How to get TSA PreCheck

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A couple of years ago, before I was enrolled in TSA PreCheck, I didn’t quite know what I was missing. I used to prepare in line by taking off my belt and readying my liquids bag to keep from slowing down and angering the travelers behind me. My then-boyfriend took me for my TSA PreCheck interview, I was approved, and we’ve never had to be separated at security again.

You may have read before on MMS that we recommend applying for Global Entry, as TSA PreCheck is included in the package. But if you’re only a regular domestic traveler, applying just for TSA PreCheck is probably sufficient — and the application process is notably easier than Global Entry. Read on to learn how simple it is!

Hate standing in line? Then TSA PreCheck should be on your radar. (Photo by  Oleksandr Khokhlyuk/Shutterstock)

How to get TSA PreCheck

Apply online

Once you’ve analyzed the differences between TSA PreCheck and CLEAR and determined TSA Pre is your desired choice, you’ll fill out a quick online form. It’s only a handful of personal questions, such as your name and email, your country of citizenship, if you’ve ever used an alias, and things along that line. You won’t be filling out stacks of papers, and none of the information is anything you’d be unfamiliar with (no digging out documents from the basement).

Schedule your 10-minute interview

The final page of the online application is to select where and when you’d like to complete the 10-minute interview. Simply search for a location nearby, browse and select the most convenient time for you. That’s it, you’re finished! You’ll receive an email with all the necessary details after you’ve completed the form.

Note that you can opt to walk-in to the enrollment center but it’s recommended to make an appointment to help the office manage capacity and maintain social distancing.

In-person interview – bring necessary identification!

You’ll receive an email reminder about your upcoming interview with important details such as location, time, date, and what documents to bring. One form of photo identification and one form of proof of citizenship are required. This isn’t difficult for most interviewees as passport and driver’s license suffices so long as your name is the same on both documents. If you’re using a birth certificate and a driver’s license that lists a new married name, you’ll want to bring along your marriage certificate to link the two names together.

Again, the interview is short at less than ten minutes. You’ll answer some basic questions that reiterate the information you provided on the online form, and the office will run a background check on you. If everything comes back clear, your picture will be taken and you’ll be fingerprinted. 

At the end of the interview, you’ll pay for the $85 application fee. Simply by using the right credit card, you’ll pay $0 out of pocket (I’ll explain in a minute).

Once you’re all paid up, you’re finished. You will receive an email notifying you once you’re approved (usually within a couple of days), followed by a letter with your new Known Traveler Number (KTN). 

Connect your Known Traveler Number (KTN) to your booking agent/airline

I spent maybe 15 minutes one afternoon after I had received my shiny new Known Traveler Number to input the information into my airline profiles. This ensures that it will show up automatically when you’re booking a flight. You can enter your KTN at the time of purchase, but it’s a hassle memorizing it or keeping it handy somewhere. 

Once you navigate to your airline account profile, there will be a section for travel-related information where you can add your KTN. Below is an example where you’d add your KTN on your Southwest profile. See our guide here for more step by step instruction on how to add your KTN to other airline profiles.

FAQ about TSA PreCheck 

How much does it cost?

The application for TSA PreCheck costs $85, but that is easily reimbursable with the right credit card. Your membership will last for five years.

How long does it take to get TSA PreCheck?

TSA says the average time of approval is 2 to 3 weeks but this a your-results-may-vary situation. Most individuals, including myself, receive email approval within a couple of days. You’ll then be mailed a letter containing your new Known Traveler Number. 

Is TSA PreCheck worth it?

If you want to enjoy a smoother, speedier, and all-around more enjoyable airport security process, then TSA PreCheck is absolutely worth it. You won’t need to remove your laptop and liquids bag and all your clothing stays on. I personally enjoy walking through the metal detector instead of pausing for the body scanner. At airport rush times, the TSA PreCheck line is practically guaranteed to be shorter and faster, as well. 

What credit cards reimburse the TSA PreCheck application fee?

Chances are you may have a credit card already that reimburses the $85 TSA PreCheck application fee, such as:

See our guide on the credit cards that will issue a statement credit for the application fee. You can also use one of these cards to renew your TSA PreCheck membership once it expires within five years.

Bottom line

Applying and interviewing for TSA PreCheck is painless and one of the best ways to make travel more pleasant. Combined with using the right credit card to pay for the application fee, it’s a no-brainer to sign up!

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Sarah Hostetler is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets. She covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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