American Express Global Entry & TSA Pre-Check Credit Guide [2020]

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Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check programs are great because they allow you to breeze through airports, when you are departing or arriving back in the country (depending on which program you get). These programs do require you to pay high application fees but luckily you can avoid these fees by using the right Amex cards that offer reimbursement credits.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about the American Express Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check credits. I’ll also explain which program might be better for you based on your individual goals and preferences.

Interested in finding out the top travel credit cards for this month? Click here to check them out!

What is the American Express Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check credit?

The American Express Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check credit allows you to receive a statement credit when paying the application fee for either Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check. The statement credit for Global Entry is $100 and the statement credit for TSA Pre-Check is $85. Both of the programs are good for five years.

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How does the Amex credit work?

After you use your eligible Amex card to pay for your application fees, you’ll see a statement credit show up on your account.

It could take up to 8 weeks after the qualifying Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check transaction is charged to the eligible Card account for the statement credit to be posted to the Card account.

If you do not see a credit for a qualifying purchase on your eligible Card after 6-8 weeks, simply call the number on the back of your Card. Card Members are responsible for payment of all application charges until the statement credit posts to the Card account.

What Amex cards are eligible for the credit?

There are several Amex cards that allow you to receive a credit for Global entry and TSA Pre-Check.

  • American Express Gold Corporate Card Members
  • Consumer Platinum Card® Members
  • Corporate Platinum Card Members
  • Business Platinum Card Members
  • Consumer Centurion® Members
  • Corporate Centurion® Members
  • Business Centurion® Members

The most common card that most will rely on for their credit is the Amex Platinum Card. This is one of the most valuable premium-level travel rewards credit cards on the market.

Here’s a rundown of some of the major benefits that you’ll get with the Platinum Card:

  • 60,000 miles after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months
  • $200 Uber credit
  • $200 airline credit
  • Priority Pass access for you and two guests
  • Centurion lounges access for you and two guests
  • Delta SkyClub access when flying with Delta
  • Hilton Honors Gold elite status 
  • SPG Gold Preferred elite status (and therefore Marriott Gold and Ritz-Carlton Gold), and rental car status as well
  • 5X on airfare and 5X on hotels booked through the Amex Travel portal
  • TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry $100 credit

You can add up to 3 authorized users for $175 and each of these authorized users will also get up to a $100 Global Entry or Pre-Check statement credit. Thus, it can be very worthwhile to add several authorized users since you can up to $300 worth of credit with them alone.

Global Entry

Global Entry is a program that allows you expedited entry back into the US when traveling internationally. It allows you to breeze through US immigration by entering through a shorter line and scanning your passport at a kiosk. You’re then able to go through a separate US Customs line for your baggage. By skipping two potentially long lines, you can save tons of time when entering the US.

Global Entry also comes with TSA Pre-Check. So if you get approved for Global Entry, you’ll be issued a Known Traveler Number and be able to to use TSA Pre-Check.

The process for getting Global Entry can take a bit of time. First, you’ll need to pay the $100 application fee and be conditionally approved. After that, you’ll need to schedule an interview or simply do a walk-in interview at certain locations. The Global Entry interview process is not very intensive. As long as you don’t have a criminal history and don’t have questionable travel patterns, you shouldn’t run into any issue with getting approved. (Just remember to bring your required docs.)

Once you’ve been approved the program, you’ll be granted a PASS ID which will be automatically linked to your passport number you applied with. You won’t have to carry around a card and all you’ll have to do is scan your passport when you arrive through the airport. Your membership will be good for five years.

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TSA Pre-Check?

TSA Pre-Check allows you to go through a priority security line which is often much shorter than the standard security line (though not always, unfortunately).

You’ll also be able to go through a less restrictive and invasive screening process. You often only have to pass through a traditional metal detector (as opposed to the full-body scanners) and you also get to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Shoes can stay on
  • Belt can stay on
  • Light jackets can stay on
  • Laptops allowed to stay in bag
  • Liquids (3-1-1) can stay in bag

This program costs $85 to enroll for five years and it does not require the extensive interview process that Global Entry requires. You still have to visit an enrollment center, but it’s just to offer your fingerprints and to verify your identity.

Once you are approved for the program you’ll get a Known Traveler Number which you’ll need to input into your frequent flyer profiles with the airlines so that you’ll receive the TSA Pre-Check perks on your boarding pass.

Many airports have TSA Pre-Check stations but not every terminal in those airports have them. Also, sometimes for whatever reason, you might not get issued a boarding pass with TSA Pre-Check and you won’t be able to take advantage of the perks even though you are enrolled in the program (this still has not happened to me yet).

Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check?

A lot of people wonder whether or not they should choose TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry.

The answer to this question depends a lot on your personal preferences.

If you are only going to be traveling within the US then your need for Global Entry will be nearly zero. In that case, getting TSA Pre-Check should be just fine. Also, if you don’t think that you can pass the Global Entry interview and background check because of past criminal issues (many times even DWIs can be an issue), then you might want to settle for Pre-Check until more time passes since your latest criminal offense.

On the other hand, if you’re going to be traveling internationally then you might want to think about Global Entry since it will save you a lot of time getting back into the country. Even if you only have one international trip a year, Global Entry can be worth it if you get caught with some ridiculous lines back through immigration and customs.

American Express Global Entry FAQ

Can I use the Global Entry credit for someone else?

You should be able to use your statement credit on a card that is in your name for a Global Entry application that is in someone else’s name.

However, note that when paying for TSA Pre-Check at an enrollment center, you will usually be required to have a credit card in that person’s name or at least to be present when using your card, so “lending” a card to someone else is not a good idea for TSA Pre-Check.

How often can I get the statement credit?

Card Members are eligible to receive statement credit every 4 years for the application fee for either Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check when charged to an eligible Card.

Can I get a credit for TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry?

Card Members will receive a statement credit for the first program (either Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check ) to which they apply and pay for with their eligible Card regardless of whether they are approved for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check.

Does using an Amex increase my approval odds?

No, using an Amex card for your application fee has no bearing on your approval.

Can I get a credit refund if I get denied?

No, if you get denied for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check you will not get your credit refunded. You will have to wait four years until you can utilize the credit again, though you can attempt to re-apply anytime you wish (without the credit).

Does Amex has access to my application information?

No, Amex does not have access to any information provided to the government by the Card Member or by the government to the Card Member.

Does the credit work for other programs like NEXUS, SENTRI, CLEAR, etc.?

No, the credit will not work with other program applications such as NEXUS, SENTRI, and Privium.

Final word

If you do any type of air travel, it’s really a no-brainer that you should use your Amex statement credit to enroll in one of these programs. Membership lasts for five years and it’s free with your credit so any inconvenience with attending interviews or enrollment centers is well worth it in my opinion.

Global Entry Interview at Houston Intercontinental Airport Report

One of the most daunting parts of getting Global Entry is the interview process. It can take a long time to find an open interview slot and some people have worries about the questions they will face.

But I’m here to tell you that getting through my Global Entry interview at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) was a breeze for me and hopefully it will be for you, too.

Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect at your appointment and some insight that might help you get seen a little quicker. 

Scheduling a Global Entry appointment at IAH

The availability for IAH interview slots changes what seems like daily. If the earliest appointment time for you is weeks out then I definitely recommend checking a couple of times a day to see if any earlier openings show up.

After I received my conditional approval and I tried to schedule my appointment, there were no openings showing up for at least a month out!

Later that evening, however, I was able to find a morning interview for 9 days later (and that’s including Christmas). So it is definitely possible to find an interview within a week or two from the time that you’re conditionally approved.

July 9, 2017 update: You can take care of your interview while returning to the US at select airport locations, including IAH and HOU. When you are getting ready to make your way through immigration, you should see a sign for Global Entry for people who are already conditionally approved. The sign should look like the image below. 

Picture of a global entry interview on arrival sign.
You can do your interview when arriving from an international flight now at select airports.

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Where do you go for your Global Entry Interview at IAH?

Park in the arrivals concourse for Terminal E, walk to the elevators and go down to ground level as you enter into the terminal. Walk over to the Starbucks area and you will see a sign pointing you towards a doorway where another sign tells you where to find the Global Entry office. (If you’re facing the Starbucks, the door is going to be on your left.)

The door to the room where the interviews take place won’t open until 8am but you can go through the glass door and wait in the hallway before it opens. Know that they schedule multiple people for the same slots, so If you have an 8am appointment (or any time near that time), you can go ahead and get in line to ensure that you’re the first one seen. 

Tip: make sure you that you have all the needed documents before your interview. 

Do they take walk-ins for Global Entry?

No. Or at least not officially. We called ahead to ask if they take walk-ins and were told no. We also checked with the alternate Houston venue for an interview, the Houston Public Library, and they informed us that they do not take any walk-ins.

Those are their official policies, but see my experience below on walk-ins.

Can you arrive earlier than your appointment time?

Brad and I both had appointments.

His was at 8:30 and mine was at 9:30.

We arrived around 8am to see if we could get seen early and were partly successful, as Brad was able to be seen about 15 minutes prior to his scheduled interview time and I had to wait all the way until 9:30.

It’s pretty unorganized how they run things to be honest.

First, as soon as you walk in they take down your name and notate your appointment time. Presumably, they also take note of your arrival time so that you’d be seen before someone else who comes in later. However, that’s not how it worked.

After we checked-in they began calling out names and I was really surprised at the number of no-shows.

For every person who showed up there was at least one or two people who didn’t. Because of the number of no-shows, Brad was able to get seen about 15 minutes early, which was really nice.

However, after they called his name, a number of people came into the room and checked in. Some of these people had appointments before me so even though I was there before them, I didn’t expect to be seen before any of them.

Yet, as I waited for my name to be called, I noticed that several people were being seen before me despite the fact that they had appointments after me and had arrived after me! I realized this because when they “checked-out” the officers would announce their appointment time.

By the time I realized this, several handfuls of others had come in and all of them had appointments before my time so I wouldn’t have felt fully justified in demanding to be seen before them. Thus, while Brad got seen early, I had to wait till 9:30 to be seen.

It was a pretty annoying experience when others were getting called before me even though they arrived later and had later appointment times, but at least when my appointment time came I was seen first and seen on time. So I can’t really complain, too much.

Allowing Walk-ins

So as mentioned their official policy is that they don’t allow walk-ins.

However, they let a couple in when I was there.

In fact, one lady stated that she was on a “waiting list” and was seen before me. I don’t know how she got on this alleged waiting list or if that was just her way of saying she’s a walk-in but it worked for her. 

There were also a number of others arriving without appointments with random requests like name changes and renewals and these people were usually seen within minutes.

If you try to show up as a walk-in the greeting officer will likely tell you that there’s no guarantee they can get to you but they seemed to get to at least some of the folks coming in without appointments. (This could be different at a later time in the day when they are really swamped.)

So the answer to whether or not you can arrive early and be seen early is probably a “it depends.”

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What is the Global Entry interview like at IAH?

The “interview” is hardly anything of an interview.

First, the day I went, there were only three officers (there are 4 total desks in the room).

One officer seemed to be the facilitator of the appointments and didn’t really do interviews but the other two officers stayed busy knocking out the interviews, which usually lasted no longer than 5 minutes.

The layout in the room is all open and unless you intend on whispering your answers to the officer, everybody in the room can probably hear your responses, as there’s really no privacy.

About 12 chairs line the wall of the room and once things picked up, several people had to wait outside so don’t be surprised if you have to wait out in the hallway, especially if you don’t come early in the morning.

After being asked to give them a copy of my conditional approval letter (don’t forget that), I was only asked a couple of questions like, “What’s your occupation?” “Do you travel for business or pleasure?” “Do you travel with a family?” Very basic stuff. Both officers conducting the interviews were very friendly and it was a completely painless experience.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to mention that I spent time in Australia within the last five years on my Global Entry App when I filled it out online. So I told him that I’d forgotten that and he just added it to my file with no issue.

After asking me a couple of questions and notating my file, the officer then went over some of the procedural information for Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check and after only about 3 to 4 minutes the “interview” was over. Unlike many accounts elsewhere, we didn’t have to watch any introduction video or anything like that.

Once the interview was over, I was fingerprinted with the electronic machine and he took a photo and the whole thing was over just like that.

Do you get approved instantly for Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check?

This part was kind of weird. I noticed that for some people, they were told, “Congratulations! You’ve been approved!” and others were simply told to await an email for notification of their approval. The folks who were immediately approved were both young and old, so I’m not sure what determines that.

I had to wait to get an email which I got about 5 minutes after my interview telling me to check my account and when I checked it, it stated that I was approved and both TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry were ready to be used.

I finally had a Known Traveler Number!

I think I got a little lucky being able to knock out Global Entry in about 10 days from the date of applying, as I’ve seen the process take a couple of months for others. However, you can probably get “lucky” too if you just keep refreshing that interview page a couple of times a day and hope that openings show up like they did for me. Good Luck!

Related: Global Entry Renewal Guide

Can You Bring Deodorant on a Plane? (TSA Rules) [2020]

It’s always a good idea to keep deodorant on standby when traveling. This is especially the case when you are traveling through potentially warm environments like airport terminals, airplanes, and everywhere in-between.

The problem is that some types of deodorant are subject to special TSA rules and if you don’t know about those, you might have to throw out your deodorant. 

In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about bringing deodorant on an airplane and the TSA rules that apply. I’ll also give you some tips for bringing other types of toiletries through TSA as well. 

Can you bring deodorant on a plane?

Yes, you can bring certain types of deodorant on a plane but you want to take into consideration some TSA restrictions that I talk about in detail below before setting out on your travels.   

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Is your deodorant a liquid?

The biggest consideration is whether or not your deodorant will be classified as a liquid. If it is classified as a liquid, it will be subject to the TSA 3-1-1 liquids rule.

The rule limits you to containers of no larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 ml for your liquids. Keep in mind that TSA is only concerned with the size of the container and not how much material is inside.

So for example if you have a five ounce container with only one ounce of deodorant that is still not in compliance with the rule. Your container cannot be any larger than 3.4 ounces. 

You can bring along as many of these containers as can fit “comfortably” inside a quart size resealable bag. Typically, this will be a clear Ziploc bag and fitting “comfortably” just means that the bag is not bursting at the seams.

When you make your way through airport security, you will have to remove these containers from your carry-on luggage. (That’s why I always suggest for you to keep your liquids bag at the top of your backpack or carry-on bag for easy retrieval.) 

However, if you have a membership like TSA Pre-Check, then you can keep your bag in your luggage.

That program also allows you to access an expedited security lane and keep items on like your jacket, belt, and shoes. It definitely helps to expedite the security process and if you want to read more about that program click here.

It’s not just pure liquids that are subject to this rule either. Other types of liquid-like substances such as creams, pastes, and other types of gels are also subject to the 3-1-1 rule. 

The following types of deodorants will be subject to the liquids 3-1-1 rule:

  • Spray
  • Gel
  • Liquid
  • Cream
  • Pastes
  • and Roll-On deodorants

So if you’re trying to bring in something like AXE body spray you’ll need to keep these limited to the very small containers that can fit inside of the clear plastic bag. Of course, you can always store these in your checked baggage where they won’t be subject to the same size requirements. 

Be careful because many spray on deodorants come in a standard 3.8 ounce or similar size which would be in violation of the liquids rule.

Solid deodorant

If you are bringing stick deodorant then you can bring in any size deodorant. Many popular brands make stick deodorants including: Old Spice, Right Guard, Gillette, Degree, Suave, Speed Stick, and Secret.

Also, if your deodorant consists of powders or crystals you should be able to bring in any size as well. 

Other toiletry items

Since you are asking about deodorant, you might also be wondering about other toiletry items that are commonly brought when traveling.

It’s actually pretty easy to figure out how TSA will view your items. If the objects are not 100% solid then they will likely be considered a liquid.

So again if you have items that consist of gels, creams, pastes, etc., those are going to be considered liquids. This means things like toothpaste, shaving cream, hair gel, mouthwash, sunscreen, etc., are all subject to the 3-1-1 rule. 

Solid chapstick/lip balm is not subject to the liquids rule. If you have the little containers that are full of gels like Carmex then in those cases those could be subject to the liquids rule.

However, I have brought Carmex through airports many times and never been required to put it in a liquids bag — perhaps because the containers are so small.

Also anything that comes in an aerosol can is also subject to this rule. So if you are also traveling with things like hairspray that would be subject to the 3-1-1 rule. 

If you’re wondering about things like nail clippers, disposable razors, tweezers, and scissors, those should be fine as long as they are under 4 inches. (Any sharp objects in checked baggage should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors.)

And when it comes to make-up, many of your liquid items will be subject to the 3-1-1 rule as well. 

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Bringing food through TSA

If you have questions about different types of food those can get a little bit more complicated sometimes.

Luckily, I have put together an article that walks you through the different types of foods that you can bring through TSA and onto a plane. (Some of the foods will surprise you.) Click here to read more about those.

Also, if you are wondering about the special rules for bringing alcohol on a plane you can click here to find out more about those. 

Final word

Overall, it’s not that difficult to figure out what is accepted through TSA. Basically, if what you were trying to bring is not in a purely solid form chances are it will be considered a liquid. And in that case it will be subject to the 3-1-1 rule. So be prepared to comply with that rule and you will have nothing to worry about.  

TSA Pre-Check for Free? 28 Ways to Get it (Not Just Credit Cards) [2020]

TSA Pre-Check comes with some great perks for getting through airports much quicker. And so naturally a lot of people wonder how they can get TSA Pre-Check without shelling out cash for it. In this article, I will walk you through a number of different ways to get TSA Pre-Check for free.

Most of these methods involve using credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve but not all of them do. I’ll also explain to why you may NOT want to go with TSA Pre-Check and why you might consider going with other programs like Global Entry.

What is TSA Pre-Check?

TSA Pre-Check is a special Trusted Traveler program that allows you expedited access through airport security. At over 200 airports and with over 60 airlines, you’ll be able to enter a security shorter line and then once you make your way through the security screening you’ll get some special privileges like:

  • Keeping your shoes, belt, and light jackets on
  • Not having to remove your electronics from your carry-on
  • Not having to remove your liquids from your carry-on 
  • Avoiding the intrusive body scanner  

Not every airport terminal has TSA Pre-Check so you won’t always be able to take advantage of it but when you can, it will often make the airport experience way less stressful, not to mention you can save a lot of time. 

The way it works is very simple. The first thing that you will need to do is apply online (the application process for TSA Pre-Check is not very difficult at all).

After you submit an application you will need to attend an in-person appointment that includes a background check and fingerprinting/getting a photo taken. At this point you would normally pay the $85 application fee which will cover you for five years. 

After that, if you are approved you will be issued a Known Traveler Number within a couple of weeks. You will then input your Known Traveler Number into your itinerary or your frequent flyer profile and each time you fly you will be eligible for Pre-Check.

Tip: Always double check that your Known Traveler Number is in your frequent flyer profile, especially if you are flying on Southwest since it can “disappear” sometimes. 

You won’t be issued Pre-Check every time but about 95% to 98% of the time you will see the Pre-Check logo on your boarding pass after you check in and that’s all you need to partake in Pre-Check. If you want to read more about the TSA Pre-Check program, click here

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

How to get TSA Pre-Check for free 

Below, I will discuss the different ways that you can get TSA Pre-Check for free. Most are obviously with credit cards but there are a couple of ways outside of that to get it. 

1. Randomly issued 

The first way that you can TSA Pre-Check for free is to have it randomly issued to you for free. TSA likes to introduce people to their Pre-Check program and so sometimes they will automatically add Pre-Check to your boarding pass after check-in. I’ve heard that this is more common for elderly folks but it can happen to just about anyone.

2. TSA Pre-Check military benefits

Members of the armed forces can take advantage of Pre-Check. They simply need to enter their DoD ID number from the back of their common access card into the “known traveler number” field of their flight reservations or when updating their Defense Travel System profile for official travel.

Eligible Department of Defense federal civilians may be able to bypass the application process as well by opting in.

3. Redeem miles or points for TSA Pre-Check

There are a number of frequent flyer programs that allow you to use your points on TSA Pre-Check (or Global Entry) so that you don’t have to put down any cash. In many (if not all) cases, this type of redemption does not offer the best value for your miles/points so you may want to pass on it. 

Here are some examples of how you could use points for TSA Pre-Check in the past. Note that prices are subject to change: 

  • Club Carlson: 65,000 points for TSA Pre-Check
  • Delta Airlines: Platinum or Medallion members can get Global Entry
  • Hilton Honors: 30,000 Honors Points for TSA Pre-Check 
  • IHG Rewards: Redeem 30,000 points for TSA Pre-Check 
  • Marriott Rewards: Redeem 25,000 Marriott Rewards Points for TSA Pre-Check
  • Orbitz Rewards: Platinum members can choose a free TSA Pre-Check membership
  • Radisson Rewards: Redeem 65,000 points for TSA Pre-Check 
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards: Redeem 9,000 Rapid Rewards points for TSA Pre-Check (not sure if this is still a thing)
  • United MileagePlus: Redeem 10,000 miles for TSA Pre-Check

4. Be 12 or under 

If you’re a kid (12 or under), you won’t be required to have your own TSA Pre-Check membership and you can accompany your parent/guardian through the Pre-Check line.

Credits cards that offer TSA Pre-Check

Below are 24 credit cards that offer a free TSA Pre-Check membership. But all of these cards are not created equally. In fact, may of these cards can differ dramatically in the perks that they offer and come with annual fees that range from around $90 to over $500. 

I’ll show you the full list of credit cards that offer TSA Pre-Check below and then highlight a few of the best cards that come with Pre-Check. Note that the TSA Pre-Check credit is given for periods of four or five years with these cards so always check to see if you’re getting the credit every four or five years. 

  1. BB&T Spectrum Travel Rewards card 
  2. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  3. American Express Platinum Card
  4. Chase Sapphire Reserve
  5. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World EliteTM MasterCard®
  6. Citi Prestige Card
  7. Diners Club Carte Blanche Corporate Card
  8. Expedia Rewards Voyager Card from Citi
  9. HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard credit card
  10. IHG Rewards Club
  11. Marriott Rewards
  12. MasterCard Black Card
  13. MasterCard Gold Card
  14. Navy Federal’s Visa Signature Flagship Rewards Card
  15. Orbitz Rewards
  16. PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express card
  17. Provident World+ Travel
  18. Radisson Reward
  19. SunTrust Travel Rewards World Elite Mastercard Credit Card
  20. United Explorer Card
  21. United MileagePlus
  22. US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
  23. US Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express® Card

American Express Platinum Card

The American Express Platinum Card is one of the bets premium cards out there on the market. The card is absolutely loaded with benefits, which include things like a high welcome bonus, hotel elite status, 5X on airfare, a luxury hotel program, and savings on premium flights. It’s also the best card for airport lounge access. Read more about all of the amazing Platinum Card benefits here

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is another great premium credit card and also comes with airport lounge access (albeit not as good as the Platinum Card). It’s known for its great bonus categories of 3X on dining and travel and the $300 travel credit that helps to offset the $550 annual fee.

If you don’t want to shell out so much for the annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great option (with only a $95 annual fee) but it does NOT come with Pre-Check currently. Now that the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with a higher welcome bonus many people are applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred first with the plan to upgrade to the Reserve at a later date. 

Capital One Venture Card


The Venture Card is not a premium card like the two cards above but it’s more of a general use credit card that offers 2% back on every purchase. It has a much more manageable annual fee of $95 and now you can transfer your points out to some travel partners which increases the value of the card by a lot. 

United Explorer Card

The United Explorer Card is a perfect option for anybody who is interested in flying with United airlines. It often comes with a great welcome bonus that you can put to use and also has some of the best perks out of any co-branded airline credit card. These include perks like: free checked bags for two people (even on international flights), priority boarding, 25% back on United inflight purchases, and best of all: two free lounge passes to United Clubs every year.

TSA Pre-Check free for seniors? 

TSA Pre-Check is not for free for seniors. As I mentioned earlier, you might lucky and get Pre-Check randomly issued to you for free, though. If you are 75 or older, you should be able to keep your light jacket and shoes on when going through security so you do have a form of Pre-Check in many cases.

Business class and first class flights

At many airports, you’ll be able to take advantage of an expedited security lane if you’re flying in a premium cabin, such as business class or first class. Sometimes you might even be able to make your way through the Pre-Check line in these instances but at the very least, you should be able to take advantage of shorter lines.

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Why to NOT get Pre-Check: Global Entry

If you’re not aware, Global Entry is an amazing program that allows you expedited entry back into the US. If you get Global Entry, then those long and winding lines through immigration and customs become a thing of the past (in most cases), because you’ll be able to zip through a short line and get through Global Entry kiosks instead of waiting in the traditional lines open to the public. 

I can state from personal experience that I’ve avoided dozens of hours of waiting in line due to Global Entry. And waiting in line (especially after long flights back into the country) is not very fun at all. A 25 minute wait after a 15 hour flight feels a lot worse than your typical 25 minute wait at the DMV or doctor’s office.  

The thing about Global Entry is that if you get it, you also get TSA Pre-Check. Most of the credit cards that offer statement credits for TSA Pre-Check also offer those credits for Global Entry which costs $100. So you get more value and more benefits if you use your credit card for Global Entry instead of Pre-Check. 

The drawback to Global Entry is that it requires more effort to get through the application process. This is because they do a deeper dive into your background and require you to schedule an interview (which is harder to schedule because there are fewer enrollment locations).

While you can sometimes schedule your Pre-Check interview for the next day, sometimes you may have to wait weeks or even months to schedule your interview for Global Entry. 

But if you can get through the background check and interview, Global Entry is worth the extra bit of legwork that it requires. It’s also worth noting that there’s a “free” version of Global Entry that you can get called Mobile Passport, which is an app that gets you expedited access through immigration.  

Final word

There are many different ways to get Pre-Check for free. Credit cards are the easiest and most reliable way to get Pre-Check for free but you should consider Global Entry since it comes with Pre-Check benefits and a lot more perks to make your life as a traveler easier. 

Should I Apply for the NEXUS Program?

NEXUS is one of a hand full of Trusted Traveler Programs launched by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to expedite the entry process through immigration. The difference with NEXUS is that it also provides expedited entry into Canada. And although NEXUS isn’t marketed as heavily as Global Entry, it’s arguably more valuable than Global Entry. Here’s a guide to NEXUS with everything you need to know. 

What is NEXUS?

Some describe NEXUS as the “Canadian version of Global Entry,” but I don’t think that’s quite accurate since that would mean the program just offers you expedited entry into Canada. But the program is much more than that.

NEXUS is a joint program between the US and Canada that will grant pre-approved, low-risk travelers expedited entry into both Canada and the US. Specifically, membership in the NEXUS program allows you to reduce your wait times at designated ports of entry by:

  • Using dedicated processing lanes at land border crossings
  • Using NEXUS kiosks when entering Canada
  • Using their card in dedicated SENTRI lanes along the U.S.-Mexico border
  • Using Global Entry kioks when entering the United States, and
  • Calling a marine telephone reporting center to report your arrival into the United States and Canada

You may also be granted access to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) Security Line at some Canadian airports to expedite airport pre-boarding security screening. (This is like a Canadian version of TSA Pre-Check.)

Who is eligible for NEXUS?

  • U.S. citizens
  • U.S. lawful permanent residents
  • Canadian citizens
  • and Canadian lawful permanent residents
  • If you are under the age of 18, you must have your parent or legal guardian’s consent to participate in the program.

Note the eligibility for NEXUS is not quite as broad as it is for Global Entry, which allows for citizens of some other countries to apply.

Does NEXUS require a background check?

Just like Global Entry, NEXUS will require you to clear a background check. The difference is that this background check also is submitted to Canadian authorities, such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Thus, if you have done any of the following, there’s a chance that you might not be eligible:

  • Provide false or incomplete information on the application;
  • Have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants (to include driving under the influence);
  • Have been found in violation of any customs, immigration or agriculture regulations or laws in any country;
  • Are the subject of an ongoing investigation by any federal, state or local law enforcement agency;
  • Are inadmissible to the United States under immigration regulation, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation; or
  • Cannot satisfy CBP or Canada Border Services Agency of your low-risk status

Both the United States and Canada must approve your application. Denial of an application by either country will prevent you from participating in the NEXUS program.

How do I apply for NEXUS?

You apply for NEXUS in the same way you apply for Global Entry. Head over to the TTP website where you can begin your application.

One of the major draws to the NEXUS  program is that the application fee is only $50. This is surprising since NEXUS comes with both Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check (Pre-Check is offered for  for U.S. Citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and Canadian citizens). Global Entry would cost you $100 so Nexus is half the price with even more benefits, which is pretty amazing. 

Unfortunately, you cannot use credits on cards like the Platinum Card from American Express or Chase Sapphire Reserve to cover this fee like you could for Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check.

Note: there is no fee for applicants under the age of 18 although they must still fill out a separate application form.

Do I have to do an interview for NEXUS?

This is probably the biggest drawback to the NEXUS program. You have to go in for an interview but have to do it at one of the limited locations near the U.S./Canada border. You can check for NEXUS enrollment center here. (Note that the website lists each state on the page but only a few of the northern states will actually have an enrollment center, so I’d rather search here. 

Like Global Entry, there are often long wait times for scheduling an interview but it’s often possible to continuously check the schedule to see if anything opens up to get your interview done sooner.

What airports can I use NEXUS at?

NEXUS kiosks are located at the following airports:

  • Calgary International Airport (YYC)
  • Edmonton International Airport (YEG)
  • Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ)
  • Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL)
  • Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW)
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
  • Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ)
  • Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
  • Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG)

You can also find NEXUS kiosks at the following land crossings:

Nexus lanes are located at the following land border crossings:

  • Alexandria Bay, New York
  • Blaine, Washington (Pacific Highway)
  • Blaine, Washington (Peace Arch)
  • Buffalo, New York (Peace Bridge)
  • Calais, Maine
  • Champlain, New York
  • Detroit, Michigan (Ambassador Bridge)
  • Detroit, Michigan (Detroit-Windsor Tunnel)
  • Highgate Springs, Vermont
  • Houlton, Maine
  • Niagara Falls, New York (Lewiston Bridge)
  • Niagara Falls, New York (Whirlpool Bridge)
  • Pembina, North Dakota
  • Point Roberts, Washington
  • Port Huron, Michigan (Blue Water Bridge)
  • Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (International Bridge)
  • Sweetgrass, Montana
  • Sumas, Washington

Don’t forget that you also have access to Global Entry which is found at tons of airports around the US.

Can others use the NEXUS lines with me?

Only Trusted Travelers who have successfully been through the application and interview process can use NEXUS kiosks. Thus, if anybody traveling with you does not have a NEXUS membership, they will have to go through a separate line.

NEXUS cards

Like Global Entry, you’ll receive a membership identification card to use when entering Canada or the United States at all designated NEXUS air, land and marine ports of entry. Note that there is a non-refundable $25 (USD) fee to replace a NEXUS card that is damaged, lost or stolen.

Can I use my NEXUS card instead of my passport? 

Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), the NEXUS card has been approved as an alternative to the passport for sea, air, and land travel into the United States for U.S. and Canadian citizens. With that said, I’d still carry my passport because you never know what kind of customs agent you might run into. They might be in the wrong in some instances by asking you to show your passport but if you’ve got it on hand you can potentially avoid a long, unnecessary ordeal.

Also, you’ll still need your passport to process through Global Entry Kiosks (that are not pre-clearance stations in Canada). So I recommend that you bring your passport with you anytime you are crossing any international border. 

Final word 

NEXUS is arguably the #1 Trusted Traveler Program since it’s cheaper (for some) and comes with expedited entry into Canada along with Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check. The only issue is the location of the enrollment centers but if you can make it to one and pass the interview, I think it’d be worth at least considering over Global Entry.

Global Entry Allowing Interviews for Arriving Passengers at Select Airports

Big news for any Houstonians and some others trying to get Global Entry. Global Entry is now allowing applicants to take care of their “interview” when arriving through immigration at certain airports. This is new feature called “Enrollment on Arrival” is available at both Houston airports IAH and HOU, as well as Austin (AUS) and Vancouver (YVR). It’s also expected to arrive at SFO sometime in the near future.

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a program that allows you access to an expedited line through immigration and often customs. It also comes with TSA Pre-Check so you can get through security in a breeze. It costs $100 for five years but you can cover this expense with free credits with certain cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or The Platinum Card® from American Express. Global Entry has saved me a ton of time and there’s no doubt to me that it’s worth it for anyone who frequently or semi-frequently flies internationally.

If you’re interested in Global Entry, I suggest also reading up on other programs that offer expedites access:

What’s so special about Enrollment on Arrival?

This Enrollment on Arrival feature is very good news. The biggest hurdle to Global Entry (aside from clearing the background check for some people), is the interview. In some areas, you have to travel pretty far to get to the interview locations but the bigger issue is that wait times can easily be over a month for many people and often involve an unnecessary run to an airport.

Now, you can take care of this interview without making an appointment when you clear United States Customs and Border Protection or Preclearance.

How does it work?

First, you need to have already applied and been conditionally accepted (which usually takes around a week). After you’ve done that then you can make use of this new system. You can read about how to fill out the application and get conditionally approved here. 

When returning to the US and go through Immigration, there will be signs pointing you to where you need to go, which will likely some type of booth with an agent. You’ll need to bring your passport (and I’d also bring my conditional letter of approval just to be safe) and the US CBP officers will complete your “interview” on the spot while also clearing you through Immigration.

I use quotations because when I did my interview in Houston it was a matter of being asked a handful of very simple questions I’d mostly already answered on the application and it all being done within 5 minutes. You can read more about my Global Entry interview experience here.

I see no reason why the interviews would last much longer for this new process although there could always be some hiccups when implementing a new policy like this.

The only question mark I have right now is how long can you wait until after you’ve been conditionally approved to do this? I know that you’re supposed to schedule (not attend) your interview within 30 days of getting conditionally approved, so I wonder how long you have to do Enrollment on Arrival after you’ve been conditionally approved? I”ll update if/when I get that answer.

Should I Sign-Up for CLEAR?

There are so many different types of programs out there for expedited access through airport security and immigration that it’s difficult to keep up with. Each of these type of programs offer something unique but often there’s overlap between them so it’s important to do some research on the programs and learn which program would be best for you.

Some of the most popular options to research include:

But there’s another program out there called CLEAR. CLEAR is a privately owned service offered to passengers that allows them to bypass the lines going into airport security, whether you are going into the standard security line or the TSA Pre-Check line. It was originally part of the Registered Traveler program and although CLEAR is privately owned, it still in some ways has to work with governmental organizations, including TSA.

How does CLEAR work?

CLEAR works very simply. You find the CLEAR line leading to security which should have little to no line and then you simply scan your boarding pass and biometric data and then you’re off to the races and able to skip whatever line you would have been waiting on. You don’t even have to show your ID. And again, you’ll be able to jump the line regardless of if you’re headed to the TSA Pre-Check line or the standard security line.

Image via CLEAR.

How much does CLEAR cost?

Out of all of these traveler programs, CLEAR is by far the most expensive. It costs $179 per year.

They do offer different types of promos so you can get that for about $30 cheaper or try CLEAR out for free for a couple of months but in the long-run, it’s gonna cost you $179 each year, which is a lot compared the other programs that are closer to $100 and good for five year.

How do I sign-up for CLEAR?

You can start the registration process online by filling out some personal information and then you can finish the sign-up process by finding a CLEAR location at an airport near you (no appointment necessary).

Completing the registration process at the airport is only supposed to only take a few minutes. It consists of you inputting your details into a kiosk and then allowing them to register your biometric data including iris scan and fingerprints. As soon as you register, you’ll be able to use CLEAR instantly.

What airports have CLEAR?

One drawback to CLEAR is that it’s still growing and therefore you won’t find it at every major airport. As of June 2017, here are the locations that you’ll find CLEAR kiosks at:

Image via CLEAR.

Does CLEAR have any other benefits?

CLEAR also provides you with expedited access to arenas and stadiums, too. For example, there are several sports venues where you can find CLEAR. However, these are limited to just a few like Yankee Stadium, American Airlines Arena, (Miami) AT&T Park (San Francisco), etc. Hopefully we’ll see this list grow.

Is CLEAR worth it?

So the big question is CLEAR worth it?

I think that for some people it’s definitely worth it. If you are a frequent flyer who constantly make their way through airports that have CLEAR kiosks during peak hours in the day when even the TSA Pre-Check line can get backed up then I think that CLEAR could absolutely be worth it. If you combine CLEAR with TSA Pre-Check, your journey through airport security would be an absolute breeze.

However, if you don’t fly a lot or don’t frequent an airport with CLEAR then I think it’d be difficult to justify the $179/year expense. Also, if you’re like me and often fly in the wee hours of the morning then CLEAR may not be necessary.

I regularly fly out of HOU and IAH early in the morning and never have issues with waiting on the TSA Pre-Check line (and even the standard security line is not a problem. Thus, for me CLEAR hasn’t proven to be necessary.

There’s also the security concern of handing over biographical information and biometrics to a private organization. Personally, this doesn’t bother because it’s not like Ive got a safe in my house with $10,000,000 that someone is going to use my iris scan data to access.

Still, I know some people are very conservative when it comes to handing over such data and CLEAR did have some security/bankruptcy issues dating back to 2008 when it was owned by Verified Identity Pass, Inc. It’s now owned by Alclear, LLC and reportedly is on the right track since it’s relaunch in 2010.

Final word

CLEAR is a cool concept that allows you to make your airport experience even less stressful. The biggest issue to me is the price — the fact that I’d have to pay $179 per year means that I’d need to make sure I’m getting my money’s worth and based on my travel patterns right now, it just doesn’t seem necessary. But for others, CLEAR could definitely be worth it.

Mobile Passport Control (MPC) Versus Global Entry: Which One is for You?

Mobile Passport Control is the new kid on the block everyone is trying to find out more about. It’s a new program launched by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to help expedite the entry process into the United States. Meanwhile, Global Entry is a more established program with an intensive application process that requires an interview and $100 fee but also comes with more benefits. Here’a a look at the two programs and some factors to help you decide which is the better program for you.

Mobile Passport Control

Launched in the fall of 2014, Mobile Passport Control is an app, developed by Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America in partnerships with CBP, that you can download to use in order to expedite your entry into the US. It’s available in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

It’s an extremely simple process to use and it goes like this:

  • Download the app. Travelers can download the app as late as their arrival to the US (when you finally obtain service again), so there’s no rush to download the app.
  • Create your profile. Once it’s downloaded, travelers will be prompted to create a profile with their passport information, which will also include their name, gender, date of birth, and country of citizenship.
  • Create a “new trip.” Upon landing in the United States, travelers will complete the “New Trip” section by selecting their arrival airport and airline, taking a selfie photo, and answering a series of custom declaration questions. Like Global Entry, this eliminates the need to fill out the Customs declaration paperwork issued on the plane. 
  • Obtain your QR Code. Once the traveler submits (uploads) their customs declaration form through the app, the traveler will receive an electronic receipt with an Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code. This receipt will expire four hours after being issued.
  • Show digital bar code. Travelers then follow the Mobile Passport Control signs to the designated Mobile Passport Control line. There, they will bring their passport and mobile device with their digital bar-coded receipt to a CBP officer to finalize their inspection for entry into the United States.
  • The app is FREE and there’s no interview or application/interview process involved in using it.

Mobile Passport Control steps.

As you can see, it’s a very simply process. However, you’ll want to do some research to see if your local airport has MPC capabilities. MPC is currently available in the following cities:

  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Houston (IAH and HOU)
  • Miami
  • Minneapolis
  • New York (JFK and EWR)
  • Orlando
  • Raleigh Durham
  • Sacramento
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • Seattle
  • Tampa
  • Washington Dulles

Mobile Passport Control locations.

Global Entry 

Global Entry is a program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. This means that you are required to submit a detailed application containing background information, such as where you have lived, worked, and traveled. And most importantly, you must disclose if you have any type of criminal history.

You’ll then need to schedule an interview and once you’ve passed the interview stage, you’ll be given access to the program for five years at which point you can renew your membership.

If you enroll in the program, you automatically are given TSA Pre-Check, which will allow you expedited access through security when flying on most domestic airlines and even some international airlines, such as Singapore Airlines.

Global Entry is not free and costs $100. However, many credit cards offer $100 credits for Global Entry to cover the costs including the Platinum Card from American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and citizens of a few other countries are eligible for Global Entry membership. Global Entry is also available to:

  • Citizens of United Kingdom
  • Citizens of Germany
  • Citizens of the Netherlands
  • Citizens of Panama
  • Citizens of South Korea
  • Mexican nationals

Global Entry works very similarly to MPC, except you verify your information at the Global Entry kiosk after you’ve scanned your passport. You then typically go through a checkpoint with a CBP who likely will allow you to pass with almost no interaction (versus MPC where you might still be subject to some questions).

After you make your way through immigration, many airports also have designated lines for Global entry users to get expedited through customs (where your baggage might be inspected), so in many instances, Global Entry is 2X the time saver.

Read more about my guide to Global Entry here and also what the interview process is like for Global Entry.

The differences 

  • MPC is free while Global Entry costs $100 

The price factor is something a lot of people will obviously want to consider. If you rarely ever travel outside of the country, you may find it hard to justify paying $100 for this perk, especially if you don’t have a credit card that will credit you. But don’t forget Global Entry membership is good for five years, so it’s like paying $20 per year which I think it is well worth it considering how long the lines can be at times.

  • MPC does not require a interview process 

The biggest hurdle to getting Global Entry isn’t the price for many people, but going through the interview process.

There aren’t a lot of interview locations like there are for TSA Pre-Check and the waiting times for the interviews can be very long (sometimes months long). In addition, Global Entry requires you to have a squeaky clean criminal record, so people who may have slipped up with a misdemeanor a few years ago may not be able to clear the background check. For those reasons, MPC can be a much more practical option.

  • Global Entry is much more widespread

Global Entry is the more established program and because of that it’s presence is much more widespread. MPC is growing quickly, however, and is already in many of the biggest cities and can even be found in some secondary airports (e.g., IAH and HOU).

  • Global Entry is available to more foreigners 

U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors can use Mobile Passport Control. However, as stated above, Global entry is available to citizens of several different nations.

  • Global Entry comes with TSA Pre-Check 

TSA Pre-Check normally costs $75 but is included in the price of Global Entry. This is a nice benefit that makes getting through security much quicker and less stressful. MPC does not come with this perk and its benefits are limited strictly to gaining entry into the US.

  • MPC can be used for families 

The MPC app allows for families of four to submit a single customs declaration form. While family members can each obtain Global Entry individually, MPC allows you to quickly submit up to four family members. Plus, since it’s free, it’s likely better suited for larger families.

In addition, MPC is more practical for mixed-groups who don’t all have Global Entry, since you can still all access expedited entry.

  • The lines could be shorter for either program 

I’ve had a tremendous experience with Global Entry lines being short and quick but that’s not always the case. There are even reports showing that Global Entry lines have been longer than the MPC lines during certain times. This may not be the case for long as MPC rises in popularity but for now it would be a good idea to have MPC even on-deck even if you already have Global Entry so you could decide to enter into the shortest line at the time of your arrival.

  • MPC likely will not have an exclusive line for customs 

This is a big determining factor to me, as I’ve been able to avoid very long customs lines as a result of Global Entry. Airports differ in how they handle customs lines, but if your airport has a designated Global Entry line and then a separate line for “everybody else” (like at IAH), chances are you’ll benefit more with Global Entry and could save a lot of time exiting an airport. For this reason alone, I’d probably stick with Global Entry.

Final word 

Global Entry is probably better suited for those travelers who will frequently utilize the benefit and/or want to do whatever they can to avoid long lines at airports (since TSA Pre-Check is included and you often get to skip long customs lines). Mobile Passport Control, on the other hand, is likely better suited for the casual traveler who doesn’t want to shell out $100 or go through the interview process of Global Entry. However, I’d recommend everyone to download the Mobile Passport Control app and consider using it, since you never know when the lines might be even shorter than those found for Global Entry.

Guide to TSA Pre-Check

TSA Pre-Check is a relatively recent program launched by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) back in 2011 to enhance the pre-boarding security screening process. It started off as a bit of an experiment found in only a handful of airports and utilized by only American and Delta Airlines, but in 2013 it opened up to the public so anyone could apply. Now it’s found at over 180 different airports and involves 16 different airlines. Here’s what you need to know about TSA Pre-Check in order to decide if you should apply. 

What are the benefits of TSA Pre-Check?

TSA Pre-Check offers passengers expedited security screening that comes in the form of two main benefits. The first major benefit is having access to much shorter lines and the second benefit involves having fewer restrictions to abide by when you make your way through those shorter lines. 

Expedited line

In almost all cases, the line for TSA Pre-Check will be shorter than the standard security line. Thus, you’ll often be able to breeze through security and stress less about getting through a long, snaking line of nervous passengers. Notice I said in “almost” all cases. Sometimes the TSA Pre-Check lines get backed up just as bad (or worse) than the standard security lines so you can’t take this benefit for granted 100% of the time.

Also, sometimes, such as very early in the morning or very late, the Pre-Check lanes will not be open at some airports. However, during these times, the lines aren’t usually a problem so it’s not a major deal.

And finally, some airports don’t implement proper TSA Pre-Check lines. At some airports you may find that terminals that don’t serve the hub airline have no TSA Pre-Check or a “dumbed-down” version of it where you get to keep your shoes on but still have to abide by some of the standard rules like taking out your liquids and laptop. 

Despite the occasional exception, I’ve found the TSA Pre-Check line to be shorter the vast majority of the time when going through airport security, so I definitely think the expedited line benefit is worthwhile.

Fewer restrictions

The other major benefit is that you’re able to enjoy fewer restrictions when going through security. You often only have to pass through a traditional metal detector (as opposed to the full-body scanners) and you also get to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Shoes can stay on
  • Belt can stay on
  • Light jackets can stay on
  • Laptops allowed to stay in bag
  • Liquids (3-1-1) can stay in bag

On occasion, if your shoes or belt contains too much metal or your jacket is too bulky, you may have to remove them. 

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 9.24.33 AM

Is it guaranteed each time I fly? 

Unfortunately, getting TSA Pre-Check is not guaranteed every time you fly. However, your odds of getting Pre-Check once you are approved are somewhere close to 97% each time that you fly, so you can rest assured that you’ll be enjoying the benefit almost every time that you fly.

The application process is very simple

Compared to Global Entry, the application process of TSA Pre-Check is a breeze. (I finished the TSA Pre-Check application for both of my parents in about 10 minutes.) All that is required is very basic contact information and verification about any previous run-ins with the law and you’re done. You can find a link to the application here

Scheduling an appointment

There are many more enrollment centers for your appointment compared to Global Entry, which means that you can schedule an appointment and get approved much quicker. There are some reports of applicants having a hard time finding openings, but TSA has made recent attempts to provide more staffing and locations for appointments so hopefully that’s less of an issue now.

At the appointment, you’ll provide some form of official identification (e.g., passport) and the agent will take your fingerprints in order to complete the background check. You then pay the non-refundable $85 fee (good for five years) and then it’s all over. For many, the appointment only takes a few minutes and is a pain-free process.

After your in-person interview, you should receive your approval decision within 5 business days, likely by email. You’ll be able to check your status online and pull up your Known Traveler Number (“KTN”) but will need to wait up to 48 hours for it to be activated. If you don’t check your status online, a letter will arrive in the mail after about 10 to 21 days after your appointment.

Add your KTN to frequent flyer accounts

It’s very important that you remember to enter in your KTN number into all of your frequent flyer accounts. When you log into your accounts online, you should see an option to input your KTN number somewhere in your profile.

Once your KTN is saved into your frequent flyer accounts, you are often automatically eligible for TSA Pre-Check each time you fly but it’s not guaranteed that your KTN will be added to your future itineraries. Thus, you should always verify that your KTN is in your itinerary each time you fly — this is especially true if someone else is booking your ticket as part of their itinerary.

Tip: if you have pre-existing reservations when you get approved, I recommend calling into the airline before you show up to the airport to make sure that your KTN is on your itinerary. Also, have your KTN handy every time you check in at the airport to so that the agent at check-in can add in your number just in case it isn’t showing up.

How do you know you’ve been cleared for TSA Pre-Check for your flight? 

When you print out your boarding pass (or view it online), you’ll see “Pre-Check” somewhere on the boarding pass if you’ve been cleared. If for some reason you don’t see it, always check with an airline agent to make sure your KTN was in your itinerary. If it was, then you simply were unlucky and didn’t get cleared in that instance.  

What airports participate? 

There are over over 180 different airports that participate in TSA Pre-Check. You look up what airports are part of the program here.

What airlines participate? 

The number of airlines that participate in TSA Pre-Check is growing each year and is now over 30. Some of the airlines that take part in the program are:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Avianca
  • Cape Air
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Emirates 
  • Etihad Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue Airlines
  • Seaborne Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines 
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin America
  • Virgin Atlantic 

Not all of these airlines offer TSA Pre-Check when flying internationally, however. I recently flew Southwest to Mexico and it was confirmed to me that Southwest did not offer TSA Pre-Check for international flights as of that time. Update: Southwest offers TSA Pre-Check on international flights now! 

Membership is good for five years

Your membership will continue for five years. After that point, you’ll need to return to a TSA enrollment center to renew your application.

Use credit cards to cover the application fee

I mentioned the fee is $85 (non-refundable) for five years worth of membership, which isn’t bad at all. However, many credit cards offer statement credits that you can use to get TSA Pre-Check for free. Some of these cards are:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve 
  • Platinum Card from American Express
  • Citi Prestige
  • Citi Executive AAdvantage Card
  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card 

These cards offer credits for both TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry. Thus, you need to arrive at a decision about which one is better for you to apply for before utilizing your credit. 

Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check?

I’ll write a little more in depth on this decision at a later time, but many people are not sure which program is better for them to apply for. It’s actually a pretty easy decision to make, considering that if you get Global Entry, you also get the TSA Pre-Check with it. 

Thus, the question is do you need the additional benefits of Global Entry? The factors you should consider are: 

  • Do you fly internationally? Global Entry is allows for expedited entry into the U.S., so if you never fly internationally, this benefit will not be needed. 
  • Do you have a checkered criminal history? The standard for approval are much higher for Global Entry with respect to having a criminal history. If you have things on your record (e.g., DWI, possession, etc.), you might not be able to get approved for Global Entry but might still have a shot with Pre-Check. 
  • Are you near an enrollment center? If you’re very far away from a Global Entry enrollment center and aren’t crazy about the expedited entry into the U.S., you might not feel it’s worth it to travel that far when you can likely find a TSA Pre-Check center much closer. 

All things considered, if you’re not interested in Global Entry, TSA Pre-Check is worth the little bit of time it takes to apply. And considering that you can get this benefit for free with certain credit cards, it definitely makes sense to look into applying and making your travel experience a little less stressful. 

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