Is TSA PreCheck Worth It?


Have you approached the security lines at an airport and seen a separate entrance for people with a TSA PreCheck boarding pass?


This dedicated line for TSA PreCheck members often offers a faster and smoother security screening process at TSA checkpoints. If you want to help avoid a wait in long airport lines, you might consider becoming a member. But be aware that you have to apply for a membership and pay an application fee.


In many cases, paying the fee to become a member is worth it for the occasional or frequent traveler. And if you have a credit card that reimburses your TSA PreCheck application fee, it’s likely a no-brainer to apply. Let’s see how the program works and explore a few situations to see whether TSA PreCheck is worth it for you.

What is TSA PreCheck?


TSA PreCheck is a trusted traveler program offered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The purpose of this program is to help expedite the entry of pre-approved and low-risk travelers through TSA security checkpoints.


If you have TSA PreCheck on your boarding pass, you can enter the TSA PreCheck line rather than the general screening line. This isn’t always the fastest option, but it will typically help speed things up. According to the TSA, 94% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes in December 2021.


Additionally, TSA PreCheck members don’t have to remove these items during the screening process:

  • Shoes
  • Belts
  • 3-1-1 liquids in a compliant bag
  • Light jacket/outerwear
  • Laptop from bag


Since you don’t have to remove certain articles of clothing or items from your carry-on bag, TSA PreCheck can help make the process easier and hassle-free. It’s not uncommon to feel rushed when going through airport security, but certain aspects of this program can help reduce that feeling.


TSA PreCheck is available in over 200 airports nationwide and works with over 80 airlines. There are more than 10 million members enrolled in TSA PreCheck.

Who is eligible for TSA PreCheck?


You can apply for the TSA PreCheck program if you’re a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident (LPR). An LPR is also known as a green card holder. Children age 12 and under can join a parent or guardian with TSA PreCheck in a dedicated lane without having their own membership.


Children ages 13 to 17 on the same reservation as a parent or guardian who has TSA PreCheck can access TSA PreCheck lanes if their boarding pass has the TSA PreCheck indicator on it. If a family member in this situation has a boarding pass that’s missing the indicator, they would have to access a standard lane.


Children age 17 or younger not traveling with a parent or guardian with TSA PreCheck would need their own TSA PreCheck membership to access a dedicated lane.

How do you get TSA PreCheck?


Getting and using TSA PreCheck is typically straightforward and easy.


Here are three simple steps to take to get TSA PreCheck:

  1. Apply: You can apply for TSA PreCheck online through the TSA.gov website. The online application process typically takes about five minutes and requires certain information, including your full name, date of birth, and contact information. You will also have to answer background information questions, and you’ll be asked to schedule an appointment for fingerprinting.
  2. Enroll: Show up to your scheduled appointment to complete the fingerprinting for your background check.
  3. Add your KTN: If you’re approved for TSA PreCheck, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that you can add to airline reservations, such as a Delta or United reservation. You have to add your KTN to reservations if you want the TSA PreCheck indicator to show up on your boarding pass (which is how you access TSA PreCheck lanes).


It costs $78 for a five-year membership, which works out to $15.60 per year. If you want to renew your TSA PreCheck membership, it’s $70 for another five years.

Is TSA PreCheck worth it?


Yes, TSA PreCheck is likely worth it, depending on your situation. But there are some situations where it might not be worth it. Let’s explore different scenarios to see whether TSA PreCheck is worth it for you.

TSA PreCheck might be worth it if …

  • You plan on traveling. At $15.60 per year, paying for this program isn’t likely a big drain on your wallet. So if you have any travel plans at all, it might be worth it.
  • You typically travel domestically. TSA PreCheck is only available in the U.S., which means it suits domestic travel.
  • Your local airport has TSA PreCheck. You can find TSA PreCheck lanes in more than 200 airports nationwide, but that doesn’t mean every airport will have one.
  • Your local airport is busy. If you’re a frequent flyer and you’re always stuck in long lines at your local airport, you might want to consider TSA PreCheck to help beat the wait and add some convenience to your travels. This situation might apply if you live in Los Angeles, New York, or another big city.
  • Your credit card offers reimbursement. If you compare credit cards, certain travel cards offer a benefit to reimburse your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application or renewal fee, reducing the cost to zero. It’s typically better to choose Global Entry reimbursement over TSA PreCheck since Global Entry memberships include TSA PreCheck benefits and more.

TSA PreCheck might not be worth it if …

  • You have no upcoming travel plans. If you aren’t going to be traveling at all, there’s no reason to join this program.
  • You typically travel internationally. TSA PreCheck can help expedite your travel when departing from U.S. airports, but not upon arrivals. For other options, including programs that might help with international travel, check out our comparison of TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR.
  • Your local airport doesn’t have TSA PreCheck. If your nearby airport doesn’t have any TSA PreCheck security lanes, this program wouldn’t be as beneficial.
  • Your local airport isn’t busy. You might not want TSA PreCheck if standard security screening lines at your local airport aren’t typically busy.
  • You don’t have a travel credit card. Travel credit cards that offer TSA PreCheck reimbursement can reduce your membership cost to nothing. But if you don’t have this benefit, you’re paying $78 for five years. That’s not much on an annual basis, but it’s still an additional expense.

Credit cards with TSA PreCheck benefits


One of the easiest ways to pay for a TSA PreCheck membership is by qualifying for a credit card that offers TSA PreCheck benefits.


Since the opening of the first TSA PreCheck enrollment center in December 2013, many credit card issuers have added a TSA PreCheck benefit to some of their travel cards. This benefit can vary slightly between credit cards, but it typically offers up to a $100 statement credit every four years for TSA PreCheck ($78) or Global Entry ($100) application fees.


If you have a credit card with this benefit and you’re wondering which program to choose between TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, it’s typically better to choose Global Entry. A Global Entry membership includes all the benefits of TSA PreCheck, but you also get access to expedited screenings at Global Entry kiosks when returning to the U.S. from abroad. Global Entry is offered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, a division of the Department of Homeland Security.


Here are a few top options for travel credit cards that include the TSA PreCheck/Global Entry benefit:

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: You could be eligible to receive a $100 statement credit for Global Entry every four years or a $78 statement credit for TSA PreCheck every 4.5 years. This American Express card also offers a $189 annual credit toward a CLEAR membership, which is a program that uses biometrics to help expedite your entry through select airport security and stadium checkpoints nationwide.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: This card offers a statement credit of up to $100 every four years for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees.
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: You may be eligible to receive up to $100 in statement credits every four years for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees.


You would also need to consider these card’s annual fees, as well as other benefits, which could include airport lounge access or travel credits. For more card options, check out our list of credit cards with TSA PreCheck.

FAQs

How much time do you save with TSA PreCheck?

How much time you save with TSA PreCheck depends on how long the general security line is at your local airport when you’re traveling. The TSA consistently reports that over 90% of TSA PreCheck members spend five minutes or less in TSA PreCheck lines. During busy times of the day and depending on the airport, you might have 15- to 30-minute wait times or more. In this case, TSA PreCheck could save you 10 to 20 minutes or more.

How much does TSA PreCheck cost?

TSA PreCheck costs $78. If you’re approved, your membership is good for five years. That puts the cost of a TSA PreCheck membership at $15.60 per year. TSA PreCheck online renewals cost $70. If you want to avoid this fee altogether, consider getting a travel credit card that reimburses you the TSA PreCheck application fee.

How do I know if I’m eligible for TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck eligibility is limited to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and lawful permanent residents (LPR). LPRs are also known as green card holders.

Bottom line


TSA PreCheck may be worth it if you plan on traveling occasionally and your local airport has a TSA PreCheck line. Since a membership comes out to $15.60 per year for five years, it’s not a huge financial drain, and it could help make TSA security screenings at the airport much easier. If you get a credit card that offers TSA PreCheck reimbursement as a benefit, that could be even less money out of your pocket.


Keep in mind that travel credit cards offer a wide range of perks and benefits as well as different ways to use your travel rewards. Many travel credit cards provide TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credits, but you might also want to consider airport lounge access, travel credits, and more. To compare top travel card offers, check out our list of the best travel credit cards.

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