What is TSA PreCheck®?

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TSA PreCheck

PreCheck® is a U.S. program that makes it possible for low-risk travelers to go through a fast-tracked security screening process at airports in the U.S. To join the program, you have to apply online and afterward go through a personal appointment for fingerprinting and a background check.

Once approved, you will get a Known Traveler Number that lets the airlines know you are eligible for TSA PreCheck® benefits. Members of this program can use special, shorter lines and have to remove fewer items during the security screening.

They also do not have to remove their shoes, and they can keep their laptops and 3-1-1 bags safely in their bags. The program’s benefits are currently available when flying on nearly all the major airlines (more than 80 of them) at well over 200 airports.

The PreCheck® program is available to citizens of the United States, lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens who belong to the Nexus program, and international citizens participating in the Global Entry program. Since its inception, the program has been expanded to nearly 200 airports throughout the United States.

How do I use PreCheck®?

To get the necessary designation on the boarding pass for your flight, you must quote your Known Traveler Number when you make a flight reservation. You will then be allowed to pass through one of the specially allocated security lines. Note: You may or may not enjoy TSA PreCheck® benefits on every flight, depending on the airline you are using, TSA procedures, and the airport you are departing from.

Children who are 12 years or younger do not have to apply for their own TSA PreCheck® membership. Provided that an adult member of the program accompanies them, they will be allowed to use the TSA Security lanes.

What are the differences and similarities between TSA PreCheck® and Global Entry?

While both the Global Entry and TSA PreCheck® programs were created to speed up the process of passing through security checkpoints, they are each targeted at a different type of traveler.

TSA PreCheck® was designed to streamline local travel by providing dedicated security lanes at airports. The application fees are lower than for Global Entry, and you can sign up at a bigger number of locations.

Global Entry is probably the better choice for global travelers. While this program includes some of the same benefits offered by its TSA PreCheck® counterpart, it also aims to simplify the customs process for people returning to the United States from an international destination.

Below we look at a few of the differences and similarities between the two programs:

Duration of membership:

TSA PreCheck®: 5 years
Global Entry: 5 years

Membership fee:

TSA PreCheck®: $78
Global Entry: $100

The number of centers where you can enroll:

TSA PreCheck®: 500
Global Entry: 100

TSA PreCheck® security lane access:

TSA PreCheck®: Yes
Global Entry: Yes

Can an adult member be accompanied by children under the age of 12?:

TSA PreCheck®: Yes
Global Entry: No. Children under 12 must separately apply for membership

Does the program allow you to use fast-track custom lanes?

TSA PreCheck®: No
Global Entry: Yes

From the above, it should be clear that TSA PreCheck® is probably the better option for people who travel on local flights more regularly, while Global Entry is better for those who regularly fly internationally.

Is it possible to get TSA PreCheck® benefits without paying?

If you want to enjoy the benefits of the program, your obvious option is to pay for it with your debit or credit card. There are, however, a couple of loopholes that will allow you to enjoy the benefits of this program for free. Let’s have a look.

  • Free trial: As part of its marketing efforts for the program, Homeland Security randomly gives away free TSA PreCheck® benefits for a limited time to introduce passengers to the many benefits of becoming a member of the program.
  • Military personnel: If you are an active member of the United States military, you qualify for free membership in the TSA PreCheck® program. Just enter your Dept. of Defense ID number in the Known Traveler Number field. This also applies to individuals who serve as National Guard and Reserves, and midshipmen and cadets who are currently enrolled at a military academy.
  • Getting reimbursed by your credit card company: Quite a few major credit cards will refund your TSA PreCheck® membership fees every few years. Examples include premier cards issued by Capital One and American Express.
  • Hotel and airline loyalty programs: Various hotel and airline loyalty programs, including United MileagePlus and Marriott Bonvoy allow their clients to redeem points and miles to cover the cost of the application fees for TSA PreCheck®.

How does one become a member of TSA PreCheck®?

  1. Visit the TSA website and find the “Apply Now” link, then click on it.
  2. Complete the short questionnaire to confirm that you qualify for the program.
  3. List the type of ID documents you intend to take with you to the interview.
  4. Select one of the more than 500 enrollment centers to schedule an appointment.
  5. Wait for the email that confirms your appointment.

What can I do if my TSA PreCheck® application is not accepted?

Being accepted as a TSA PreCheck® is not automatic. Applicants can be rejected based on criminal convictions, their security assessment, or similar issues. If your TSA PreCheck® application is declined, you can appeal this decision and ask for it to be reconsidered.

What does the TSA PreCheck® interview involve?

The whole process normally doesn’t take longer than 10 minutes. Its main aim is to process the applicant’s fingerprints and verify his or her identification documents. In the majority of cases, you will only have to bring your passport and driver’s license.

Applicants also have to pay an application fee of $78, which is non-refundable. You can pay with a credit card, cashier’s check, company check, or money order.

Once you have been accepted to the TSA PreCheck® program, just enter your Known Traveler Number on your profile for any airline loyalty programs and on future flight reservations. The latter will enable you to use all the TSA PreCheck® lanes throughout the United States.

Is it worth the money to sign up for TSA PreCheck®?

In our view, the answer is a definite yes. This program will undoubtedly save you a lot of frustration and time at airport security. If long queues at airport security have ever caused you to miss a flight, you should know how much time it will save if you could get through this faster.

The application fee of $78 is only when you apply for the first time. After that, the 5-yearly renewal fee is only $70. This boils down to less than two dollars a month. Even if you do not fly very often, that is certainly not too much to pay for the benefit of not having to wait for what feels like hours in airport security queues.