesh reinforced sides. It is these features that make breaching the portable safes extremely difficult.

An additional benefit of a portable safe is that you can use it outside of your hotel room too. They work in rental cars, attached to pool chairs, bikes, or even at home.

Most Common Types of Hotel Room Safes

Electronic Keypad Room Safe

This type of safe is commonly found in mainstream hotels and resorts and in many ways is the one that MAY have the least amount of thefts from it. That’s because it requires a handheld computer device to open the safe. These safes require the attachment of a handheld PDA, with either an infra-red USB or cable. The units store up to 50 entries, incorrect PIN entry, and it’s all-time and date stamped. These can be attached to a PC, where audit reports can be printed for police and insurance purposes. These units DO NOT have a hotel override, it reveals the guest PIN.

Electronic Keypad Safe With Keypad Override Access

These types of hotel room safes require the use of an override *sequence*, not just a PIN number. This type of safe is almost as good as the one previously mentioned, as it contains a removable chip, which can access all the same data as above.

Electronic Keypad Access With Manual Safety Key

These room safes are not as secure as the previous two. This style requires the moving of the safe to enter a key and entering an override code. They record the time and date of the override entry, but nothing else. Refer below as to who *should* hold the spare key.

Manual Key Safe With Safety Key Access

This is a very old room safe model and is becoming rarer as time passes as hotels remodel and replace them with newer electronic versions. Yes, they do have spare keys, but reputable hotels don’t keep them accessible – even to management. It’s often kept in a fire-safe with either the general cashier or hotel management – we would hope – but many times who knows where this key is and who has access to it?

Where Do Hotel Room Safe Thefts Occur?

Thefts from hotel safes usually involve dishonest hotel employees, and these types of thefts seem to have a higher rate of being reported in hotels outside the United States. To read some of these hotel in-room safe theft stories reported by travelers, click on this TripAdvisor link

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