TSA PreCheck versus Global Entry: How to Choose

Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

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Long lines. Taking shoes off. Taking out electronics. Scanners. These are just some of the hurdles we must navigate as air travelers these days. Is there a more efficient way to get through airport security lines? Absolutely. Read on to find out more about TSA precheck, Global Entry, CLEAR, and more trusted traveler programs. Find out which will work best for you and your family members…and for your budget!

TSA precheck security line.
PreCheck security lanes. Photo credit: Dee Dean

What are Trusted Traveler Programs?

Trusted Traveler Programs are a specific group of programs offered by the US Department of Homeland Security for travelers in and out of the United States. For a set fee, members can make use of expedited security screening lanes in US airports and when crossing international borders. TTPs simply make it easier for pre-approved travelers to navigate security lanes and board airplanes with a boarding pass in a relatively timely manner.

Some of the most recognizable Trusted Traveler Programs include:

  • TSA Precheck
  • Global Entry
  • Nexus
  • Sentri

Several of these programs have similar requirements, as well as notable differences. For the purposes of this post, we will cover the ones that pertain to air travel only, highlighting the perks for each one. Which is the right one for you? Let’s get started to find out!

Domestic Travel & Travel Into and Out of the US


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♬ Aesthetic – Tollan Kim

TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck is probably the best known of the TTPs, because it is the only one offered directly through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This program handles only departures from US airports, so it covers both domestic air travel as well as flying abroad. Membership is open to US citizens and US lawful permanent residents (persons who are non-US citizens who are lawfully authorized to live permanently in the US.)

TSA Precheck is widely available at over 200 airports in the US, and 70+ airlines participate nationwide, including Delta airlines, United, Frontier, and many others.

With TSA Pre, members can proceed through the designated TSA precheck line without having to remove:

  •  shoes
  • laptop from carry on luggage
  • travel approved liquids
  • belts
  • light jackets

SheBuysTravel pro tip: This certainly is ideal for families with young children – no having to take off and put back on little shoes! 

The application process for becoming a TSA Precheck member includes a brief online application, followed by a short in-person background check at any of more than 380 enrollment centers around the country. You then receive a known traveler number. The application fee is $78 and membership is valid for 5 years. 

Incidentally, TSA Precheck renewal can be done online as long as it is at least 6 months before the expiration date of the membership. Renewal costs $70 for online or $78 for in person.

SheBuysTravel pro tip: Some credit cards and loyalty programs will cover your TSA Precheck application fee with the use of frequent flyer miles or points. The TSA website gives a comprehensive list of those cards/programs here, including Chase sapphire reserve and certain American Express cards. 

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Next on deck is Global Entry, a trusted traveler program that deals only with entry into the United States from places abroad. {Incidentally, Global Entry covers international trips into the US via land, air, and sea.} This program is open to:

Offered through US Customs and Border Protection (aka CBP), the Global Entry application process is pretty straightforward. The application can be completed online, and a $100 (non-refundable) application fee is collected at the time of submission. The application is then reviewed and, if accepted, you will be directed to schedule an interview at a Global Entry enrollment center.


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♬ Aesthetic – Tollan Kim

You will need to bring a valid passport and one other form of ID (such as an enhanced driver’s license) to the interview. Lawful permanent residents must present a permanent resident card. {SheBuysTravel pro tip: don’t panic if your expedited passport doesn’t arrive on time!} 

At airports, GE members proceed to Global Entry kiosks for identity verification and customs declarations. Members then receive a receipt and head to baggage claim and the exit.

Global Entry members  can make use of TSA Precheck lanes as well, and membership is valid for 5 years. A point to note: if you are moving from TSA Precheck to GE, you will have to go through the full in-person application process again.

A Quick Comparison Chart: TSA Precheck vs. Global Entry


A brief comparison of the details of TSA PreCheck versus Global Entry.
A brief comparison of the details of TSA PreCheck versus Global Entry. Photo credit: Dee Dean

What is CLEAR and Why Is It Different Than the Other Programs?


Now we come to the most technically sophisticated program available to-date. CLEAR is based on biometrics instead of a traditional form of identification, such as a passport or birth certificate.

This program uses fingerprinting and iris scans for identifying characteristics. Then it creates a unique binary code (zeroes and ones) based on those metrics. Only you can have this code, and fingerprints and irises are matched to the code every time you check in. Here are a few important facts about the CLEAR program as well:

  • CLEAR is currently only available to US citizens and legal permanent residents 18 and older with a valid photo ID
  • Is available at 60+ participating airports, stadiums and other venues in the US
  • Membership is an annual fee of $189

A Couple of Additional Trusted Traveler Programs That Are Available


Nexus addresses all modes of travel from Canada into the United States. Membership is open to the following travelers:

  • US citizens
  • US lawful permanent residents
  • Canadian citizens
  • Canadian permanent residents
  • Mexican nationals

The application for Nexus is online, and once you submit it, you will need to schedule an in-person interview at an enrollment center near you. The application fee is $50, and once you are accepted, your membership is good for 5 years.

There are a few things to note here with Nexus membership:

  • Each member of the party you are traveling with will need their own membership to use the designated lanes at the airport security checkpoint.
  • Access to TSA Precheck lanes is available through Nexus for US citizens, US lawful permanent residents, and Canadian citizens.


Sentri is very similar to the Nexus program. However, along with entry into the US from Canada, it also includes entry into the US from Mexico. The application process is identical to Nexus, The application fee is a little bit pricier  at $122.50. Once you are accepted, it is good for 5 years as well. TSA Precheck lanes are available in the US and US territories for US citizens and US lawful permanent residents.

Navigating airport security lines can be time consuming and a bit stressful for everyone involved.   Thankfully, Homeland Security, CBP, and the Transportation Security Administration offer several trusted traveler programs that help to make the process easier. Whether you prefer high tech methods or a more traditional approach, you are sure to find a program that works best for you, your family, and for your budget!

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