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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Hotel Safes

by Wesley January 26, 2022

Whether you’re traveling for leisure or going away on business for a few days, hotel communities are generally safe places to lay your head at night. Larger hotel chains typically have around-the-clock surveillance coupled with 24-hour concierge services. This plays a significant role in feeling secure at all times during your stay.

Most hotels like to provide further security measures for guests by installing hotel room safes in each room as well. In many ways, safes help elevate basic security measures that might be in place by providing hotel goers with an additional means of keeping their valuables protected and out of sight.

On the surface, you’re probably thinking a hotel safe is a perfect location to store things like passports, laptops, cameras, credit cards, and more. But what most people don’t know is that hotel safes can be easy to crack. In this article, we’ll discuss these four main reasons why you shouldn’t use a hotel safe:

  1. External Access
  2. Outdated Materials
  3. Easy To Breach
  4. Obvious Location 

Before we dig deeper into these reasons, let’s first answer some basic questions and learn more about hotel safes and what level of security they provide.

FAQs

What kind of safes do hotels use?

Electronic safes are the preferred type of safe used in most hotel rooms. This type is frequently used because hotel safes need to have programming functions. What that means is the combination needs to be reset constantly so that each new guest staying in the room can use the safe.

The ability to reprogram the combination is convenient for hotel guests and can provide a sense of security knowing their valuables are stowed away. But as we’ll talk about later in this article, it presents several challenges. The perceived level of security is much higher than the actual amount of security provided by hotel safes.

Do all hotel rooms have safes?

Not every hotel room is equipped with a safe. The chances are much higher if you stay at a well-known hotel or perhaps a luxury hotel, but that doesn’t guarantee there will be a hotel room safe. And if there indeed is a hotel room safe, it will likely be an electronic safe.

A very generic, standard electronic safe is reprogrammed multiple times each week by the revolving door of guests in that particular room. That’s where the possible security issues begin and certainly don’t stop.

How much can you fit into a hotel safe?

The size of an average hotel room safe ranges from 1.2 to 2 cubic feet. That’s enough to fit your laptop and larger electronic devices, as well as other medium-sized items. Personal possessions like cameras, iPads, tablets, and jewelry would fit into this category.

Who has access to hotel room safes?

This is a very important question that’s often overlooked by hotel guests. Just because you preprogrammed a new combination for your hotel room safe, you’re not the only person with access to it. As a liability precaution and overall troubleshooting measure, somebody else has an access code for every safe in the hotel.

This will be a major focal point coming up in the article about why hotel safes aren’t as secure as people may think. Access to your personal items and valuables in a hotel safe may seem exclusive, but strangers working at the hotel can infiltrate it at any time.

Can hotel safes be trusted?

After considering all the factors, putting your full trust into a hotel safe isn’t logical. After you’ve learned more about the reasons why you shouldn’t use hotel room safes, it will become more clear. And it’s also important to remember this article isn’t aimed to make hotel managers and employees look like potential thieves or con-artists.

The article is meant to point out the issues with hotel room safes and provide you with the best possible information before you stash your prized possessions. Keep in mind also the next time you stay at a hotel, feel free to ask the front desk about the room safe. Helpful hotel staff should be able to share some insights and cater to your security needs.

1. External Access

It’s not uncommon for people to travel with expensive items that require enhanced security. A hotel room safe offers an easy option to lock up your valuables right in front of you, or so you might think. Hotel safes provide some security, but if you’re expecting some sort of guarantee that everything will be protected, this isn’t possible.

External access is a simple concept. The more people who have access to something, the greater the chance that someone can interfere. And in this case, with locking up important items, you want as few people as possible with access to a hotel room safe.

This can get complicated because hotel safes are technically hotel property. Guests don’t own the safes and therefore have no control over who has access. From the hotel’s perspective, they need somebody with universal access to all of the safes for the following reasons:

  • Somebody forgets their combination.
  • A guest accidentally leaves items inside the safe after they checkout.
  • Safe isn’t working properly and requires maintenance.

Hotel chains need to be ready for any of those circumstances because guests store highly valuable possessions in hotel safes and it becomes a liability issue. They must provide assistance when problems occur to deliver quality services to their guests.

2. Outdated Materials

As we touched on toward the beginning of this article, hotel safes are usually electronic with the ability to reset the combination. Electronic locks as a general method of security can be extremely effective. However, the success of electronically powered devices is based on one crucial component – technology upgrades.

Hotel safes are no different than the technology in your car, smartphone, or home appliances. They’re everchanging, and the latest product is more advanced than the current or previous products. Technology is constantly evolving to make improvements, and electronic locks and safes are no different.

Technological advancement poses a massive challenge for hotels because of cost. According to 2020 data, the average upper-scale hotel chain in the United States has 313.1 rooms. That means one safe to each room would be very expensive, as would replacing every safe when newer electronic safe models hit the market.

Sometimes technological security advancements can happen from one year to the next. Replenishing large-scale hotel safe inventory constantly and paying for the installation labor hours associated with that process isn’t financially beneficial for hotel chains.

You can test this concept by looking at a hotel safe the next time you’re staying at a hotel. Does the technology look up to date? And then, based on your answer, how comfortable do you feel putting personal possessions inside? If you have even the slightest hesitation when answering these questions, you should proceed forward with caution and seriously consider not using your hotel room’s safe.

Another issue that might cause a major security concern is poor safe maintenance. Hotels can easily forget to regularly service their safes and ensure that the safe is in prime working condition. Instances like this often lead to malfunctions, which is why proper care and maintenance can go a long way to decrease the likelihood that your items will be exposed.

3. Easy To Breach

Maybe the most important reason why you shouldn’t use hotel room safes is because of how easily someone can break into them. It doesn’t take much to bypass an electronic hotel safe if you know what you’re doing. Some little tricks and tactics can be utilized to open a hotel safe without the combination.

Before we dive deeper into this section, please note this information is for educational purposes only. At no point does any of the information shared justify breaking the law or using this as advice to steal other people’s property without their permission. That would be a crime, and we don’t condone that. 

One of the main flaws that some safes and locks face is the fact that they are keyed. A keyed lock means that a burglar will always have a point of access through which they can attack and compromise your lock. But with an electronic safe or lock, there is no key, so the entry point for a burglar takes an unconventional approach.

This approach is called safe bouncing. It may take some practice, but this method only requires a simple maneuver. You begin by picking up the safe and holding it over a surface. From there, you bounce the safe off the surface while turning the lock at the same time. If executed properly, the safe’s bolt-work will be shocked into an unlocked state for a split second.

Electronic safes are also susceptible to unwanted invasion via commonly used tools. Certain mass-produced safes found in hotel rooms can be opened with generic equipment. There’s a simple answer for this – money.

Some safe-making companies haven’t changed their locking mechanisms in several decades because they don’t have to. Hotels, businesses, and consumers still pay for electronic safes no matter what, so these large companies aren’t incentivized to switch things up.

4. Obvious Location

Sometimes the best security for personal items is being unpredictable and storing valuables in a place where the chances of someone finding it are heavily reduced. Criminals and burglars depend on people to use similar patterns, including where people hide their safes. 

Criminals look for safes in areas that are out of the way of public view but still easily accessible to residents. For example, for a home safe, the main target would be the master bedroom, including the master bathroom and closets within the bedroom. Unfortunately for hotels, the rooms are too small, and you typically find safes in the same place every time.

Hotel room safes are commonly stored either in the closet or under the television set next to the microwave. The variance of hiding spots for a safe is low because of how hotel rooms are arranged in a limited space. This non-discrete safe location is too much of a giveaway and automatically diminishes the unpredictability factor, as well as the overall security of your personal items.

Closing Words

Staying in hotels is a necessary part of traveling that we’ve all had to endure. Depending on the hotel, your room has a personalized safe that seems like an adequate place to secure your valuables. But this can be a false sense of security as you’ve now learned about the potential problems associated with hotel safes.

There’s no such thing as the perfect safe with the ability to protect your valuables completely, but you can make smart choices that limit your risk. Hotel safes are a risky venture when it comes to locking up your possessions, and it’s probably in your best interest to explore alternative options.

Category: Crime, Safety & Security, Travel Security

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