(Just so you know, there may be some affiliate links in this post, but we only recommend items that we believe in and think will benefit you on your travels.)
For most people, the biggest hassle of air travel is waiting in line for security. With passenger traffic rapidly increasing, the lines at TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and CBP (Customs and Border Protection) are becoming unbearably long. However, there are ways for you to reduce the time spent waiting in lines and instead spend that time relaxing in a lounge. With TSA PreCheck, you can have access to expedited security lanes where you don’t have to remove your shoes, belts, liquids, light jackets or laptops.
While you can pay $85 and apply for the program itself, you can also get it by joining Global Entry for $100. Global Entry allows you to fast-track through customs and comes with PreCheck, so the $15 premium should be a no-brainer. Best of all, it is very easy to get PreCheck and Global Entry for free — the following cards offer will automatically reimburse your enrollment fee (due every five years):
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||4 years|
|Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard||5 years|
|Citi Prestige Card||5 years|
|Expedia+ Voyager Card from Citi||Qualifies under annual air travel fee credit|
|MasterCard Black Card||5 years|
|MasterCard Gold Card||5 years|
|Platinum Card From American Express||4 years (plus authorized users)|
|Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card||4 years|
|SunTrust Travel Rewards World Elite Mastercard Credit Card||5 years|
|US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card||4 years|
|US Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express Card||5 years|
We don’t recommend redeeming points to cover the fee, but you can do so with the following rewards programs:
|Club Carlson||65,000 points|
|Hilton HHonors||30,000 points|
|IHG Rewards Club||30,000 points|
|Marriott Rewards||25,000 points|
|United MileagePlus||10,000 miles|
Worth mentioning, several rewards programs also award free PreCheck and Global Entry to its elites. If you’re a Delta Diamond Medallion or Platinum Medallion member, United Global Services, MileagePlus Premier 1K or MileagePlus Premier Platinum member or Orbitz Rewards Platinum member, you’re eligible.
Now that you know how you can get it for free, let’s take a closer look at how the two enrollment processes work. Note, you don’t need to submit two applications if you plan on applying for Global Entry.
1. Complete Application
The application asks for some basic biographical information and should not take more than five minutes to complete.
Completing the application for Global Entry is not as straight-forward and will take you about 15-20 minutes. First, you need to crease a Login.gov account and fill out your profile.
Once you have your profile, you can fill out the application. To complete the application, you’ll need documents such as a passport and driver's license, as well as other information, such as, employment history and travel history.
2. Make an Appointment
The next step of the enrollment process is making an appointment at an application center. While you can make an appointment immediately after filling out the online application for PreCheck, you’ll need to wait for a conditional approval before you can schedule your appointment for Global Entry. Alternatively, since making appointments for Global Entry can take months, if you’ve been conditionally approved for the program, you can skip this step by enrolling on arrival into the United States.
3. Have Your Interview
Both programs require you to have a brief in-person interview at an application center. During the interview, you’ll be asked about your travel habits, have your picture taken and submit fingerprints. You’ll also need to bring certain documents like a copy of the conditional approval notification, your passport and proof of residency. Often times, you’ll find out on the spot if you’ve been approved for the program.
4. Store Your Known Traveler Number
If you’ve been approved for either program, your notification letter will come with a nine-digit Known Traveler Number. This number will be your key to expedited security so you want to make sure you don’t lose it. You'll need to include it in every flight reservation to activate the PreCheck benefit. You can also attach the number to your frequent traveler profiles so that it is automatically added to all new reservations. Note, you don't need to travel with your Global Entry card in order to use the expedited customs lanes — you can head straight to the designated kiosks with just your passport.
Even if you’re just an occasional traveler, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t apply for PreCheck or Global Entry — especially because of how easy it is to get for free. Although both programs require an in-person interview to complete enrollment, each membership lasts for five years. On the long run, the convenience provided by the programs will definitely make up for the initial hassle of joining.
Do you use PreCheck or Global Entry? Please share your experiences below!