Airport wait times are getting longer. More people are traveling, the airport staff are getting grouchier, there are new procedures to follow, and is it 2 ounces or 3? Ughhhh.
But there is one beacon of hope in all of this airport darkness.
Yeah, you've heard of it, you've seen the signs, you've seen the lack of lines. And now you want to know: how can you get Pre-Check? Well, we're going to tell you. And this is also a guide to Pre-Check's big and better brother: Global Entry, which includes Pre-Check and has an added bonus of getting you through immigration more quickly.
What is TSA PreCheck?
TSA Pre-Check lets eligible, low-risk travelers get through TSA security screening more quickly via designated lines and screening procedures (just going through metal detectors, not removing your shoes, not taking your laptop out).
It's $85 and once you get it, you'll wonder why you didn't have it sooner and why you wasted those sad precious minutes of your life languishing in the regular line.
Once you're approved for Pre-Check, it lasts five years.
How Do I Enroll in TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck enrollment is simple.
First, fill out a very brief online application. When you're done, simply schedule a visit to an enrollment center for ID verification, a background check, and fingerprints.
If you're struggling to find an enrollment center, just enter your airport code, city, or postal code on this page . It will provide a lengthy list of centers closest to you.
What is Global Entry?
If TSA PreCheck is a starter package, then Global Entry is an elite package aimed at international travelers.
Global Entry costs $100, which is an increase of only $15 over TSA PreCheck.
You're offered all the benefits of TSA PreCheck in addition to quicker processing through Customs and Border Patrol when arriving in the U.S.
Global Entry expedites the immigration experience by directing you to a kiosk instead of a border agent when you land. You'll scan your passport, put your fingers down to be fingerprint-scanned, declare any goods you're bringing back, take a printed receipt, hand it to a friendly border guard, and be on your way. Yes, it can literally take less than a minute! How many times have you languished in that immigration line? No longer! Even if you only make one international trip, it's totally worth the $15 extra over PreCheck.
How Do I Enroll in Global Entry?
Global Entry is slightly more complicated, but fear not, we've got you covered.
Your first stop should be enrollment in CBP's Trusted Traveler Program.
Once you've paid the $100 fee and completed your application, CBP reviews it and contacts you upon conditional approval. At this point, you'll be asked to schedule a full interview at a Global Entry enrollment center .
Always remember to bring your passport and at least one other form of identification. If you do not possess a driver's license, you can also use mortgage or rental payments or a utility bill with your full residency information printed.
Upon full approval, you'll be ready to go, and you're good for five years.
A Special Nod to NEXUS
How would you like all of the perks of Global Entry…for half the price?
The NEXUS program includes all of the benefits of Global Entry and PreCheck plus expedited entry into Canada (by air and land), and it's only $50! That's half the price of Global Entry!
Why is it cheaper if it's better? That's one of the travel industry's greatest mysteries, but we're not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. (Maybe the Canadian government subsidizes some of the cost.) I'd say, "Sign us up," but most of us here at AutoSlash are already signed up!
The one thing to be aware of with NEXUS is that you have to be approved by both the US and Canadian governments, and you have to do your interview at an enrollment center near the Canadian border. If that's a hassle, you might want to stick with Global Entry, which has enrollment centers all across the country.
You can apply for NEXUS on the same Trusted Traveler site that you would apply for Global Entry on. You don't need to apply for both—once you're approved for NEXUS, you'll also automatically get all the Global Entry benefits.
Why Do Some People Get TSA Pre-Check For Free?
There are reported cases of the TSA granting random PreCheck certification to those enrolled in frequent flyer programs. It's considered a marketing technique used to spread awareness of the program.
In theory, this poses a potential security risk, but the TSA seems to only select those they deem safe after combing through personal information. That said, those who spend hard-earned money for the service may feel slighted by this randomized handout.
Can I Get The TSA Pre-Check Fees Reimbursed?
The American Express Platinum Card makes you eligible for a fee waiver for both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. Better yet, the benefits extend to any authorized user of the card.
Sure, the card has a high annual fee, but if you're benefitting from the other awesome perks like its $200 yearly airline fee credit, you might as well be taking advantage of the fee waiver.
Meanwhile, Citi Prestige and other similar cards offer the fee waiver, but most of them do not allow benefits to extend to other authorized users.
Unfortunately, most of these cards don't extend reimbursements to NEXUS applications, so if you have one of these cards, you might be better off with Global Entry, even though NEXUS is normally cheaper.
Which Should I Choose?
If you have a passport, the overall best option is Global Entry, as it includes more privileges at minimal extra cost.
That said, if you aren't planning any international flights, TSA PreCheck is a cost-effective and reasonable option for decreasing your wait times at the airport.
Either way, you should enroll in one of them unless you love waiting in lines and removing your shoes.