A few months ago I went through the application process for Global Entry and TSA Precheck. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Global Entry, it is a program operated by the US Customs and Border Control under the Trusted Traveler Program. Global Entry allows individuals that are pre-approved through a screening process to bypass customs upon re-entry into the United States. Instead of waiting in line, you proceed to the designated kiosks, scan your fingerprints for verification, answer a few questions, and you are given a “receipt” to continue to baggage claim and the exit. It’s that easy. Included in the cost of Global Entry or as a standalone service is TSA Precheck, which gives you access to expedited airport security lines. We’ll talk a bit about each program and layout which one is best for you and your family.
What does it cost? How can I get it for free?
Global Entry costs $100. TSA Precheck costs $85. Both are valid for 5 years from approval date. Global Entry includes TSA Precheck, so for $15 extra, you can get both.
There are several “premium” credit cards that provide a credit for these programs. A few of these are Chase Sapphire Reserve (credit every 4 years), American Express Platinum (credit every 5 years), and Citi Prestige (credit every 5 years). Typically, they will cover the cost of one or the other, so choose the program that you think you will use the most. Again, Global Entry Includes TSA Precheck.
I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve to cover the cost of Global Entry. The process of getting refunded is super easy. You just pay the application fee and Chase, in my case, immediately processes a refund. We are in the process of applying for my wife with her Chase Sapphire Reserve waiver.
Which one should I get?
When deciding between Global Entry and TSA Precheck, keep in mind the following:
- Global Entry includes TSA Precheck. For one application, you get both.
- Global Entry takes a longer period of time from application to approval. Mine took about 2 months because I was able to find a quick interview slot. Typically, you should expect about 3 months from start to finish. TSA Precheck is much quicker.
- Global Entry interview locations are limited. From my research, they are only at larger international airports, so it may be difficult to get to one location if you live in a remote area. It is much easier to find a TSA Precheck location.
- Expedited airport security lines. TSA’s website claims that in April 2017, 97% of TSA Precheck passengers waited 5 minutes or less.
- You do not have to remove shoes, belts, toiletries, laptops. Only thing you remove are heavy jackets and everything from your pockets (wallets, keys, etc.).
- Walk through the regular metal detector, not the full body scanner, which has had a reputation of being a little too invasive.
- Large footprint: 180 airports nationwide and 37 airlines participate. Odds are your airport will have TSA Precheck lines.
- Children under 12 years old traveling with a parent that has TSA Precheck can also go through the TSA Precheck line. Children 13 and older must have their own TSA Precheck.
- Great for domestic travelers and families with younger kids.
- Quickly re-enter the country after an international trip by bypassing long customs lines.
- Smaller footprint currently: about 60 airports; mostly larger international gateways.
- Longer wait time from application to approval. More difficult to schedule interview and fewer interview locations compared to TSA Precheck.
- Only Global Entry members can use the kiosks. This means everyone in your family needs to have their own membership.
- Great for international travelers.
The bottom line is Global Entry and/or TSA Precheck should be in every traveler’s playbook. These two programs will save you a lot of time and headache. If you have the right credit card, make sure you apply the credit so you get them for free!