What Is A TSA Lock?

What Is A TSA Lock?

Whenever you see posts about luggage or travel you might come across the term TSA lock. What is a TSA lock? We’ll explain in this short post.

What Does TSA Stand For?

TSA stands for Transportation Security Administration, which is an agency of the US Department of Homeland Security that is concerned with the security of anyone traveling in the United States.

This agency was created shortly after the September 11 attacks.

Their goal is to “Protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce”.

If you want to learn more about what they do and how they do it, have a look at their website.

So What Is A TSA Lock?

Basically, a TSA lock or TSA approved lock or TSA recognised lock is a luggage lock that can be opened and closed by TSA officers without breaking it.

You’ll be able to identify a TSA lock easily as they all have the red diamond on them.

Those locks have been developed by a group called Travel Sentry. All of their locks have a number on them ranging from TSA001 to TSA008 to let the airport security authorities know which tool to use to open them.

If you’re traveling to or within the US or Canada and want to lock your luggage, make sure you’ll use one that is TSA approved. Otherwise you risk having your luggage lock broken or even your suitcase damaged, if it’s an integrated lock.

Travel Sentry lock systems are not only used in the US or Canada, but are used across 650 airports in 44 countries and the airport security authorities are all able to open and close your luggage without causing damage to it.

How Does A TSA Lock Work?

As explained just before, airport security authorities are able to open and close the locks using “master keys”. There are a few different lock systems, but essentially they all have the ability to be opened and re-locked again.

Once your luggage has been opened, you should be able to tell by the lock, as they will have an open alert indicator.

You will also have an official note from the authorities inside your luggage, telling you that they had to open it for security reasons.

Is A TSA Lock Safe?

A TSA lock is as safe as any other lock. The only difference is that it can be opened by authorities without causing damage to the luggage.

A lock will help deter thieves, especially if they are the opportunistic kind, it will keep your suitcase closed in case of a broken zipper, it’ll make you feel better knowing that you’ve done what you can to protect your belongings, it might help when needing to claim from insurance and a lock will keep your belonging safer while staying in hotel rooms.

Which Countries Require TSA Locks?

No country actually requires you to have a lock on your luggage, but if you do want to use a lock you’ll be better off with a TSA approved lock which authorities in the following countries are able to open without damaging it or the suitcase:

Americas:

  • Aruba
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Dominican Republic
  • Panama
  • USA

Europe:

  • Albania
  • Austria
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Montenegro
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • North Macedonia
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Serbia
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

MEA:

  • Ivory Coast
  • Israel
  • Togo
  • Turkey
  • UAE

Asia Pacific:

  • Australia
  • China
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • South Korea

Do TSA Locks Work Internationally?

Yes and no.

TSA approved Travel Sentry lock systems are used in the countries mentioned above.

Other countries’ security authorities might not have the ability to open the locks without damage.

Where Can You Get TSA Locks?

Many places sell TSA locks, such as shops at airports, luggage shops and online outlets.

I’ve compiled a list of the best TSA approved luggage locks.

Can You Get Luggage With Integrated TSA Locks?

Yes, you most certainly can.

Many manufacturers offer luggage with integrated TSA approved locks these days.

Have a look at the list I’ve compiled for you: TSA approved integrated locks.

How Do You Open A TSA Lock On New Luggage?

Sometimes you order new luggage and it comes with an integrated TSA combination lock. And sometimes you don’t get instructions on how to open the lock.

Have a look at the following video to show you how to open and set a TSA approved integrated lock (the example shown is for Samsonite Flux Soft – Samsonite usually have videos on how to unlock and set combinations for different styles of luggage):

Have more questions? Ask them below and I’ll get back to you soon, or you can have a look at the Travel Sentry FAQ page for more answers to your questions.

Happy and safe travels!

8 Replies to “What Is A TSA Lock?”

  1. A very well researched article which explained lots of things I didn’t understand before. 

    I’d heard of TSA locks but hadn’t understood that they are as secure as ordinary locks. I also hadn’t realised how many countries they are needed for. 

    I guess if you’re travelling through one of the countries listed on to a destination that isn’t in the list you’d still need a TSA lock?

    1. Thanks for your comment. Just to make it really clear: You don’t need to have a lock on your suitcase and therefore you don’t need to have a TSA lock. 

      But if you choose to lock your luggage (which I recommend) then it is best to use a TSA lock.

      As for the other countries that aren’t listed, they don’t have the equipment to open your TSA locks (yet), so it doesn’t matter which kind of lock you use, as they might damage the lock in case of having to open your luggage. 

      So if you’re planning on going to one of those places maybe check with the airline or directly with the airport you’re traveling to, to see what would be the best option.

  2. The fact that airport security has keys for TSA locks has me all scared wondering what would happen if thieves get their hands on these master keys. That would definitely be a problem. 

    Making use of tsa approved locks is a good way to secure ones luggage while traveling. I normally prefer them especially the ones integrated with the luggage as they seem more secure.

    1. There are seven different TSA locks so the thieves would have to get all of those to be able to open every single TSA lock. And then they would still have to be able to get to the luggage without anyone seeing it. 

      I honestly don’t think this is something we’d need to be too concerned about. There’s always going to be crime and thieves looking for opportunities, but that’s why we use extra precautions such as locks. Any lock could be picked if you think about it. 

      Unfortunately you can’t eliminate the chance of someone trying to do the wrong thing. 

  3. To avoid hassles regarding your belongings and security check, it is better to have this TSA lock approved by different countries, which by the way are major tourist destinations. Presently, it will be futile not to do so because it only adheres to one’s security and protection. 

    I remember one abominable modus in my country where airport syndicates would intentionally put a bullet inside a tourist’s luggage. They would hold these people for questions. Naturally, as victims panic they would submit or agree to just pay and avoid further dilemma. It was a big disgrace, people would even wrap their bags with scotch tapes. Fortunately, the syndicate was caught by the newly established administration.

    Having TSA lock therefore can also protect you from this kind of problems brought by criminals. Thank you for sharing this to us. Not all people knew about this, I for one. 

    1. Yes, you’re right. The locations are major tourist destinations. 

      Wow that is horrible what those people had to go through! I’m glad the syndicate was caught.

      Yes, that’s exactly right, the TSA lock will protect you from things like this as you can tell if it’s been opened.

  4. Hi Petra,

    To be honest, I know some basic information about TSA lock (I learned it from one of your posts) but after reading this article I believe I can explain and provide details about TSA lock to others.

    I am planning to travel to las vegas next year, and I believe having a TSA approved luggage lock is the wise thing to do. When I purchase my luggage for my vegas trip for sure I will buy the TSA approved luggage lock. Forge TSA Approved Luggage Locks is the one on my list and the price is also very affordable.

    This a very thorough and in-depth article. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

    1. Oh that’s great that you already knew about it from me 🙂 Thanks for returning to my page. 

      Yes, that’s a good one. I hope you have a safe and fun trip to Vegas! 

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