Updated October 2021
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for best smart padlocks

The padlock is a basic but very effective security device. The only drawbacks are a tendency for people to lose keys or forget combinations. The big advantage of a smart padlock is that it can overcome those problems in a number of ways by using biometrics, smartphone apps, or near-field communication.

What’s more, smart padlocks can give access to one person or many, as a one-time occurrence or for as long as you decide. Smart padlocks can actually be very smart indeed!

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TSA locks are no more or less secure than any other. The difference is that they can be accessed by aviation security agencies. The lock should display the Travel Sentry logo.

Key considerations

Physical security

However clever the padlock, it’s of no use if a thief can break into it with minimal physical effort. Before you look at any advanced features, you need to think about what you’re trying to protect and how tough the padlock needs to be to do that.

  • Steel cable: Cables have a degree of flexibility, which is ideal for looping around or through oddly shaped openings. Some cables have a plastic cover to protect the item they’re attached to from abrasion. These cables are good enough for general protection if the contents aren’t particularly valuable, such as sports or school bags, lockers, toolboxes, or bicycles, but they may not survive a determined assault with wire cutters.

  • Shackle: A solid metal loop is a tougher deterrent if you’re looking for added security, locking up exterior gates, for example. Some shackles are quite short, but longer versions are available. Stainless steel is the preferred material because it’s very hard and highly resistant to rust. Little will stop a professional thief, but these provide a greater deterrent to the opportunist criminal.

  • Body: The body of the padlock is another area to think about. Many cheap models are plastic. Aluminum and zinc alloys are popular because they’re lightweight and usually have a nice finish. They’re good, but steel is stronger.

    Weather protection also needs to be considered if the smart padlock is to be used outside. Many manufacturers claim their products are weatherproof or waterproof, but an independent IP or IPX rating is your only guarantee that the claims have been properly tested.

    It’s worth checking online owner feedback to see if structural weakness or failure under brute-force attacks is considered a problem. If it is, look elsewhere.


  • TSA-approved: Though not strictly speaking a smart padlock, we did look at devices with Search Alert; in other words, these indicate that they have been opened when you weren’t present. This is typically a function of TSA-approved padlocks. These can be accessed by aviation security personnel if they want to examine your bags once you’ve checked in. Without TSA locks, the only alternative is to cut the lock off, thereby leaving your bags unprotected. Usually, the alert is a simple light: green means unopened, red means opened.

  • Fingerprint: The most basic smart padlocks are controlled by a fingerprint scanner, which is secure because each person’s fingerprints are entirely unique. Most models offer the option to save more than one person’s prints if required. Cheaper models can require patience. The scanner unit can be small or of low resolution, so it might take a few attempts to register or recognize you.

  • App: More advanced smart padlocks might have fingerprint scanners or keypads, but functionality is extended by providing an app that works with a smartphone or smartwatch. This gives a number of alternatives for managing access.

    Access codes can be generated for other users, be they friends, colleagues, or employees. The codes can be single access (one time only), for timed periods, or ongoing until revoked by the admin user. The codes themselves might be delivered as a Bluetooth key, so proximity is enough to open the padlock, or they can be in the form of a PIN code for those devices with keypads. The latter is particularly useful because it means you can grant entry to people who might not have a smart device with them; the PIN code is enough.

    If necessary, perhaps for business monitoring purposes, the app can also enable you to track who accesses the lock. Each code you generate is unique to a particular user, so you can track who opened the padlock and when.

  • NFC: The third option is near-field communication. It’s the same kind of technology used by “touchless” credit card readers. NFC-ready smart padlocks can be activated by smartphone, or a separate NFC tag might be provided. Quite often you only get one tag, but others can be added at a minimal cost.

  • Barcode: There is a fourth option incorporating a barcode reader, which grants access to parcel delivery personnel, but at the time of writing there was only one smart padlock available that uses this system.

Power source

All smart padlocks need a battery, and almost all are lithium. Many of these batteries can hold a charge for months or for hundreds of unlock/lock operations. It’s worth checking the specifics, though, particularly in high-use situations.

Recharging is usually done via USB, though a few use an Android data cable. Surprisingly (and somewhat frustratingly in our opinion), not all manufacturers supply the relevant cable. That becomes even more annoying when the cable required is nonstandard and you can’t just use one you have for another device. Check carefully when you order.

Expert Tip

Smart padlock prices

Inexpensive: Basic TSA-approved locks cost around $15 or $20, with the cheapest true smart padlocks — those that recognize fingerprints — priced from $25 to $35.

Mid-range: Once you get beyond the basics and add the ability to use apps and smart devices, the prices rise to between $35 and $60, depending on functionality. We expect most people can find what they need in this bracket.

Expensive: There are one or two specialist devices, like a lock with a barcode reader that tops $100. In our view, however, few of them offer any significant advantage over the majority of mid-range models.

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If you’re looking for a smart padlock for use inside and out, check carefully. Some are for interior use only.


Q. What is biometrics exactly?

A. Technically, it’s the measurement of biological data. In the case of smart padlocks, that means fingerprint recognition, because your fingerprints are unique to you. In other devices, it might be retinal scans, because everyone’s eyes are different, or even DNA sampling.

Q. Are fingerprint scanners the most secure padlocks?

A. In terms of hacking the lock, yes. It’s possible your smartphone could be lost or stolen, so we recommend some kind of strong password protection to prevent a thief gaining access to padlock data.

Q. What are IP and IPX?

A. IP stands for “ingress protection.” It’s an international standard for measuring how well protected an item is from dust and water. Numbers run from 0 to 6 for dust, and 0 to 9 for water. IP67, for example, means completely dustproof, and waterproof to one meter for 30 minutes. The X means there’s no rating, or it hasn’t been tested for that substance. IPX7 isn’t dustproof but is waterproof. Full charts are available online. If it’s not IP rated, it might still live up to the manufacturer’s claims of being weatherproof or waterproof, but there’s no guarantee.

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