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Keys: Restricted vs. Non-Restricted - and Which is Right for You

restrictedvsnonrestrictedFirst, what are restricted keys?

Restricted key blanks are tightly controlled by the manufacturer. They are not available on the open market, making it impossible to take a key to an establishment that makes copies of keys because those establishments will not have the key blank needed to make the copy. Be careful not to confuse restricted keys with keys stamped with “Do Not Copy”. That stamp is meaningless and there is no lawful action that can be taken against those who make copies of these keys.  

So which type of keys are right for your business? It depends on what is important to you.

To determine what is important, ask yourself this:

Have any of the following situations happened in your organization?

  • A key holder lost a key
  • A key was stolen
  • HR forgot to get a key returned during an exit interview
  • A key holder abruptly quits without an exit interview and takes their key with them
  • Someone found one of your location’s keys in the parking lot

With Non-Restricted Keys

If any of the above has ever happened in your organization and you have non-restricted keys, what follows is often a phone call or an email to your locksmith explaining that you need the locks changed in your facility. Pro tip: Read the locksmith’s invoice in a seated position to protect yourself from falling over when you faint from sticker shock.

You might call your lock and key manufacturer to order new lock cores and keys. That should save money, but it might be a week – even two – before you receive the order. When you do receive the order, sometimes the order is incorrect – and you remain vulnerable to loss.

Even before a key is unaccounted for, you are at risk for keys being copied without authorization – and you would have no way of knowing if/when that happens. This puts your company assets and employees at risk whether all keys are accounted for or not.

With Restricted Keys

If any of the situations listed above (with the exception of a key being found in the parking lot) have happened and you have restricted keys, the process that would follow is more or less the same. You’d just spend a little more for peace of mind knowing that keys cannot be copied without authorization. The found key in the parking lot is a relief, because you don’t have to rekey locks, knowing there is not a copy of that key floating around somewhere else.

Putting policies in place that focus on getting keys back from key holders upon separation and penalizing key holders for losing keys would make a significant difference in how much you need to spend on changing the locks each time a key goes missing. It’s also worthwhile to consider stamping keys with unique identifiers to help with key assignments and compliance. That way, you can more easily document who has what key and what access points are affected by associating unique identifiers to key holders.

Which Type of Company Keys Should You Choose?

Restricted keys are great for ensuring that keys won’t be copied without authorization. But, restricted keys can’t help you get a handle on the costs associated with changing the locks, whether you choose to go through a locksmith or manage a core swap program.

Spoiler: It’s All in the IC Cores

When restricted keys are paired with on-the-spot rekeyable locks, it’s a game changer. If a key goes missing, you can forego the call to the locksmith and the fainting that is sure to follow. Immediately rekeying the locks yourself would only run you the cost of a new set of keys. And, you won’t be waiting for a locksmith or new cores and keys from a manufacturer. Sure, you’re probably thinking that you aren’t qualified to change the locks yourself. If you can turn a key in a lock, you’re qualified to change your own locks, with InstaKey’s rekeyable locks.


Fulfillment Through InstaKey – Fast and Easy, With Competitive Pricing

Whether you prefer restricted keys or non-restricted keys, user-rekeyable locks or generic swappable cores, you can get fulfillment on the interchangeable cores you already use through InstaKey! You’ll be impressed by our competitive pricing, order accuracy and 48-hour (or less) order turnaround.


Blending Lock Manufacturers to Optimize Savings on Lock Changes
How one retailer utilized InstaKey as the provider for a combination of manufacturers' locks to save money and get more from their key control program.
A Solutions Showcase article in Loss Prevention Magazine (July-August 2018 Issue)


Fulfillment through InstaKey doesn’t require that you change hardware and your current key system will remain unchanged. You’ve just made it easier, faster and less expensive to handle an evitable situation: an unaccounted-for key.

And there’s another benefit of partnering with InstaKey. You gain access to our patented This cloud-based (SaaS) software was designed for IntstaKey key systems, but it works with virtually any manufacturer’s keys to help you keep track of them.’s dashboard is available 24/7 and lets you quickly retrieve information such as key assignment, order history and it links employees to keys and door access.

Keys will still be lost. But with fulfillment by InstaKey and access to, you’ll be better prepared to protect your assets. And you’re sure to save time and money.


Contact InstaKey