If you're a frequent traveler, you've probably heard people talk about TSA locks and TSA Approved locks. You might even have one and not realise what it is. Less frequent travelers might not have come across these locks. The correct name is Travel Sentry Approved Locks which is a bit of a mouthful.
The TSA is the Transport Security Administration. These are the people that open your bags at airports and they have nothing to do with approving these padlocks with the red diamond logo.
Travel Sentry is the private organization which is tasked with testing and approving the padlocks which when approved are able to carry the Travel Sentry Red Diamond logo.
What is a TSA-Approved Padlock or correctly speaking a Travel Sentry Approved Paldock?
International treaties require all luggages to be security screened before loading onto the airplane. Baggage security inspections often require luggage to be opened to complete the search.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) now suggests you lock your luggage with TSA accepted and recognized locks. Travel Sentry padlocks is a global security system which allows passengers to lock their luggage, while permitting security authorities to inspect them without damage. The design is universal, meaning security staff at the majority of all airports around the world have a unique master security key that can open all TSA padlocks.
How to I know if my padlock is TSA-accepted?
Simply look for the red diamond symbol. Every lock that carries the Travel Sentry identifying mark is accepted by the TSA security agencies.
What are the different types of TSA-approved locks?
All locks are useful, but not all locks are equal. When it comes to keeping your gear safe from harm in transit, there are different types of TSA-approved locks for you to choose from:
- Key Locks
The most traditional of all locking devices, a good old fashioned padlock needs the proper key to open the device. On the flip side of that, be careful with that key! If you lose the key, you may need to saw the lock apart to get access to whatever is locked inside.
- Combination Locks
Using a combination of 3 or 4 digits code you can lock your belongings away from would-be thieves, and without having to worry about keeping track of a key. A popular choice with travelers, combination locks are good choice assuming you never forget the combination. Always take a picture with your camera phone as soon as you have set the combination or store it in your phone book.
- Cable Locks
These locks come with a combination code or key and extremely versatile. Cable locks can be used in a variety of situations as they have a semi-flexible cable instead of a metal shackle as with traditional padlocks. These are not just for suitcases and backpacks, but are very often used with lockers, toolboxes.
- Key Card Locks
These use a card very similar to those used in hotels and they work in a very similar way. As the card is credit card sized it can be a bit on the bulky side although these are handy if you want to keep everything in your wallet as the key card will fit nicely in one of your wallet's credit card slot.
Regular Padlock v Travel Sentry Approved Padlock
TSA padlocks can be easily opened by TSA operators without having to break the padlock which can also reduce the risk of damaging the suitcase. Some TSA padlocks comes with an open alert indicator changes which shows if it has been opened by an authorized TSA Agent. On the other hand, if you use a regular padlock when someone wants to perform a security check on your luggage (100% legally even without your permission in countries like the USA and throughout Europe) they must open it by force.
That’s why it’s better and more convenient to use a TSA lock and avoid the cost of buying a new padlock or suitcase in the future.