Even if you don’t fly often, it’s easy to see the appeal of paying around $70 every five years so you can dodge lengthy airport security lines, keep your shoes on and your electronics stowed away, and then zip through to your gate. Add in the fact that TSA PreCheck is available with more than 85 participating carriers – including international airlines such as Air Canada and Aeroméxico – at more than 200 airports across the U.S., and you may be compelled to sign up, stat.
But before you submit your application, it’s important to understand the details of the enrollment process, added status perks and general details of how the program works, as well as the key differentiators between TSA PreCheck and the other U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler Programs such as Global Entry and NEXUS.
The difference between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry
|Program||Cost||Membership period||Application fee covered by select credit cards?||Benefits|
|TSA PreCheck||$78 to enroll; $70 to renew online||Five years||Yes: Chase Sapphire Reserve, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant and more||Expedited security screenings in special lanes without needing to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, etc.|
|Global Entry||$100||Five years||Yes: Capital One Venture X, Chase Sapphire Reserve and more||TSA PreCheck benefits at security checkpoints, plus fast-track lanes at U.S. customs screenings|
These two programs will allow you to pass speedily through certain screening points in airports. The main difference is that TSA PreCheck works for security screenings in the U.S., while Global Entry also allows you to move quickly through customs checks. The security screening process is conducted before departure, whereas you’ll typically go through a customs checkpoint upon your arrival into a U.S. airport after an international trip. Customs checks may also occur before you depart if you’re flying to the U.S. from airports that offer customs pre-clearance – mainly flights originating in Canada and a handful of other international locations, such as Ireland’s Dublin Airport or a few Caribbean airports.
The Transportation Security Administration recommends you enroll in Global Entry if you travel internationally four or more times a year. If you are a frequent domestic flyer, TSA PreCheck is likely a better option.
- Benefits: TSA PreCheck membership allows you to use special TSA PreCheck lanes at airport security. These lanes let you skip much of the regular security rigmarole: You do not need to remove laptops and liquids from your bags, or take off shoes, belts and light jackets (however, you are still subject to all standard rules for air travel, such as the 3.4-ounce liquids restriction). Children 12 and younger can also use the TSA PreCheck lane with parents or guardians. It’s estimated that 93% of TSA PreCheck passengers wait for less than five minutes at security. Note that you must be traveling with an airline that is part of the TSA PreCheck system to access these lanes, which includes all major U.S. airlines as well as numerous international carriers.
- Membership period: If approved, TSA PreCheck is valid for five years and can be renewed in five-year increments.
- Cost: TSA PreCheck costs $78 for an initial five-year enrollment, and $70 for a five-year renewal if you apply online (or $78 if you opt to renew in person).
- Credit card coverage: More than 35 credit cards will cover the TSA PreCheck application fee for you or allow card holders to pay the fee with their rewards points. Cards that will cover the fee in full include Bank of America Premium Rewards, Capital One’s Venture and Venture X cards, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Delta Skymiles’ Platinum and Reserve American Express cards, HSBC’s Premier and Elite cards, and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card. A full list can be viewed on the TSA website.
- Application process: To apply, you must fill out a short online application, and then you’ll be able to schedule a 10-minute in-person appointment to enroll. There are more than 500 locations in the U.S. for these appointments, according to the TSA. Your fingerprints will be taken and a background check will be conducted. Once approved, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that you should add to airline reservations, and you’ll be able to use boarding passes to access TSA PreCheck lines. Applications are often processed in as little as a week but can take up to 60 days.
Take note: TSA PreCheck is only available to U.S. citizens, nationals and permanent residents, and certain criminal records may make applicants ineligible for the service.
- Benefits: When clearing U.S. customs, Global Entry users can fast-track the process at special kiosks, where you’ll scan your passport and fingerprints and be on your way without waiting in line. You may also be able to use similar fast-track customs lanes when entering other countries. Global Entry members are also admitted to the TSA PreCheck service, allowing you to pass through TSA security checkpoints faster. Note that all children require their own individual Global Entry enrollments to use these kiosks, even if you’re traveling as a family.
- Membership period: If approved, Global Entry enrollment is valid for five years and can be renewed.
- Cost: Enrollment in Global Entry costs $100 for a five-year membership.
- Credit card coverage: Many credit cards that cover the application fee for TSA Precheck will also pay for Global Entry enrollment. These include Bank of America Premium Rewards, Capital One’s Venture and Venture X cards, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Delta Skymiles’ Platinum and Reserve American Express cards, HSBC’s Elite card, and United’s Explorer, Quest and Club Infinite cards.
- Application process: To apply for Global Entry, you’ll first need a Trusted Traveler Programs account, which you can register for online. With that account, you can fill out an online application and pay the $100 fee. If this part of the application is accepted, you will be invited to schedule an in-person interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center, and you will need to bring relevant IDs. Be aware that there are relatively few enrollment centers. Some states do not have any, and others only have one; there are also a number of centers in Canada. Global Entry is available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, as well as citizens of a small number of foreign countries. Individuals with criminal records or who have been denied a firearms purchase are not eligible.
Does Global Entry include TSA PreCheck?
Yes, if you’re approved for Global Entry, you’ll also be able to utilize TSA PreCheck without additional fees or applications. However, the reverse does not apply: If you’re approved for TSA PreCheck, you do not receive access to Global Entry.
Comparing other Trusted Traveler Programs
While TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are the most popular TTPs, there are a few other options that may be beneficial to you depending where you’re traveling. These programs include Clear, Sentri, NEXUS and FAST. (FAST is not covered below, as it applies only to commercial truck drivers.)
Clear vs. TSA PreCheck
Unlike TSA PreCheck, which is operated by a government agency, Clear is a private company that aims to offer expedited processing through airport security. Clear takes eye or fingerprint scans from its customers, and if they go through security at a special Clear lane in certain airports, they will not be required to show ID (Clear’s biometric scans are used instead). However, while Clear members can get to the front of the security line faster, you still need to undergo a full security check, which involves taking off jackets and belts in addition to removing laptops and liquids from bags. Clear is available in fewer U.S. airports (around 40, according to the company) than TSA PreCheck. It’s also more expensive, at $189 per year.
SENTRI vs. Global Entry
SENTRI has a similar function to Global Entry, in that it allows members to use special fast-processing lanes when crossing the land border between the U.S. and Mexico. This program is open to any traveler regardless of citizenship, and it also allows you to use NEXUS fast-processing lanes at the U.S.-Canada border and Global Entry kiosks in airports. Mexican SENTRI pass holders will need to complete a separate Global Entry application. The SENTRI program is more expensive than Global Entry, at a cost of $122.25 for five years.
NEXUS vs. Global Entry
NEXUS is also similar to Global Entry, but with a focus on the U.S.-Canada border. It functions for entry into both countries, rather than just into the U.S., as is the case with Global Entry. This program applies to air, land and sea borders. At land borders between the U.S. and Canada, NEXUS members can use a fast-processing lane to enter both countries, although all passengers in a vehicle must be NEXUS members to do this. NEXUS card holders can use Global Entry kiosks when flying to the U.S., as well as a NEXUS lane for fast customs processing when entering Canada by air. For marine borders, NEXUS members receive expedited processing. NEXUS is cheaper than Global Entry at $50 for five years, and applications must be approved by both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Canada Border Services Agency. Canadian and U.S. citizens and permanent residents can apply for NEXUS, as well as Mexican nationals who are members of that country’s Viajero Confiable service.