The 9 Best TSA-Approved Locks of 2021

Keep your belongings secure throughout your travels

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TRIPSAVVY-best-tsa-approved-locks

TripSavvy / Chloe Jeong

The Rundown

Best Overall: Tarriss TSA Lock with SearchAlert at Amazon

"There’s an indicator called SearchAlert that turns from green to red when the bag has been opened."

Best for Backpacks: Master Lock Combination Lock at Amazon

"The cable is covered in a tough and flexible vinyl so that the lock can withstand the rough life of a carry-on."

Best Budget: Anvil 3 Digit Luggage Cable Lock at Amazon

"Reviewers have applauded the color coding opportunities."

Best Splurge: Talonlock Keyless TSA Approved Luggage Lock at Amazon

"This lock comes with a lifetime guarantee and is near-impossible to pick, thanks to the lack of combination and seamless design."

Best for Durability: Lewis N. Clark 3-Dial Combination Lock at Amazon

"The extra-long cord makes it possible to secure bags to each other."

Best Cable Lock: LuminTrail TSA Approved Cable Luggage Lock at Amazon

"The lock comes with an extra 4-foot cable for securing luggage together or zipper pulls."

Best Combination Lock: Forge TSA Luggage Combination Lock at Amazon

"These locks are designed so that the TSA agent has to re-lock the suitcase in order to remove their key."

Best Key Lock: Master Lock Padlock at Amazon

"Master Lock’s padlock is designed with a front access, which makes locking and unlocking easier on the wrists."

Best Retractable Cable Lock: Lewis N. Clark Retractable Cable Lock at Amazon

"It provides plenty of flexibility for securing multiple pieces of luggage or looping your zipper pulls together."

There are a lot of “what ifs” when you’re traveling. One of the most common worst-case scenarios is having your luggage tampered with somewhere between home and your destination. If there’s anything you can do to help keep that from becoming reality, it's purchasing a TSA-approved lock for your luggage. It’s an inexpensive way to keep your belongings safe.

TSA locks can seem a bit mysterious, but they’re the easiest way to add some security to the travel process. There are all kinds of styles, from combination locks and cable locks to classic key locks and keyless locks with card access. The best part: TSA-approved locks are no more expensive than non-approved locks, and they're easy to find.

Like many travel accessories, there are an overwhelming number of TSA-approved locks to choose from. That’s where our research comes into play: We dug into the best locks that will keep your personal items safe, broken down by type (and you’ve got plenty of options). Read on for our picks.

Best Overall: Tarriss TSA Lock with SearchAlert

Tarriss TSA Lock with SearchAlert (2 Pack)

Amazon

Aside from being incredibly durable, this cable lock has a built-in system that lets you know when the TSA has opened your bag. There’s an indicator called SearchAlert that turns from green to red when the bag has been opened. This Tarriss lock comes in a set of two, and the flexible cables make it easy to attach to any kind of bag or luggage.

Best for Backpacks: Master Lock Combination Lock

This steel option from Master Lock has a slighter design than other options, making it a good pick for smaller pieces of luggage and backpacks. The cable is covered in a tough and flexible vinyl so that the lock can withstand the rough life of a carry-on.

Best Budget: Anvil 3 Digit Luggage Cable Lock

These TSA-approved luggage locks come in sets of two or four, so you can outfit all of your bags for under $20. The combination locks are designed with a thin and durable steel shackle, which is great for looping into the toughest zippers. If you’re an organization enthusiast, you might be into the fact that each lock is a different hue — reviewers have applauded the color coding opportunities.

Best Splurge: Talonport Keyless TSA Approved Luggage Lock

If keys and combinations are not your style, and you don’t mind investing a bit more money for the sake of convenience, consider this option from Talonport. The device is unlocked using a card that can easily be stored in a wallet. This lock comes with a lifetime guarantee and is near-impossible to pick, thanks a seamless design and lack of combination. Plus, if you lose the card, Talonlock will send you a replacement, free of charge.

Best for Durability: Lewis N. Clark 3-Dial Combination Lock

The 3-Dial Combination Lock from Lewis N. Clark has double security in the form of a 4-foot coated steel cable and a durable shackle. The extra-long cord makes it possible to secure bags to each other or secure your belongings to a desk in a hotel room or a seat in an airport terminal. It may not be the most beautiful design, but it’s a heavy-duty option that will give you one less thing to worry about on travel day. Weighing in at less than 2 ounces, it will surprise you with the power it packs.

Best Cable Lock: LuminTrail TSA Approved Cable Luggage Lock

With three color options, this TSA-approved lock from Lumintrail prioritizes flexibility. The steel cable attached to the lock is thin enough to slip through the smallest of zippers, and it comes with an extra 4-foot cable that works great for securing luggage together or stabilizing zipper pulls. If you find yourself in need of a TSA-approved lock that will work just as well for your backpack as it does your hard-sided luggage, opt for this flexible cable lock.

Best Combination Lock: Forge TSA Luggage Combination Lock

Forge’s combination locks come with special keys that feature a dimpled design, making the locks much harder to pick. If you’ve ever retrieved your luggage and noticed the lock hanging open or stuffed back into your suitcase, rest assured you won’t have to worry about that happening with this lock. It's designed so that the TSA agent has to re-lock the suitcase in order to remove their key.

Best Key Lock: Master Lock Padlock

Master Lock’s padlock is designed with front access, which makes locking and unlocking easier on the wrists. The steel shackle gives you all the protection you need against those looking to cut the lock off, and both locks in the set can be opened with the same key (you get two keys in the pack). Another bonus: These locks are available in two colors (purple and blue) making them easier to spot in the mess of packing and unpacking.

Best Retractable Cable Lock: Lewis N. Clark Retractable Cable Lock

If you don’t want to mess with any additional accessories like keys or extra cables, this retractable design from Lewis N. Clark may be just what you’re looking for. A 30-inch steel cable provides plenty of flexibility for securing multiple pieces of luggage or looping your zipper pulls together. An easy-to-use, three-number combination allows the user to open and close the lock. Reviewers say that this option is better for carry-on luggage, as steel shackle styles provide more security for when your bag is completely out of your hands and sight.

Final Verdict

You really can’t go wrong with the durability, strength, and security of the Tarriss TSA Lock with SearchAlert (view at Amazon). Knowing that your luggage is safe is one thing, but it’s nice to know whether or not a TSA agent has rummaged through your things: the SearchAlert technology built in to this lock is a nice touch you don’t see with many other options.

What to Look For When Buying a TSA-Approved Lock


Price

Luggage locks vary quite a bit in price, but you won’t find many over $20. It depends on the level of security you’re looking for: steel shackle locks can run a bit more expensive, as do keyless options that require a card to unlock. Beware of super-inexpensive options—paying a few dollars more on your luggage lock can make all the difference.

Durability

Most TSA-approved locks are made of steel, which is an ultra durable material. Steer clear of locks made completely of rubber or plastic, as well as locks with cables that are anything but steel.

Style

There are a few common styles of TSA-approved locks: combination locks, cable locks, and keyless locks. Consider your own personal preferences when making your choice: Do you constantly lose your keys? Stay away from locks that require one to open. Need a bit of flexibility to lock up a bag with small zipper holds? Look for a super-strong cable lock with a thinner cable. Anxious about someone cracking your combination code? Opt for a card-access lock. 

FAQs

How do I know if a lock is TSA-approved?

Every TSA-approved lock will have a red diamond logo, also known as a Travel Sentry logo. This means that it’s compatible with the universal keys that TSA agents have to unlock these approved locks.

Are cable locks easier to break?

Not necessarily. Most cable locks are made with durable, steel cables — this means you’d need a pretty heavy duty wire cutter to break through. If that still has you worried, choose a steel shackled lock instead, just know that they are less flexible in terms of what you can affix it to (larger shackles don’t often work well with smaller zipper pulls).

What happens if I don’t use a TSA-approved lock?

It’s not illegal to lock your luggage with a non-approved lock, but you are running the risk of a TSA agent cutting your lock off should they need to search your bag(s). There isn’t often a price difference between TSA-approved and non-approved locks, so you’re always better off going with one that the TSA can access.

Why Trust TripSavvy?


Erika Owen is a frequent traveler who doesn’t leave home for a trip without her favorite Tarriss TSA-approved lock, which is recommended in this story. She also put in four hours of research and review analysis into this story and has personally tested a number of the brands mentioned in this article (Tarriss, Lewis N. Clark, Master Lock).

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