No matter the time of year, airports can be chaotic. As frequent travelers, most of us recognize the stress of arriving at the airport with plenty of time to spare but then encountering a massive crowd of fellow travelers all attempting to squeeze through TSA at the same time.

On the flip side, one of the best feelings while traveling is the relief that results from flying through a TSA Precheck line in just a few minutes.

If you thought that expedited security lines were only for elite frequent flyers or those traveling in business or first class, then I have a treat for you. Not only is expedited security available, but it is offered at a variety of price points that can be afforded by most.

Depending on where you are from, you may be able to benefit from several of the Trusted Traveler programs that exist. For US-based travelers, the most common security clearance program is TSA Precheck and the most common immigration clearance program is Global Entry.

TSA Precheck is a program that requires an application and pre-screening to identify low-risk travelers, and it allows for faster screening at security lines at airports in the US.

Global Entry is a program that also requires an application and pre-screening, and it allows for a faster, kiosk-based immigration process when a traveler is re-entering the United States from international travel.

Applying for TSA Precheck and Global Entry

The application processes for TSA Precheck and Global Entry involve similar steps. Both applications are web-based applications accessible through their respective webpages, and both applications will require you to enter standard information including:

  • Name, address, phone number and email address
  • Addresses used over the past five years
  • Date and place of birth
  • Height, weight, eye and hair color
  • Alias names (if you have been married, divorced or had a name change)
  • Country of citizenship

In addition, you will need to certify that you have not committed a felony or been denied entrance to the US in the past as either of those instances would be cause for denial of your applications with both programs.

TSA Precheck: What does the program include?

If you travel frequently, you may resonate with the associated chaos of trying to untie your shoes, hold onto your jacket, dig through your carry-on for liquids, and attempting to balance all of those things while removing your laptop from its case without dropping it onto the concrete airport floor. Now, imagine never having to deal with that in a U.S. airport ever again.

TSA Precheck provides access to expedited security screening lanes at airports within the United States and U.S. territories. With TSA Precheck, you won’t be required to remove shoes, belts, and light jackets when you utilized the designated Precheck lanes.

When using TSA Precheck screening lanes, liquids and laptops also do not need to be removed from carry-on bags. This can reduce the likelihood of forgetting something at the security checkpoint.

What about families traveling together? TSA Precheck members traveling with children aged 12 and under will not need to apply for individual memberships for each child. However, note that for travelers aged 13 and up, each traveler must have their own Precheck membership.

A five-year TSA Precheck membership requires the online application, an in-person interview and an application fee of $85. The in-person interview must be completed at a TSA Precheck enrollment center, and it includes a background check and fingerprinting. There are hundreds of centers across the country in locations ranging from airports to strip malls. You can find your nearest TSA Precheck enrollment center here.

For travelers that only travel domestically, TSA Precheck is a great program to reduce the hassle of long security lines.

Global Entry: What does the program include?

Global Entry provides expedited Customs and Border Protection processing into US following international flights. Since many international flights arrive at the same time, immigration and customs lines can become extremely crowded. Global Entry allows a trusted traveler to use kiosks to clear immigration and therefore eliminates immigration wait time.

Global Entry also provides the member with a Known Traveler Number (KTN), which is the same number that you receive when you are approved for TSA Pre-check. Note that Global Entry includes access to TSA Precheck!

To use Global Entry, every traveler must have their own membership. If a parent is traveling with a child that does not have Global Entry, the parent must use the standard immigration lines with the child. Never send your child through the immigration queue alone, period.

Like TSA Precheck, a five-year Global Entry membership requires an online application, an in-person interview, and an application fee of $100. Note that several travel credit cards offer fee reimbursements for TSA Precheck and Global Entry, and we’ll talk about those a little later.

Once the initial online application is approved, an in-person interview must be completed at an enrollment center. There are fewer Global Entry enrollment centers than TSA Precheck enrollment centers, and most Global Entry enrollment centers are (unsurprisingly) located at international airports.

Click here for a table detailing each Global Entry Enrollment Center as well as the hours of operation. If you can’t find a location near you, check the Global Entry webpage to enter your postal code for a direct search. Not every enrollment center is located at an airport; a few northern states utilize the border control stations located near the Canadian border to process Global Entry applications. There are also international enrollment centers at airports across Canada, as well as a location in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and even at Doha International Airport in Qatar.

Your in-person appointment must be made within 30 days of the online application approval, but you don’t have to actually complete the appointment within that window. Additionally, you can adjust your meeting time after you initially schedule it, but you must at least schedule an appointment within that 30 day time period.

It’s possible that your nearest Global Entry enrollment center may be booked solid for weeks or even months. In that case, you can search for your next nearest enrollment center or consider going in during a layover that you have scheduled. If you choose to do that, be sure that you’ll have enough time to complete the interview, clear security, and make your next flight.

Some airports even allow walk-ins so if you have time to wait at the enrollment center for an available agent, they may be able to fit you in without a scheduled appointment. That could be a good option for travelers with a tight schedule but relatively long layovers.

Should I Choose TSA Precheck or Global Entry?

For most travelers, Global Entry is the clear winner. Global Entry is slightly more expensive ($100) than TSA Pre-Check ($85) but includes all the benefits of TSA Precheck as well as the enhanced benefit of expedited immigration and customs processing. For me and for most, Global Entry is absolutely worth the extra $15.

Global Entry in-person appointments are more difficult to make as there are fewer Global Entry enrollment centers than TSA Precheck enrollment centers, but the extra benefits of Global Entry make the extra effort worth it.

Paying for TSA Precheck and Global Entry Memberships

Paying $100 for five years of front of the line access through airport security and immigration is a great deal. The deal is even better when you realize that many credit cards now offer a TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee credit.

The following credit cards offer Trusted Traveler Program reimbursement:

Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Reserve®Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressIHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
The Business Platinum Card® from American ExpressUnited℠ Explorer Card
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MastercardSouthwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve
Capital One Venture®

The credit cards above will reimburse your application fee as a statement credit. You must use the credit card that has the fee credit to pay for the application.

If you are a cardholder of multiple cards on the list, then you have multiple fee credits. You may either wait to use that credit on your renewal fee or you may use those credits towards friends and family. That statement credit is not necessarily earmarked for you; rather, it’s attached to the card. As long as the card is used to pay the fee, the statement credit will apply.

Bottom Line

Using TSA Precheck and Global Entry are fantastic ways to make your travel experience better. Without them, you’re bound to get stuck in long lines before and after long flights — and nobody wants that.

Make your life easier by signing up for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. With the application fee being reimbursed by so many credit cards, there’s no excuse not to have stress-free security and border-crossing experiences!