Hotel Room Safe

I was watching TV the other night and saw a teaser for a segment on the upcoming 11 o’clock news. The topic: whether or not your valuables are secure in your hotel room safe.

As an avid traveler and someone who uses room safes myself, I made sure I tuned in to watch it so I could find out what their investigation uncovered and share it with you.

Boy, am I glad I did!  I was stunned, to say the least, at what I learned.

Are your valuables safe in a hotel room safe? 

It turns out, no, not really.

The TV news team went to 6 hotels across the country and rented hotel rooms. At each hotel, the “guest” put some valuables in the room safe and a little later, called the front desk and told them that they couldn’t retrieve their valuables because their safe wouldn’t open.  Could the hotel please send someone to open it for them?

At each place, a hotel employee showed up at the room and identified him/herself.  After being let in, s/he went to work on the safe without asking the person who let them into the room for ID to make sure he/she was the registered guest.

How long did it take the hotel employee to open the safe?

In each case, the safe was opened in a matter of seconds.

How did they open the safe without using the 4-digit code or the credit card that you used?

It was surprisingly (and disturbingly) simple. Room safes can be opened 1 of 3 ways:

  1. With a master CODE
  2. With a master KEY, or
  3. With a master MAGNETIC CARD

O.M.G.  I was floored!  I didn’t know any of this.

On my recent vacation to Costa Rica, I used the room safe to lock up my valuables which included some cash, my laptop, and my passport.

If someone decided to break into my room safe, s/he would have had more than just my physical valuables; s/he would have had my personal information (such as my full name and date of birth) that could potentially have been used to steal my identity.  That would have been a mess, to say the very least.

I am very grateful that the staff at both hotels were honest!

If your valuables are stolen from your room safe, is the hotel liable?

No. Just like with anything belongings you keep in your room, the hotel is not liable for the loss or theft of items stored in the room safe.

Any other advice?

If you do opt to use the room safe, do not use a credit card to activate the safe.  Credit card scanners can be switched out in order capture the credit card information of unsuspecting people like you and me.

What options do you have for protecting your valuables?

There are a few options:

  1. Use the room safe, with the full knowledge of the risk you are taking.
  2. Bring only what is necessary and keep it with you at all times – Bring your license, 1 or 2 credit cards, and your passport (if you are traveling to a foreign country) and keep them on you in your wallet, a travel person.
  3. Leave your valuables at home – Don’t bring expensive watches, your diamond engagement ring, or similar expensive items.  You won’t need them and they could potentially make you a target for robbery or theft.
  4. Use a hotel safe deposit box, if available – Many hotels are removing room safes and are offering guests the option of using a safe deposit box located behind the front desk. If you use one of these safe deposit boxes and your valuable are stolen, the hotel would be liable for your loss.

Now that you know this information, maybe you’ll think twice before using the safe in your hotel room.  After all, you have no way of knowing how many hotel employees have access to one (or more) of the tools that could open it.

Have YOU had any issues when using a safe in a hotel room?  Please share your experience(s) below. 


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