Guide to TSA Luggage Locks
When you travel, your luggage should be securely protected with TSA-approved luggage locks. TSA-approved locks all fit a universal master key only accessible by TSA agents that is used to inspect luggage on an as-needed basis. As only TSA agents have access to the master key, your luggage remains securely locked when handled by anyone else.
Luggage locks that are TSA-approved protect your luggage as well as its contents. TSA agents will break locks not approved by the TSA off bags to inspect luggage contents, leaving the bag’s contents vulnerable to theft and possibly damaging your bags.
We recommend using TSA luggage locks on your suitcase. At the same time, we understand some confusion exists concerning what type of TSA locks to use, how to set combinations on TSA-approved locks, and how to reset a luggage lock if you forget your combination. We’ll answer your concerns here.
Where Can I Buy TSA-Approved Locks?
You can buy TSA-approved luggage locks at airport kiosks, local luggage stores, and online outlets. A TSA-approved lock’s packaging will clearly state the lock is approved by the TSA. Avoid luggage locks that do not make this claim.
If you want to know if your lock was opened by a TSA master key, purchase a lock with a red/green indicator. The indicator is set to green and only switches to red if the bag was opened for inspection. You can reset the indicator for future trips using a paperclip, pen, or other slender-pointed object.
Which Types of Luggage Locks are TSA approved?
You can choose several types of TSA-approved locks to fit your personal needs. Possibilities include:
- Key Locks are traditional padlocks that use a physical key to open and close the lock. One of the most common types of TSA-approved travel locks, key locks are affordable ways to keep your suitcase contents safe. One word of caution: The key for a travel key lock is small and easy to lose. Keep your key in a secure place, or you could find yourself locked out of your luggage, in which case you’ll need a small hacksaw to cut through the lock.
- Combination Locks are a good choice for anyone who doesn't want to keep track of small travel lock keys. These locks use a three or four-digit combination. The lock has a keyhole for the TSA master key, and as long as you don't forget your combination, you won't be locked out of your suitcase.
- Cable Locks are combination locks that use a semi-flexible cable to lock instead of the traditional metal clip. The cable's flexibility is a plus, as the lock can be used for various applications, including locking strongboxes. Some cable locks come with retractable cables that store in the lock.
- Key Card Locks use a key card similar to those used to open hotel rooms. Like combination locks, TSA-approved key card locks have a keyhole for the TSA master key. The key card is credit card size, and fits easily into a purse or wallet.
Can I Lock My Luggage on a Flight?
Travelers sometimes express concern about whether they are allowed to lock their luggage on flights. The answer is yes, you can and should secure your bags on all flights. The rules for domestic and international flights, however, are slightly different.
Can I Lock My Luggage on a Domestic Flight?
You can lock your luggage on a domestic flight. Whether or not you choose to do so depends on what you’re transporting. A lock provides extra security and peace of mind if you’re checking in a suitcase with expensive clothing or valuable items inside. A lock may not be needed if you’re traveling with a carry-on bag filled with inexpensive items.
Should I Lock My Luggage for International Flights?
Luggage locks are necessary when traveling internationally to secure your belongings and minimize theft risk. Some areas of the world have problems with luggage theft in and around airports. A securely locked suitcase is less likely to be stolen than one that can be quickly opened, riffled through for valuables, and discarded.
You can use TSA-approved luggage locks internationally, but not all international airport security have access to the TSA master key. In countries where the key is unavailable, security agents may break TSA locks to inspect bags, which could damage your bag and leave you in need of luggage repair. Fortunately, many popular international destinations now use the TSA master key, at least at major airports. Check the following chart to see if your destination uses the TSA master key:
How Can I Reset My Luggage Lock?
Resetting a combination luggage lock is easy if you’re entering a new combination for the first time or changing a known combination. The process is more complicated if you have forgotten the combination. Here’s how to handle each of those situations.
How to Create a New Password With A New TSA Lock
Traveling using a TSA-approved lock’s factory setting is risky — it’s like using ‘password’ as an online password, so you should enter a new combination before traveling. You may also want to change your combination to keep someone who knows your password out of your bag.
Changing an Integrated TSA Lock Password
Changing the password for suitcases with integrated TSA locks requires a slightly different approach:
- Set the lock dial to 0000 or your current password.
- Slide the release button towards the dials to confirm the lock will release.
- Insert a pointy object, such as a glass repair screwdriver, into the reset button. You do not need to hold the button down.
- Set the deal to the new password.
- Poised the release button towards the dials to confirm the new code. The reset button will click and release if you set the code correctly.
- Test the new password by turning the dials to a number other than the new code, then push the release button. The dials should not release.
- Insert the bag's zipper tabs into their slots while the preferred number is displayed. The tabs should release.
Once you get the lock open, remember the combination or add it to your phone. A common traveler's trick is to add a fake name and phone number to their phone’s contact list, using the combination for the last number of the phone number.
TSA-approved luggage locks provide the most protection when paired with high-quality, well-made luggage. Check out luggage sets from Travelpro to find the bags and suitcases airline professionals use.