Have you considered applying for TSA Precheck or Global Entry? What are they? Which is better? Which should you apply for? I want to talk you through both programs and the pros and cons of TSA Precheck vs. Global Entry.
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I am sure you all remember walking through security pretty quickly, pre-2001. Times have changed and so have security lines at airports. TSA Precheck was started in 2013 as a way for travelers to get through airport security much faster.
TSA Precheck allows travelers to receive “expedited screening” at more than 200 airports across the United States, while traveling on more than 81 airlines.
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You will need to apply for TSA Precheck (I’ll explain that below), but once approved, you will be able to walk through the TSA Precheck line at the airport, and will not need to remove:
- 3-1-1 compliant bag
- Light jacket/outerwear
- Laptop or ipad from your bag
How To Apply for TSA Precheck
To apply for TSA Precheck, you will need to find the city nearest you with TSA Precheck appointments. When I applied, I lived in a small town and they brought appointments to our local airport for two weeks only.
I now live in a slightly larger city, and they have interviews all year-round. Go to the TSA’s website to find the enrollment center nearest you.
From there, you can set up an interview. The interview consists of questioning, a background check, and fingerprints. You will receive your approval decision within a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months, and if approved, your Known Traveler Number (KTN).
The Cost for TSA Precheck
The cost to apply for TSA Precheck is $85, and is non-refundable, even if you are not approved.
How to Use TSA Precheck
Airlines do not automatically know you have TSA Precheck, so when you are booking a flight, make sure to enter it into your ticket information. When checking in at the airport, make sure that “TSA Precheck” appears at the top of the ticket. If it does not, I always go check with the airline agent to see if they can add it.
Just be aware that sometime they will not — technically they do not have to give you your TSA Precheck access every time.
Find your KTN number
If you are approved for TSA Precheck and cannot find your KTN, you can find it at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website.
I have had TSA Precheck for a few years, and decided to apply for Global Entry. Global Entry will allow you to bypass the immigration lines when re-entering the United States from a foreign country.
Global Entry also included TSA Precheck, so there is no need to have both.
How to Apply for Global Entry
To apply for Global Entry is very similar to applying for TSA Precheck. To apply, you will want to apply for a Trusted Traveler Account (TTA) at the DHS website. https://ttp.dhs.gov/ The fee is $100 and you will again fill out an application and wait for a conditional approval. Once you receive your conditional approval, you can schedule an appointment (but not before that). But do not rely on a quick appointment — because there is no rhyme or reason to any of it.
How Long Does the Global Entry Application Process Take
My story was unfortunately not a rare one. I applied for Global Entry in January, as did my boyfriend. I received my conditional approval within a few weeks, and went to schedule an appointment. The soonest appointment was in October of that year (nine months away), but I claimed it and put it on my calendar.
As I waited for my appointment, my boyfriend never received his conditional approval. I did my appointment in October and he still didn’t receive his approval. It finally came in late December, so nearly an entire year after he applied.
He signed up for an appointment, which was in July of the following year (the soonest one available), but we ended up leaving the country in April.
At a number of airports, you can do your Global Entry appointment on the spot when you re-enter the country from an international trip. He did his in Houston on the way back from Cancun.
Both of us received our Global Entry cards within two weeks of our interviews.
Which is Better? TSA Precheck vs. Global Entry
For the money, Global Entry is an amazing thing to have, if you leave the country. However, if you do not travel internationally, there is no need for it.
Because Global Entry includes TSA Precheck, it is well worth the extra $15 ($85 vs. $100) — because each are for five years. I also feel pretty special to have that Global Entry card in my wallet when I travel.
So, neither is better than the other — it just depends on your life and how you travel. If you travel even once a year, getting TSA Precheck is so worth it and I would recommend it to anyone.