Regardless of how much the industry changes, some of the most tedious parts of taking a trip involve airport security. From the long lines to the unloading your luggage to the actual screening, going through security is likely to drain your energy and stress you out, especially if you booked last-minute travel. But thanks to travel programs like TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, getting through security can be a much smoother process.
TSA PreCheck grants passengers expedited screening on domestic flights with dozens of airlines and at over 200 airports. For a fee of $85 that you pay once every five years, you get to skip the long lines and keep your shoes, belt, and light jacket on you. Electronics and liquids that are travel approved can also remain in your bag.
Global Entry gives you all the perks of TSA PreCheck in addition to expedited customs clearance when returning to the USA from an international trip. This means that you don't have to go to the long customs and immigration lines. Instead, you go to the Global Entry kiosk, enter your Trusted Known Traveler number and let the kiosk scan your fingerprint. Then, you will likely get a receipt that you show to an officer. After presenting the documents, you can be on your way.
You get all of this for an extra $15 that you also pay every five years. So if you would like both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, you will pay $100 every five years to use these services. Now that we've covered the basics and facts I'm sure you were slightly aware of, let's talk about things you may not know about related to TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.
1. Not all airports or airlines participate.
There are over 5,000 airports in the United States alone, but only a little over 200 and 70 participate in PreCheck and Global Entry, respectively. This means that if you do want to enroll, be sure that the airports you frequent most offer these services. Take into consideration how often you plan on using the program.
2. You might be waiting a few months for an interview.
When you apply online and pay the application fee, it's only the preapproval stage. You don't actually get approved until you go to the interview. There are only 380 TSA PreCheck and over 40 Global Entry enrollment centers. As more people figure out that they don't have to stand in frustratingly long lines or take their shoes off to pass through security, getting an interview appointment can take you anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
Note that people cancel their appointments often so you may be able to take a slot should it open up. Also, some centers allow walk-ins if you've been pre-approved. Check to see if your local center is one of them.
However, don't expect to just walk in there and be immediately interviewed. Schedule your appointment well in advance to help the process go as quickly as possible.
3. Each member of your family may need their own membership.
TSA PreCheck benefits only extend to your children who are 12 years old or younger, but anyone 13 and older traveling with you will have to pass through the standard security line if they don't have a PreCheck membership of their own.
On the other hand, only Global Entry members are allowed to use the Global Entry kiosk, regardless of age. The good news is that with your Global Entry membership, you'll still be able to extend your PreCheck benefits to those eligible.
4. The kiosks sometimes have a hard time reading fingerprints.
On a few occasions, I've had my fingerprint rejected at a Global Entry kiosk when returning home. To counter this, the CBP gives you head-of-the-line privileges to use when a kiosk isn't working.
5. Travelers without TSA PreCheck status can still use the lane.
If a traveler is deemed at low-risk, then they might be randomly selected for the expedited screening. Apparently, TSA does this to increase travelers' desire to join the program. While it's understandable to want to appeal to a wider net of travelers, many argue that this should not apply to the TSA.
This past summer, the House of Representatives passed the PreCheck is PreCheck Act. This act will stop TSA from allowing random travelers from using the risk modified screening. The bill goes to the Senate next.
6. You can get TSA PreCheck and Global Entry for free.
There are a few travel reward credit cards, both for personal and business purposes, that reimburse you up to $100 for your application fee for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry status. Technically, you can get it for free, depending on the card.