How Do TSA Locks Work on Luggage? Tips From Experts

Before any trip, whether tourist or business, we must make sure to verify all the necessary details to avoid having problems at airports or with the authorities of each country, for breaching some of their legal access requirements.

For this reason, we recommend that before choosing a suitcase for your luggage because of its size or practical design, also check if it complies with the regulations of your destination.

For example, if you are going to travel specifically to the United States or Canada or at least you have to make a stopover in one of these countries, we recommend you first know what they are and how the TSA locks for suitcases work. Next, you will see why. 

Why Is It Recommended To Carry A TSA Lock To Travel To The United States?

In the United States, two out of ten bags are randomly selected at air terminals, in order to carry out routine safety inspections among all the luggage that passes through the Transportation Security Agency, better known as the Agency TSA for its acronym in English ( Transportation Security Administration ).

This is a mandatory order that has been executed since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Read also: How to Open a Luggage Lock If You Forgot Your Password

How Do TSA Locks Work on Luggage

Therefore, if your favorite suitcase is locked or has a lock that is commonly used, authorities without any notice can break these security mechanisms or even break and crack the suitcase if necessary to comply with that inspection, without having any type of claim for damages or losses caused to your luggage.

This is where the importance of using TSA locks lies. These types of locks are approved by the United States Transportation Security Agency.


A TSA lock in appearance looks the same as the other padlock for luggage with the numerical combination. That is, they are locked with the numerical key that the owner puts.

They differ from traditional locks in that they have the option of an opening with keys, but not with any key, but with universal ones exclusively available to customs agents.

That is, the TSA locks are the only ones that can be opened by customs officials at airports with a special key that opens them, thus preventing your suitcase and luggage from being damaged.

For this reason, if your suitcase has to be checked and the agents cannot open and close the lock with this master key, they will force you the lock you carry and will not put it back so that your luggage is exposed to open or occur any incident during the journey.

You will only realize what happened when you arrive at your final destination and check that the lock on your suitcase is inside with a notice from the authorities, indicating that by law they have inspected you and that they are not responsible for what could happen to your suitcase.

How to Differentiate a TSA lock from an imitation?

For a TSA lock to work properly it must be approved.

TSA locks are easily distinguished because they have the mark of a small red rhombus on their surface. There are currently over one hundred types of TSA locks on the market and although they do not all have the same operation, the procedure to adjust the luggage access code is quite similar.

It is very important that you remember the code because if you forget it becomes very difficult to open the TSA lock or enter a new code. In this case, it will be necessary to resort to a repairman or locksmith to open it.

There are many brands of suitcases that already include an approved TSA lock, especially rigid suitcases, but in the case that you already have a suitcase that does not have it, there is the option that you can buy a portable TSA lock and use it by hooking it at the closing of the suitcase. In short, for hand luggage, it is not so necessary, because the suitcase will go with you throughout the journey and travel by plane, but to have a TSA lock for checked luggage is essential if you are traveling to the United States.

By the way, have you seen our luggage recommendations and all the documentation you need to take to travel to the US? You can take a look at what to carry in your luggage to travel to the United States here.

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