vs. cash. We pay for all sorts of services to avoid
hassle and stress. Should paying for TSA Precheck to
speed through airport security screening be one of them?
there are things to know before you decide. For example,
you might not want to apply for Precheck itself but
instead Global Entry, which gets you all of the benefits
of Precheck in addition to expedited re-entry through
customs for little extra cost.
traveler Brian Kelly, founder of ThePointsGuy.com, is a
proponent of applying for quicker screening. He
qualifies for Precheck through his Global Entry status.
is an amazing concept," he said. "I get
through security in under four minutes usually and on a
anybody who has flown in the past dozen-plus years
knows, security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks,
however necessary, has been an aggravation for fliers.
More rigorous security screening means longer, slower
basic bargain with Precheck is that you give the
government information about yourself, submit to a
background check and get preapproved as a low-risk
traveler. It issues you a "known traveler
number" that you use on your reservation and in
your frequent-flier accounts. Youíre then very likely
to get Precheck status for the vast majority of your
flights, with a Precheck indicator printed on your
means you can go through Precheck airport security lanes
with lighter screening: no taking off shoes or belt, no
removing your laptop from its case, no taking out your
liquids and gels from your carry-on.
most of the time, it means a significantly quicker line.
Less than five minutes is the goal set by the
Transportation Security Administration. "We can put
30 passengers through a TSA Precheck lane in less than
five minutes; you canít do that in a standard
lane," said TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein.
Precheck launched to the general public in December, and
in its first nine months enrolled more than half a
million travelers, according to the Department of
Homeland Security. Its speed lanes are available at 118
are questions and answers to help you decide whether
Precheck is worth the money and effort.
does it cost? A Precheck application costs $85 for five
years. Thatís $17 a year or $1.42 per month.
Ultimately, only you can decide whether that monetary
cost is worth it.
guess itís how you value your time," Kelly said.
"The ease of it alone, to me, is almost
practically, over five years Precheck might mean the
difference once or twice between catching a flight and
enduring the stress of missing one, he said.
is Global Entry? Global Entry costs a little more ó a
$100 application fee instead of $85, also for five
years. But it includes expedited screening during
international travel. On the way back into the U.S., you
can use a kiosk that should be far faster than
traditional customs inspection lines.
key difference is, you need a passport to apply for
that application fees for both programs are
nonrefundable, even if you are denied enrollment.
enrolling a hassle? Probably, especially for Global
Entry. You need to apply and pay online and schedule an
in-person appointment, bringing with you an ID and
submitting to fingerprinting. There are far more
interview locations for Precheck, more than 300, than
for Global Entry, which mostly has locations at
for Global Entry, it might be weeks before you can get
an appointment for a formal interview, while you can
walk in to most Precheck centers.
my case of applying for Global Entry, I found the online
application tedious but doable. Iím fortunate that the
enrollment office at OíHare International Airport in
Chicago is on my way home from work, and I was able to
get an appointment in a matter of days. The interview
for me was quick and easy, not intimidating.
online for Precheck at tinyurl.com/precheckapp. Apply
for Global Entry at tinyurl.com/globaleapp.
downside to the fast lane? A practical drawback of
Precheck can be the people youíre traveling with. If
they donít have Precheck and youíre traveling
together, you might find yourself waiting on the other
side for your family or friends.
my children accompany me in the Precheck lane? Yes,
children 12 and younger.
all airlines and airports offer Precheck? No, but all
the major airlines and airports do. For lists of 11
airlines and 118 airports, go to tsa.gov/tsa-precheck.
or Global Entry? For anybody who lives near one of the
Global Entry interview centers and already has a
passport, it makes sense to pay $100 for Global Entry
instead of $85 for Precheck.
that Precheck is a program of the TSA, while Global
Entry and other trusted traveler programs fall under
U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
the TSA spokesman says Global Entry is a "great
I pay less? You can pay just $50 to get Global Entry
privileges, and thus Precheck, through another
trusted-traveler program, NEXUS, for Canada border
crossing. But the interview will be at one of the
northern border-crossing facilities. So, applying only
makes sense if you live near a northern border or will
be traveling through and can coordinate the interview
time with your travel plans. SENTRI, a border-crossing
program for Mexico, gets the same benefit but costs the
most, a total of $122.25 for five years.
compare the programs: dhs.gov/comparison-chart.
I get free Global Entry? Maybe. You might get the
Precheck and Global Entry fee reimbursed if you have one
of the pricier credit cards and charge the fee to it.
Examples are the American Express Platinum and Citi
Prestige cards. If you have elite status with an
airline, you might get reimbursed. Delta Air Lines
Diamond Medallion and United Airlines 1K fliers are
privacy a concern? A huge drawback for some people will
be supplying information about yourself to the
government. And part of the application requires
fingerprinting. Thatís a philosophical decision for
consumers, not a monetary one.
said heís not concerned. "You can get my flight
history in return for getting me through the airport and
saving me hundreds of hours of my life waiting in
lines," he said.
else? Use your number. Donít go through the expense
and hassle of getting Precheck or Global Entry and not
get the benefit. Your known traveler number, called a
PASSID with Global Entry, doesnít guarantee you
Precheck every time, but you should get it the vast
majority of times.
you must log in to your frequent-flier accounts and
enter your number into your profile, so the next time
your buy a ticket your boarding pass will be labeled
with Precheck and you can use the expedited security
lanes. (If you donít have a frequent-flier account,
enter it into your individual reservation.)