It’s safe to say you aren’t the only one who’s dreamed of a faster airport experience. Stop dreaming, and experience the expedited airport processes first hand. Both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry offer travelers the promise of a smoother experience at the airport, but there’s also the simple matter of knowing which one is right for you. Today, we’ll unpack both services to ensure that you learn about, and apply for, the ideal opportunity.
TSA PreCheck Essentials
TSA PreCheck is a U.S. government program spearheaded by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).1 Its primary objective is to streamline the security screening process for pre-approved travelers flying within the United States.
How Does it Differ From a Standard Screening?
For travelers weary of long security queues and cumbersome procedures, TSA PreCheck offers an oasis of convenience. Compared to the regular screening process, TSA PreCheck allows members certain liberties that expedite the process.
TSA PreCheck Rules
- Light outerwear and shoes: One of the most cherished TSA PreCheck rules is that members can wear their light jackets and shoes during screening, eliminating the hassle of removing and putting them back on.
- Electronics and liquids: Members can leave their laptops and small liquid containers in their bags, which not only saves time but reduces the chances of misplacing or damaging these items.
- Separate lane: TSA PreCheck members have a dedicated lane at security checkpoints, meaning fewer passengers and a faster-moving queue.
Eligibility and Application
Not everyone can hop onto the TSA PreCheck bandwagon immediately. Applicants need to be U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents and must not have any disqualifying criminal offenses. The application process involves providing basic information, submitting fingerprints, and undergoing a background check.
TSA PreCheck Cost
Diving into the TSA PreCheck cost reveals its value for frequent flyers. Priced at $78, this fee covers a five-year membership. When broken down, this translates to less than $16 per year. Given the hours of waiting time it can potentially save over multiple flights, many travelers find it a worthy investment.
TSA PreCheck Benefits
- Reduced wait times: On average, TSA reports that PreCheck passengers wait less than 5 minutes in line.
- Enhanced convenience: Beyond the tangible benefits like not having to remove shoes, the program offers an overall less stressful experience at the airport.
- Broader coverage: As of now, over 200 airports and 80 airlines provide TSA PreCheck services, making it extensively available for domestic travelers.
Global Entry Basics
Global Entry, overseen by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is a trusted traveler program designed to expedite the customs and immigration process for pre-approved U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and select foreign nationals when they arrive in the United States. It’s the international traveler’s answer to breezing through queues after a long flight.2
How Global Entry Streamlines International Travel
Global Entry is designed to simplify the arrival and re-entry procedure into the U.S. Members can use dedicated kiosks at participating airports instead of waiting in the traditional customs and immigration lines.
The Process at the Kiosk
- Scan your passport or U.S. permanent resident card: The kiosk serves as your primary point of interaction.
- Fingerprint verification: Biometric fingerprint verification ensures a secure identity check.
- Customs declaration: Answer a few customs declaration questions on the touch screen.
- Collect the transaction receipt: Upon successful verification, the kiosk will print a transaction receipt.
- Move forward: Simply show your receipt to the CBP officer as you exit, bypassing the regular queues.
Global Entry Application
- Online application: Begin by creating a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account and filling out the Global Entry application. This involves a detailed questionnaire about your travel history, employment, and other personal details.
- Background check: Once submitted, CBP conducts a rigorous background check to ensure you have no disqualifying criminal records and haven’t violated any customs, immigration, or agriculture regulations.
- Interview: If your application gets a preliminary approval, you’ll be prompted to schedule an interview at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers. This face-to-face interaction allows CBP officers to verify details, answer any questions, and take your fingerprint biometrics.
Global Entry Cost
The Global Entry membership comes at a price tag of $100.3 While this might seem higher initially, one must consider that it covers a five-year period. This translates to only $20 annually. For frequent international travelers, the cost is often quickly offset by the saved time and convenience during each trip.
Does Global Entry Include TSA PreCheck?
One of the standout advantages of Global Entry is that it automatically enrolls members into TSA PreCheck. This dual benefit ensures you’re not just zipping through international procedures, but you’re also granted expedited security screenings for domestic flights. It’s essentially a two-for-one deal that amplifies its value.
Eligibility Beyond U.S. Citizens
While U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are naturally eligible for Global Entry, several other countries also have agreements with the U.S. for their citizens to apply. This includes nations like India, Germany, and the United Kingdom, among others.
Which One is Right for You?
Travel Habits Matter
If you predominantly travel within the U.S., TSA PreCheck might be sufficient. However, if you often find yourself jet-setting internationally, Global Entry might offer more value, especially given that it includes TSA PreCheck.
While the difference in cost between the two programs isn’t huge, it’s essential to weigh it against the benefits you’ll use. If you seldom travel internationally, the extra $15 for Global Entry might not be worth it. However, given the bundled benefits, many find the small additional cost a worthwhile investment.
Time is Money
For frequent travelers, time saved at security and customs can be a game-changer. If you’re someone who places a high value on efficiency, the combined benefits of Global Entry might make it the superior choice.
Learn More Today
As you ponder over the TSA PreCheck rules, the associated costs of each program, and the application processes, it’s essential to remember that the best choice largely depends on your individual travel habits, priorities, and budget. No matter which path you decide on, both options provide undeniable value and convenience for frequent flyers.4
Take the time to review the points we’ve covered and weigh them against your needs. Remember, your travel experience is personal, and while we’ve laid out the fundamentals here, there’s so much more to discover online. Continue your exploration, compare the pros and cons, and make an informed decision that suits you best.