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For added security when traveling, a small luggage lock is a useful travel accessory for checked bags, on the train or bus, as well as in lodging. The problem is, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents need to have access to luggage during the airport screening process, so locking your suitcase can result in having them cut the lock. Buying a TSA-approved lock can solve this problem because agents can unlock these specially-approved locks using a “master key lock.” There are many varieties of TSA-approved locks, but here are the best options.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Tarriss TSA Lock with SearchAlert (2 Pack)
The Tarriss company improved on its original design and introduced the Tarriss TSA Lock Alert, a fantastic option that is slightly different than most padlocks. The shackle on this lock is a flexible – but sturdy – cable cord design that easily bends to slip through zippers. The three-digit lock combinations are located on large dials that are clearly labeled in bright white and stand out against the black lock. Another handy feature is the search indicator light to alert you if the TSA has opened your lock to check your bag. The set comes with two locks made of sturdy zinc alloy (it's available in blue or red).
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Anvil TSA Locks
For a standard TSA lock that comes in a pack of two, the Anvil TSA locks are popular with travelers who prefer a combination lock. The four-digit combo locks let you choose your own combination and change it at any time. Simply attach the locks through the hole on the luggage zippers. The locks are made of zinc with durable steel shackles and have numbers that pop out against the yellow background. If your luggage looks similar to others, the bright yellow locks can differentiate it in the baggage claim. A lifetime warranty is included.
Best for Added Security: Lumintrail TSA Locks
For extra protection, the Lumintrail TSA locks come in a pack of two and has two flexible (but durable) cables - all for a reasonable price. If you’re traveling with a friend or family member, you can easily attach bags together using the four-foot steel cables for additional security, or to easily find your bags in a storage area. They are also ideal for backpackers staying in hostels with shared rooms (attach the cable to the bed or other furniture). The three-digit combination locks can be set (and reset) to the combination of your choosing and come in red, silver or black.
Best Key Card Lock: The Smooth Trip ClikCard
The Smooth Trip ClikCard modernizes the method of unlocking a lock and makes it simple and fast to access luggage. Instead of traditional keys or combination locks, the Smooth Trip uses key cards to open. The cards slip into your wallet (or a smaller one is available on a key ring as a backup) and are then inserted into the slots on the lock. Amazon buyers loved how easy to use the cards were and that they didn’t have to remember lock combinations (particularly if they weren’t traveling that frequently). The downside to these innovative locks is that you can’t make extra copies easily.
Best Locking Luggage Strap: LC-dolida TSA Travel Luggage Strap
Luggage straps are an added layer of security for your baggage to prevent it from accidently opening, but they can also help you combine several pieces of luggage together. The TSA Travel Luggage Strap by LC-dolida comes with the added advantage of an approved three-digit combination lock built right into the strap that is easy to set and to open. The luggage straps fit best on 18 to 32-inch bags and are made of durable nylon webbing. The product come in a variety of colors, thus making it easy to spot luggage on a conveyor belt. Amazon buyers liked the dual two-in-one purpose of the lockable luggage strap and felt it was a good quality product.
Best Classic Key Locks: Forge TSA Approved Luggage Locks
For a classic key lock, the TSA Approved Luggage locks by Forge are an easy choice. The locks are constructed from zinc alloy, with shackles made of strong, hardened steel. Keys have a dimple design that prevent people from picking the lock and each key in your set of four can unlock the others – so you don’t have to worry if you lose one. These small locks can fit onto luggage or backpack zippers, gym lockers, purses and laptop bags. They also come with a lifetime warranty. In the event that the locks are opened by TSA, the agent will have to re-lock it in order to remove the key.
Best for One-Time Use: Pick Proof Seals
If you’re looking for a less conventional way to secure bags and don’t want to tote locks and keys around, consider the “Pick Proof Locks” for one-time use travel. The “locks” are made of plastic and are used like a zip tie, but each has a tab with a number that matches the tie. If TSA, luggage handlers or thieves remove or replace them - you’ll know. The bright yellow tags act as a deterrent but can be opened and removed without scissors by the owner. Amazon buyers reported that their bags were less likely to be opened and checked with them on. They come in three packs of 60 “locks.”
Products We Tested
How We Tested
Our reviewers tested a top-rated TSA-approved lock by attaching it to their suitcases while traveling for days at a time. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using this TSA-approved lock, from its design to its ease of use. We've outlined the major points here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
What to Look for in a TSA-Approved Lock
Locking mechanism These devices can lock in a number of ways, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. You can opt for a traditional key lock to slip on your keyring (though what if your keys get lost?) or a combination lock (just don’t forget the combo you decided on). Think about how you like to operate while traveling and make your decision from there.
Luggage strap vs. lock Instead of a traditional lock, some travelers swear by luggage straps, which wrap around suitcases (think: a ribbon on a gift) to keep all sides secure. One drawback, though, is that they’re a little more cumbersome to finagle.
One-time use vs. repeated If toting locks and keys around or memorizing combinations isn’t for you, think about getting a one-time use lock. These models are more like zip ties but are as secure as more traditional options.
Test Results: Tarriss TSA Lock with SearchAlert (Best Overall)
What We Like
Easy to open
What We Don't Like
Comes off easily
This lock was met with mixed reactions after one of our reviewers tested it during an eight-day vacation. “While this lock worked well when I used it,” she explained, “ultimately it went missing when I picked up my suitcase from baggage claim. The good thing is that the package includes two locks, so I had a backup.” In terms of positives, though, one of our testers liked the lock’s sturdiness and lightweight cable, plus the fact that it was “very easy to press and pop open.”