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Don’t Expect TSA to Settle Claims for Lost or Damaged Items

It’s generally a good rule of thumb that you shouldn’t travel with valuables. Still, people do. Maybe you bring some fancy jewelry to wear for a special occasion. Maybe you buy an antique lamp and opt not to ship it home.

Whatever the case may be, you do so at your own peril.

A new study shows that getting reimbursement from the TSA for lost or damaged property is more difficult than you might expect. In fact, the TSA denied 54 percent of the finalized claims that were logged between January 2016 and February 2017. Of the claims that weren’t denied, only 24 percent were approved in full. And 12 percent were settled privately.

This study doesn’t analyze why claims were approved or denied, but there are hints. Claims involving travel accessories, such as charging cords and even toiletries, were most likely to be approved. These are generally low-cost items people often travel with, giving the claim more inherent validity.

On the other end of the spectrum, items like jewelry (71 percent), currency (70 percent), and cameras (70 percent) were most likely to be denied. Not surprisingly, because these are all big-ticket items. But—and maybe this is just me being cynical—they’re also the most plausibly deniable on the TSA’s part.

It’s not hard to see the takeaway: Leave your valuables at home. Travel light and bring only what you need. While the initial loss or damage to your things may seem like the primary risk, the likelihood of getting zilch for that lost heirloom necklace only further drives home the point.

If you do need to bring something valuable, or that you simply don’t want to lose, here are a few tips:

  • Don’t put it in your checked bag. You might not notice a lost or damaged item until hours or days after you leave the airport.
  • Instead, put it in your carry-on and check said carry-on thoroughly after screening. Keep a close eye on your baggage as it goes through screening.
  • Invest in high-quality protective cases for items like cameras and sensitive electronics.
  • Place jewelry in a closable container, or try a DIY method of organization like rolling it up in a towel, threading necklaces into straws, or using buttons to hold earrings.

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