TSA PreCheck or Global Entry are must-haves for anyone who regularly travels through U.S. Airports. Both programs will save you time in airport security, but Global Entry will also save you time re-entering the United States.
TSA PreCheck Airport Benefits (U.S. Airports)
Expedited airport security through the TSA-PreCheck lane if traveling on a participating airline. You can keep on your jacket, belt, and shoes. You can also leave your liquids and laptop in their bags. The TSA PreCheck line at most large airports are open from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m., but you can double check the hours online of your specific airport.
Global Entry Benefits
TSA PreCheck benefits plus expedited customs. When you arrive at an airport that has Global Entry, just navigate to the Global Entry kiosks, scan your passport, and fill out the customs form (walkthrough video). Another added benefit is that you get an ID as well, which I use as a backup ID to my Drivers License and Passport.
Global Entry Requirements
- Nationality- You must be a U.S. Citizen, U.S. lawful permanent resident, or citizen of Argentina, India, Colombia, the U.K., Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, or Mexico. (Candian travelers are only eligible for NEXUS program, which is expedited customs between the U.S. and Canada)
- Application- You create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account and complete the application. The entire process will take about 20-30 minutes. You have to provide five years of employment and residential history. Your application will then be reviewed (expect 2-4 business days) and upon conditional approval, you can schedule an interview.
- Scheduling your Interview: You can do your interview at most major U.S. or Canadian Airports, and in Doha. You can also conduct your interview upon arrival from a foreign country in the larger U.S. and Candian airports. Your wait time for a scheduled interview slot will depend on the airport (you can see the next date for each center online). The wait time for an interview has tremendously improved over the past few years (it was 6 months when I got mine). Today, most airports have a slot available within one month.
- The Interview- The interview should only take 10 minutes and only include very light questions on your recent travels and some personal details. Be sure to bring your Passport and another form of ID (e.g., your driver’s license). If your ID does not match your home address, be sure to bring a bill indicating you live at that address. You will be fingerprinted and you should get an email shortly thereafter indicating that you have been approved. Be sure to not miss your interview! You will be out your entire application fee if you do.
- Companions- Each person needs their own Global Entry including young children.
Get Global Entry for Free
Global Entry typically costs $100 for five years, but most premium credit cards typically offer a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit. All you have to do is pay for the Global Entry or TSA-PreCheck with your credit card that has the credit. If you already have either of these programs, you can use your credit to buy it for another person by giving them your credit card information (for TSA PreCheck, you would need to go with them instead since you have to pay in person).
- American Express Platinum/Business Platinum– Statement credit every four years. authorized users also are eligible.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve- One statement credit every four years. No extra credit for authorized users.
- Chase Ritz Card- One statement credit every four years.
- Chase United Mileage Plus- One statement credit every four years.
- Capital One Venture- One statement credit every four years.
- Citi American Executive- One statement credit every five years.
- IHG Premier- One statement credit every four years.
- Barclays Arrival Premier- One statement credit every five years.
Free TSA PreCheck- If you stay 12 nights per year using Orbitz, you qualify for Platinum status, which allows you to get a TSA PreCheck credit.
Recommendation: I highly recommended Global Entry over TSA-PreCheck since Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck plus expedited customs both at airports and at the Mexican and Canadian border. Global Entry is more work because you have to schedule and attend an interview.
After Approval: Add your known traveler number to all of your frequent flyer accounts. You can find it in your Trusted Traveler account or on your Global Entry ID. If you got Global Entry, you should also activate your ID, which allows you to use the radio ID chip at travel lanes between the U.S. and Mexico/Canada (I made this mistake when crossing the border. I was detained for a few minutes while they looked up my information). Additionally, you won’t get TSA-PreCheck every single time, but expect it about 95% of the time if your number attached to your airline account. (You also may notice that some airports shut down the TSA PreCheck line late at night, which means you either can’t use the TSA PreCheck benefits or they give you a large laminated color card to hold to indicate you’re TSA PreCheck.)
If you can’t afford Global Entry (or have a credit card where you get it for free), you can still expedite your entry back into the U.S. for free using the “Mobile Passport App.” It works at 26 U.S. Airports and 3 cruise ports. You have to fill out your profile, fill out a few questions about your trip (similar to the paper form you would submit), and follow the Mobile Passport signs when you arrive after you have a barcode from the submitted questions. It won’t be as fast as Global Entry, but it will likely save you 10-20 minutes over standing in the traditional line.
CLEAR vs. TSA PreCheck
CLEAR is a slightly faster version of TSA PreCheck. Airport security consists of two steps, identify verification and the security screening. With Clear, you use utilize a fingerprint or eye scan to expedite the identity verification step (instead of TSA agent checking ID) and you enter the same security screening line as non-CLEAR people (where you send suitcase through X-Ray). You still need to have Global Entry or TSA PreCheck in addition to CLEAR if you would like to avoid taking off your shoes and laptop.
Cost: $179 per year and you can add up to three family members for $50 each (Kids under 18 can use the lane for free). Delta offers a discount of $99 per year with anyone with a SkyMiles account (free to join); $79 for Delta Platinum, Gold, Silver Medallion Members and some Delta credit cards; and it is free for Delta Diamond Medallion members.
Recommendation: I don’t think CLEAR is worth the yearly cost. It is only at a limited number of airports and sometimes only a limited number of terminals. Most of the time when I travel, the CLEAR line only saves 2-3 minutes compared to TSA PreCheck line. However, as more people become qualified for TSA Pre-Check, the TSA PreCheck line will become more packed, especially around the holidays. The CLEAR line is typically overstaffed and under-utilized, so if you fly out of JFK, LGA, or ATL (and go to sports venues with CLEAR), it might be worth the yearly cost if you use the Delta discount and add family members for $50 each.