There are few things in life worse than waiting on a long security line at the airport, which seem to get longer and longer. It’s a painful waste of time and means the difference between enjoying a beverage or snack before your flight and racing to the gate, arriving sweaty and out of breath as it’s already boarding to find all of the overhead space taken up. It’s also the sole reason you have to get to the airport way in advance of your flight. All of this makes the flying experience remarkably more miserable.
If only there was a magic wand to skip that stressful security line experience. Well there are two options to make this all go away and if you travel even once a year they are well worth it.
TSA Pre✓ (Fancy for TSA PreCheck)
TSA PreCheck is a TSA program that grants you access to those beautiful empty lines you gaze at longingly while standing in that long cattle line. With this expedited screening, you won’t have to take off your shoes, belt or jacket. You also won’t have to take out your laptop or liquids from your carry-on bag, making the screening process a breeze.
TSA PreCheck is available when departing from a U.S. airport on domestic and most international flights, and for domestic, connecting flights after returning to the country. 47 domestic and international carriers participate in the program.
TSA PreCheck costs $85 and lasts five years. You will need to submit a quick online application on the TSA website and schedule an appointment at an enrollment center near you. The appointment shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes, but you will receive a background check and fingerprinting.
Enrolling in TSA PreCheck is a wise investment if you’re not much of an international traveler, but if you leave the country more than once a year, Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program might be a better investment.
For just $15 more (and a brief interview at the same enrollment center TSA PreCheck requires a visit to), Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that grants you all the perks of TSA PreCheck plus expedited customs screening at CBP checkpoints when reentering the U.S.
When returning from an international trip to a major U.S. airport, as a “pre-approved, low risk” traveler you can proceed to a designated Global Entry kiosk without filling out paperwork. Present your machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place your fingers on the scanner for fingerprint verification, complete a customs declaration and the kiosk prints a slip. No need to wait on those processing lines, you can usually head straight to baggage claim or the exit. And when you are approved for Global Entry, you also receive TSA PreCheck.
Global Entry costs slightly more than TSA PreCheck at $100 and also lasts five years. You will need to submit an online application and set up an appointment through U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The appointment also lasts 10 to 15 minutes with an interview and fingerprinting.
So which should you get?
Both programs mean less time in line and more time in the lounge at domestic airports, and both have essentially the same application process. The biggest difference is that only Global Entry expedites your entry back into the U.S. after international flights. If you travel out of the country at all in a five-year period it’s probably worth the extra $15. But if your home airport doesn’t have Global Entry kiosks or you know you won’t fly internationally at all, TSA PreCheck is all you need. Enrolling in either one can be life-changing (at least when you fly). Don’t expect those security lines to get any shorter!
This chart breaks down both programs:
To apply, here are the official websites:
By Mike Capalbo
Group Products Specialist