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The 4 best TSA-approved locks

When shopping around for the best TSA-approved locks, personal preference comes largely into play. You ideally should go with a style of lock that you can confidently maneuver, even when you're rushing to get to your destination and feeling scattered. But first, it helps to have a little background about how these locks work.

What is a TSA-approved lock?

TSA-approved locks feature a special keyhole that allows Transportation Security Administration (aka TSA) officials access during baggage checks with the help of a universal key they possess. These TSA-friendly keyholes are separate from the component that you'll use yourself to lock and unlock them. You can distinguish TSA-approved locks from other types because they will have the red Travel Sentry logo (which looks like a four-part diamond).

How to choose the right type of lock

When selecting a lock, think about your personal preferences. If you're historically not great at remembering combination codes, you're probably better off with a key lock. On the other hand, if you're more worried about having to keep track of a key, a combination lock is the way to go.

Another consideration to think about is the size of the lock's shackles. They need to be thin enough so that they can slide into the zipper holes on your suitcase or backpack. Some locks feature flexible cables, which can help if you have non-traditional zippers.

Below, I've made a list of the best TSA-approved locks in a variety of styles. Take a look to find the one that fits you best.

We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.

1. The basic key lock

If you don't want to hassle with setting (and remembering) a numerical combination, these Forge Silver key locks are the way to go. A popular choice on Amazon with hundreds of positive reviews, they're made with robust zinc alloy and steel shackles, along with a pick-proof tumbler locking system. With a thin shackle that's easy to slide through the zipper on most luggage, these locks come with a lifetime guarantee.

One reviewer says: "These particular locks I LOVE!! They aren’t cumbersome like another brand of TSA locks I ordered on Amazon. Just slide the key in & pop it open, & push the loop down to lock it [...] BUY THESE!!"

2. The basic combination lock

Made with tough steel, these simple yet effective eBags locks are some of the best TSA-approved luggage locks out there. They're specifically designed for suitcases and backpacks so they slide through your zippers easily and lock with ease. The four-digit combo lock is ultra-secure and you can reset it over and over again. Reviewers noted that these locks are super durable and work effortlessly. Plus, they come with a lifetime guarantee.

One reviewer says: "Great purchase and have used them often. Easy to use and reliable, cost effective for travel security."

3. The budget combination lock

Constructed with a strong zinc alloy body and steel cable shackle, these Anvil TSA-approved locks are another great choice for half the price. The locks have a three-digit combination, which is not quite as secure as the previous lock's four-digit design but still dependable. This also makes them simpler to use so it may be a bonus, depending on your preference. The large numbers are easy to read and the flexibility of the cable-style shackles makes these locks easy to slide through your bag's zippers. Like the first pair, they also come with a lifetime guarantee .

One reviewer says: "Love, love, love these locks. The thin wire easily threads thru the smallest eyelets. I use them on my backpack zippers [...] So much better than wearing it in the front (no thank you--it's not called a frontpack) or constantly worrying and looking behind me. Perfect for my luggage as well--they took several lickings and kept on ticking!"

4. The combo lock with a unique twist

Rather than lining up numbers in a row, you operate these unique TSA locks by setting the digits at three points along the edge of the dial. They're easy to use and exceptionally secure, with a rugged zinc alloy body and braided steel cables that are flexible yet tough. As a bonus, the inner locking mechanism is brass-free which means they wont rust if your suitcase is subjected to rain. And, like the others on this list, these locks come with a lifetime guarantee.

One reviewer says: "I just returned from a trip to Japan and I loved these locks. They were so easy to use and I like how it is round. Very user friendly but also very strong and durable. Thank you for a great item."