What are TSA-Acceptable Locks?

Secure Your Belongings For Peace of Mind

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) might have authority to regulate the type of locks your family uses on your luggage when you travel, but it doesn't do it. You can use any type of lock that pleases you. But should you use a TSA-approved lock? There are reasons to say yes and reasons to say no.

What Is a TSA-Approved Lock?

No law says that you have to lock your checked luggage, but many people do, especially if they are carrying valuable items. When you are traveling with kids, each child has some precious items that would be missed dearly if stolen. You can choose among many different types of locks for your family suitcases, and each one probably offers some protection from thieves.

However, thieves are not the only people who seek access to your bags. The TSA is charged with transportation security. As part of this duty, the TSA agents sometimes need to search or otherwise access bags that have been checked in by passengers before a flight.

TSA-approved luggage locks are designed with the TSA in mind. These are locks that can be opened with a universal key, a key that TSA agents carry with them.

Reasons to Use TSA-Approved Locks

What happens if the TSA decides to search your bag or one of your kids' bags and it is secured with a regular lock? The TSA agents will have to break the lock. This will ruin the lock, which means that the bag will travel the remainder of the trip without it.

Worse, the bag may also be damaged. And don't look to the TSA or the airline to pay for the damage. Neither is liable.

If you lock your bag with a TSA-approved lock, the agent simply opens it with a universal key. When she is done with the search, she locks the bag again. Your bag will be returned locked and undamaged.

Reasons Not to Use TSA-Approved Locks

Some people complain that when they use TSA-approved locks, valuable items are removed from their suitcases. There have been complaints that the TSA agents are searching their bags and stealing their items. This is not entirely far-fetched. According to the TSA, it has fired some 500 agents since 2003 for theft.

Another consideration is that the locks may not be very effective in keeping thieves out. They are not very strong and can be picked. In addition, thieves may be able to get a hold of a copy of the universal key or duplicate it with a 3-D printer. That may make you think twice before shelling out the money for TSA-approved locks for the whole family.

Buying TSA-Approved Locks

You'll find a variety of TSA-compliant locks. Some are sold under the brand names Safe Skies ® and Travel Sentry®. Look for them at retail stores or online, and even in stores in larger airports.
These stores are among those that offer the locks:

  • Lowes
  • Best Buy
  • REI
  • Amazon
  • Walgreens
  • Target
  • Sears
  • Walmart
  • Home Depot

Prices range from under $10 to over $500. They are identified with a red diamond on the lock or the packaging. However, TSA does not endorse or recommend any particular brand or retailer.

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