Before throwing big money at a company to install and monitor a home security system, check your locks. Since most home burglaries occur when thieves enter unlocked doors and windows, or force open poorly secured entry points, the most effective way to secure your home is to equip all exterior doors with good deadbolt locks—and then use them. A few easy steps can further beef up your locks.

Good locksmiths provide valuable advice for choosing the right locks for your home and install them so as to maximize their effectiveness. But choose your locksmith carefully: While several area locksmiths receive rave reviews from their surveyed customers, others evoke less enthusiasm.

Since many qualified area locksmiths provide excellent work, shop around to make sure you don’t pay too much. You’ll find that fees vary dramatically, with some outfits charging more than twice as much as their competitors for the same work. Fortunately, you don’t have to pay more for the best service: We found that several of the highest rated locksmiths also charge low fees.

If you can, pay for locks and locksmithing work with a credit card. The Fair Credit Billing Act and the dispute-resolution policies of credit card issuers allow consumers to refuse payment for faulty products and services.