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TSA PreCheck is messianically popular because:
- You get an exclusive security lane (usually MUCH shorter)
- You won’t have to remove your toiletries or computer from your bag
- You don’t need to take off your shoes or jacket
That’s a big time-saver. Plus, a 5-year membership to TSA PreCheck costs just $85. And if you pay with the right card, you can get it the fee reimbursed via a statement credit of up to $100:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- United℠ Explorer Card
Even with a membership, there are still a large number of reasons you’ll NOT receive (or even WANT) your TSA PreCheck benefits. But most are easily avoidable.
I’ll give you a quick list to help you out! And you can subscribe to our newsletter for more travel tips like these.
TSA PreCheck Is NEVER a Certainty If…
1. You Don’t Attach Your Known Traveler Number to Your Airline Account
When you sign-up for TSA PreCheck, you’ll be assigned a Known Traveler Number. This number tells the world that you’re not a threat to American lives. You can pass through security checkpoints without removing your belt, jacket, etc.
When you receive this number, you’ll need to log into all of your airline loyalty accounts and add it to the “Secure Traveler” section. Here’s an example of where you’d enter the number in your American Airlines account.
After that, you’ll be eligible automatically when you book a flight through American Airlines. You’ll see “TSA Pre” on your boarding pass.
You cannot use the TSA PreCheck lane if your boarding pass doesn’t say TSA Pre. Even if you have proof of membership (like a Global Entry card), you can’t just walk through the TSA PreCheck lane and flash your credentials at the security officer.
2. You Book With an Airline That Doesn’t Participate in TSA PreCheck
There are 2 parts to this section.
First: Not all airlines participate in TSA PreCheck. For example, if you’re flying Aer Lingus to Ireland, you won’t be able to pass through security faster than anyone else.
Non-participating airlines are dwindling, so this shouldn’t be too much of a concern.
Second: If you book a flight from a non-participating airline on a participating airline, you may not qualify for TSA PreCheck.
That was a really clunky sentence. Here’s a real life example: Iberia and American Airlines are partners. Iberia doesn’t participate in TSA PreCheck, but American Airlines does.
I booked an American Airlines flight through Iberia, and because they didn’t recognize my TSA PreCheck membership, I was unable to receive the benefit on my American Airlines flight.
This point may be a your mileage may vary situation. If you’ve got data points to the contrary, leave a comment.
3. You Don’t Go Through the Dedicated TSA PreCheck Lane
I’ve made this mistake.
Just because you’ve got a membership to TSA PreCheck doesn’t mean those benefits follow you around wherever you go. You have to go through the dedicated lane.
I wrote a recent post about how I tried showing my TSA PreCheck-approved boarding pass at the NON-TSA PreCheck lane, and I was told I’d have to disrobe just like everyone else. Pretty obvious in hindsight.
4. You’re Traveling With an Infant
There seems to be some correlation between randomly not being issued TSA PreCheck and traveling with an infant. For some reason that may occasionally disqualify you. Meghan has found this to be true when traveling with her adorable little daughter.
You SHOULD receive it, but don’t be dumbstruck if you don’t.
5. TSA PreCheck Lanes Aren’t Always Open
TSA PreCheck lanes aren’t open 24/7. They open and close at different times depending on the airport.
If you’ve booked an oddball flight time, you may very well arrive at the airport to see an unmanned TSA PreCheck lane. You can check out this page to see TSA PreCheck operating hours for each airport.
6. You Don’t Want to Leave Your 12+ Year Old Kids Behind
Kids age 12+ years will need their own TSA PreCheck membership to pass through the lane with you. So you’ll have to either spring for the $85 application for each child or cash-in a TSA PreCheck credit that comes with a credit card.
If you’ve got TSA PreCheck but your children are now of age that they need their own membership, better to forfeit your perks and walk through the regular line with them.
Bonus: Sometimes You’ll Simply Be Denied
Even with a TSA PreCheck membership, it’s not guaranteed every single time. I’ve received a handful of boarding passes with no TSA PreCheck benefits for seemingly no reason. My success rate has been ~95% though.
TSA PreCheck isn’t a given, even if you’re an official member. There are several things that can foil your expedited security, but almost all are avoidable.
Let me know if you’ve experienced other circumstances that forfeit your TSA PreCheck benefits, and I’ll add them to the list!
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