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Update: You can no longer randomly get TSA PreCheck just by being a member of a participating airline frequent flyer program.
Million Mile Secrets reader Nirlay emailed:
Last week I went on a domestic flight from Boston to Houston via United Airlines and I got a free TSA PreCheck. That was indeed the best airport experience I’ve ever had.
Do you have any insights why I was bestowed with that? I had elite status a few years ago, but not anymore. Is there anything one can do to get future TSA PreCheck ?
There are a few ways Nirlay can get TSA PreCheck when he flies, which I’ll explain below.
Link: TSA PreCheck
With TSA PreCheck Nirlay can go through the airport security check point faster.
With TSA PreCheck, Nirlay does NOT have to remove:
- His belt
- His shoes
- His jacket or sweater
- His toiletries (if in a 3-1-1 compliant bag)
- His laptop
How to Get TSA PreCheck
Not all folks can get TSA PreCheck.
Only certain people are eligible for TSA PreCheck:
US citizens who are a member of a participating airline’s frequent flyer program
- US citizens or lawful permanent residents with a Known Traveler Number or are members of the TSA PreCheck Application Program
- Military members, including US Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard
- Department of Defense and US Coast Guard civilian employees
- Members of the following trusted traveler programs: Global Entry; US citizens, lawful permanent residents and Canadian citizens who are NEXUS members; and US citizens and permanent residents who are SENTRI members
You don’t have to be an elite member with a participating airline. But you do have to opt-in for the TSA PreCheck program.
Participating TSA PreCheck Airlines include:
- Air Canada
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Southwest Airlines
- Sun Country Airlines
- United Airlines
- Virgin America
Because Nirlay is a US citizen and a member of United Airlines frequent flyer program he was eligible for TSA PreCheck on his United Airlines flight from Boston to Houston. Nirlay could have been randomly selected because of his eligibility or because TSA randomly selects folks.
Update: You will no longer get randomly selected for TSA PreCheck!
So when you’re traveling on a TSA PreCheck airline, check your boarding pass to see if you were chosen!
You aren’t guaranteed TSA PreCheck all the time, either, but most folks have a rate of close to 100% with the TSA PreCheck Application program.
TSA PreCheck Application Program
Nirlay could also get TSA PreCheck by applying for the TSA PreCheck Application Program.
Nirlay isn’t guaranteed to get TSA PreCheck based on his frequent flyer status with United Airlines. So he should apply for the TSA PreCheck Application program separately to be assured that he gets it for most flights.
He can apply for the TSA PreCheck program if he’s a US citizen or lawful permanent resident without a criminal record. A nonrefundable application fee of $85 is required. Nirlay gets an $85 TSA PreCheck credit with The Platinum Card from American Express
If approved, Nirlay receives a Known Traveler Number which is valid for 5 years.
That said, it is better to spend $15 more and apply for Global Entry which allows you to clear US customs and immigration quickly.
However, the background check for Global Entry is much stricter than the background check for TSA PreCheck. So TSA PreCheck is likely easier to get approved for if you’ve done things in college (or elsewhere) which are on your permanent record! 🙂
Link: Global Entry
If Nirlay has Global Entry (which allows him to clear US customs and immigration quickly), he automatically gets TSA PreCheck. He can apply for Global Entry if he is a:
- U.S. citizen
- Lawful permanent resident of the US
- Dutch citizen
- South Korean citizen
- Mexican national
A $100 nonrefundable application fee is required when Nirlay applies for Global Entry. He gets a $100 Global Entry credit if he has an American Express Platinum or Citi Prestige card. Or if Nirlay has United Airlines elite status (Platinum or 1K).
Global Entry is valid for 5 years.
Nirlay can get TSA PreCheck if he is a NEXUS member and is a US citizen, lawful permanent resident, or Canadian citizen.
As a NEXUS member, Nirlay can get through security faster at airports, borders, and marine ports of entry.
A $50 nonrefundable application fee is required.
NEXUS is valid for 5 years.
If Nirlay has a Sentri membership and is a US citizen or permanent resident, he can get TSA PreCheck.
Sentri membership gets Nirlay a dedicated lane to come back into the US from Mexico when driving across the border.
A nonrefundable fee of ~$122 is required for Sentri membership. Sentri is valid for 5 years.
TSA PreCheck lets Nirlay go through airport security faster.
Nirlay is eligible for TSA PreCheck under a number of circumstances such as
being a US citizen and member of a participating airline’s frequent flyer program or by being in the military. Nirlay automatically gets TSA PreCheck if he has Global Entry.
Or he can apply for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.