Jasmin: Saving time at the airport is top priority for many folks in the miles and points hobby. And if you’re traveling with kids, it’s even more important! Because patiently waiting in long lines is not always their strong suit. 😉
We’ve written about Global Entry a lot, because it’s a terrific way to skip lines at security and customs. And Million Mile Secrets team member Meghan shared how she saved ~$500 on Global Entry application fees for her family by having certain credit cards.
But there’s another trusted traveler program that can be a much better deal for families with children. Because it’s free for kids under 18 years old!
I’ll explain why I’m considering signing up the kids and myself for NEXUS. And help you decide if it makes sense for your family.
NEXUS Is Like Global Entry, but Cheaper and Better
Link: Global Entry
Why Is Global Entry So Popular?
Global Entry is super handy if you travel a lot. Once you’re approved, you get a “Known Traveler Number” (KTN) that you can add to your reservations on eligible airlines. Doing so usually gets you TSA PreCheck, which can save you a ton of time getting through security at participating airports.
When returning to the US, you’ll also get a much faster lane through US customs. It’s a much more civilized way to travel!
Because certain credit cards will reimburse the $100 Global Entry application fee, it’s easy to erase the out-of-pocket cost for a membership (even for family or friends).
For example, these cards come with a Global Entry fee credit every 4 or 5 years (depending on the card):
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN
- The Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Citi Prestige® Card
- U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
That said, one of the downfalls of Global Entry is that you have to pay a separate $100 fee for every member of your family – even babies! And while kids under 13 can tag along with their parent or guardian through TSA PreCheck lanes without a Global Entry membership, they must have their own card to skip the lines at US customs.
This can get pricey if you have a big family and not enough credit cards to cover everyone’s enrollment fee. That’s why NEXUS is a good alternative!
NEXUS Has More Benefits Than Global Entry, and Kids Are Free
Folks with NEXUS membership get the same perks as Global Entry members. Plus, they’re able to access NEXUS kiosks at certain Canadian airports and border crossings, for speedier entry into Canada. Global Entry does NOT provide shorter waits at the Canadian border.
But the big money saver is that NEXUS membership is free for children under 18 years of age. And an adult membership is only $50 for 5 years, instead of $100 with Global Entry.
Note: If you submit a paper application for your NEXUS membership, you’ll pay 50 Canadian dollars (~$41) for the fee. If you don’t mind the paperwork instead of applying online, that’s another little savings. But it can take longer to process a paper application.
Are There Pitfalls to NEXUS?
You can NOT use US credit card perks to offset the cost of the NEXUS application fee. So you’ll spend $50 for your own membership, but your minor children will be free.
So this might not be practical for folks who live far away from the Canadian border or don’t have plans to visit a Canadian airport enrollment center.
That said, if you have several minor children, it could be worth making a special trip!
What About Interview Wait Times?
A common complaint is the amount of time it can take to get a Global Entry interview. But there are ways to speed up the process. When I applied for Global Entry, I got an interview date at Niagara Falls ~4 months after being conditionally approved.
I haven’t applied for NEXUS yet, so I don’t have personal experience with wait times. But a friend in Toronto was able to get an interview ~3 months after first submitting an application. And the Canadian NEXUS website says it currently takes ~18 business days for a conditional approval.
I’ll be applying with my 3 kids very soon. And I’ll report back on the whole process in a future post!
You’ll get the same perks, like shorter security lines and expedited customs clearance when you return to the US. But with NEXUS, children under 18 do NOT pay a fee!
For adults, the NEXUS application fee is $50 (US or Canadian dollars) for 5 years, compared to $100 for everyone (even infants) with Global Entry. So this could be a big cost savings for a larger family!
Keep in mind, there are fewer NEXUS enrollment centers. And they’re all at Canadian airports or near the Canadian border. Also, you can NOT use statement credits from certain US credit cards to offset the NEXUS application fee.
I’ll write another post after my family and I apply for our NEXUS memberships, to help guide you through the process. But if you have experience applying for NEXUS with your family, please share in the comments!
Come back each Wednesday for a new installment in our Family Travel series!