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Luggage trackers: Do they work and are they safe?

With so many flight delays and so much lost luggage in recent years, many people are buying AirTags and similar devices. But is it a smart idea?
Posted at 7:25 AM, Jun 16, 2023

One of the big travel fears is losing a piece of luggage on the way to your destination. As a result, many people these days are using small trackers, like the Apple AirTag, to keep a watchful eye on their luggage.

But do they help? And are they safe?

Summer Hull with The Points Guy says Apple AirTag, or similar devices, are worth the $25 to $30 cost to help you locate a purse or luggage. She uses them every time she flies.

"I even put it in my carry-on bag," she said, "because you never know when the airline is gonna make you gate check your bag."

Traveler Joe Williams says he never travels without a tracker these days.

"This trip, we checked a bag, and it had to make a connection," he said. "So you want to know where it's at."

He and his wife use a Tile tracker, where they can see their bag's location right on their phones.

"I like knowing where it is," he said.

Hull says don’t expect a 100% success rate with any tracker.

"What I've found is that in the bowels of the airport, it's not fabulous at where exactly it is, in part because it relies on cellphones around it to give you its location," she said.

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How safe are they to use?

With trackers, there are also ongoing safety concerns. Apple and Google recently announced a partnership to address unwanted tracking after several reports of harassment.

PC Mag’s Chandra Steele says the issue isn't with using location trackers for yourself. Instead, it's when someone else decides to track you.

"They can be very easily slipped into something," she said.

They become problematic if someone else puts a tracker in your belongings, Steele says, so you need to stay vigilant. Apple and Google are proposing new standards to alert users to an unknown Bluetooth tracker, no matter their phone type. Other companies, such as Samsung and Tile, have expressed their support.

Joe Williams says the bottom line is that a tracker makes checking bags much less stressful.

"It's one of those things where it's just a fail-safe," he said.