TSA Approved Locks : What You Should Know and Where You Can Get Them

Last updated: September 2, 2017
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It’s of paramount importance to just about every traveler, especially if they are checking a bag: get my stuff from point A to point B in one piece. There were approximately 702 million airline passengers in the most recent year, and the Transportation Security Administration(TSA) had to pay a total of $3 million in reimbursements due to 50,000 complaints of broken, lost or stolen luggage.

Passengers are taking every precaution to prevent their clothes and other personal belongings from disappearing, and one of those methods is to lock their luggage. But the TSA, as with just about everything else, has guidelines for picking the right lock (no pun intended) to secure your things.

What Type of Lock Should I Get For My Luggage? Do I need a TSA Approved Lock?

If you are going to lock your luggage (and if you have anything valuable in it you should definitely lock it), you need a TSA-approved lock.  The reason these are approved is because the TSA has a universal key which they can use to unlock it and look inside your bag, if they deem it necessary. This is true whether for your carry-on or checked luggage.

These locks are accepted by the TSA is because the makers are working in conjunction with the TSA. The locks themselves are not made of any special type of material, and many of them are not designed specifically for use on luggage. The ability for them to be opened by one universal key is why the TSA specifically suggests them.

Where Can I Get A TSA Approved Lock?

TSA approved luggage locks are available at many retailers both in store and online.  Need help finding one? We recommend using Amazon to purchase them, but here are a list of a few retailers and locations:

  • Amazon
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Home Depot

The locks are available at Lowes, CVS, Walgreens, Sears, Best Buy, and many other major retailers.  Just look for the red diamond that signifies that is is TSA approved.

What Will the TSA Do If They Need to Open a Bag?

If they do deem it necessary, they will use the aforementioned universal key to open the lock. This, of course, would only be the protocol if you’re using a TSA-approved lock. If there is a necessity to look inside your bag, and they your lock is not approved, they will cut the lock. This will destroy your lock and potentially damage your luggage.  If they do have to do this, they won’t reimburse you for the cost of the lock or your luggage.

What happens when you don't use a TSA approved lock?
Don’t let this happen to your lock! *Source TSA Official blog

The TSA is not liable for any damage caused to the lock or the bag itself if it has to be opened for security purposes. They do need to ensure that your belongings within the suitcase do not get damaged or stolen, but otherwise, they are not responsible for anything that may happen during the course of a search.

What Are the Problems With These Locks?

When it comes to TSA searches, people already feel as if their privacy is being violated. Travelers buy these locks because they think it guarantees that nothing will get damaged or go missing. But it’s apparent that this is not the case. Sometimes the lock gets ripped off when on the conveyor belt to be X-rayed, damaging the zipper and causing you to lose the lock itself. Others have claimed that their locks was tampered with, and that they routinely find that some of their things are missing after travel. This could mean that the TSA unfairly targets those who use a lock, but there is potential for other foul play as well.

Regular people have figured out a way to get their hands on the aforementioned universal key using 3D printers. People were able to figure out how to do this thanks to a Washington Post article which originally showed an in-detail photo of seven master keys used by the TSA. Even though the image was quickly deleted, copies of it can be found elsewhere. There are tutorials online for how to do this, and anyone with sinister intentions could break into your bag. The worst part, other than the celebration of this ability by many pages online, is that the TSA is essentially plugging their ears and closing their eyes trying to pretend that this problem doesn’t exist.

Given all of these problems, it’s difficult to quantify how much these TSA approved locks keep your luggage safe, if at all. However, between 2010 and 2014, the number of claims filed dropped 35 percent, and 500 TSA agents have been fired since 2003 for theft. More likely than not, locking your bag with a TSA-approved lock will provide more protection for your valuables.

Conclusion?  Lock that luggage!


  1. Is it safe if I have suitcase with built in TSA approved lock? I heard from many cases that TSA broke their suitcase even they have TSA approved lock?

  2. Can you bring a baggie with a gel frozen ice? Need to transport probiotics that need to be cold.

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