7 reasons why TSA PreCheck may not show on your boarding pass (And what to do about it)

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TSA PreCheck is a trusted traveler program that is messianically popular with MMS readers for a few reasons:

  • 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 five-year membership to TSA PreCheck costs just $85. And if you pay with the right card, you can get the fee reimbursed via a statement credit (worth up to $100):

Even with a membership, you may find yourself screaming, “Why didn’t I get TSA PreCheck on my flight?!” There are a handful 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!

Kids under 12 can go through the TSA PreCheck lane with you for free. Ages 12 and up will need their own membership. (Photo by SbytovaMN/iStock)

7 reasons why you might not have TSA PreCheck on your boarding pass

You didn’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.

Your identification doesn’t match your boarding pass

If there’s the slightest discrepancy between the name on your ID and your boarding pass, you may miss out on TSA PreCheck. For example, if you were recently married and changed your last name, or if you fail to enter your middle name when purchasing your ticket, you may trigger something in the airline security algorithm.

After I changed my name after I was married, it was at least two trips before I started seeing TSA Pre on my tickets again. I haven’t a clue why as I had received confirmation from TSA of my name change. But your results may vary!

You book with an airline that does not participate in TSA PreCheck

There are two 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, however, 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. Here’s a real-life example:

Iberia and American Airlines are partners. Iberia doesn’t participate in TSA PreCheck, but American Airlines does. My husband booked an American Airlines flight through Iberia, and because they didn’t recognize TSA PreCheck, he was unable to receive the benefit on his 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.

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. When Meghan’s adorable little daughter was an infant, she found this to be true a handful of times.

You should receive it, but don’t be dumbstruck if you don’t.

Your TSA PreCheck membership expired

TSA PreCheck membership lasts five years before it needs to be renewed. Not bad for $85, right??

Most travel cards that come with a TSA PreCheck credit will provide you with a renewed credit every four years or so, allowing you to renew your membership long before it cancels. Obviously, you will not gain access to the program’s benefits if you’ve allowed your membership to expire.

TSA PreCheck is extremely easy to renew. Read our post on how to renew TSA PreCheck.

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.

You don’t want to leave your 12+ year old kids behind

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.

Kids age 12+ years will need their own TSA PreCheck membership to pass through the lane with you. 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.

Note: Any credit card that offers a TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement also offers a Global Entry application reimbursement credit ($100 value). You must choose one or the other, but it’s worth knowing that Global Entry comes with a TSA PreCheck membership – so it’s the no-brainer. Read our post on TSA PreCheck vs Global Entry to see a comparison of the programs.

You can also stack CLEAR with TSA PreCheck for the ultimate expedited security experience.

Bonus: Sometimes you’ll simply be denied

Even with a TSA PreCheck membership, it’s not guaranteed every single time. Whether you receive the “SSSS” note on your boarding pass (an enhanced security screening procedure dedicated to travelers seemingly at random) or you simply don’t receive it, you don’t have much recourse if PreCheck doesn’t appear on your pass.

I’ve received a handful of boarding passes with no TSA PreCheck benefits for seemingly no reason. I’d estimate my success rate has been ~95%.

What to do if you didn’t attach your Known Traveler Number to your account

It’s not difficult to receive TSA PreCheck, even if you’ve arrived at the airport to realize you never added your Known Traveler Number to your airline account.

I’ve had success requesting the agent at the check-in desk help me add it. This was after being handed a ticket without TSA PreCheck printed on the front. She was happy to add my number and re-print my tickets, though it did take a few minutes. If you can help it, don’t do this – it’s what makes me and everyone else silently scream as we glance at our watches. It’s more considerate to call the airline, and they’ll fix it for you.

Travelers also recommend adding your TSA PreCheck number yourself to your profile on the airline’s website, and re-checking in. I’ve never done this but it’s worked for many others. Even tweeting at TSA with your problem should give you timely results.

If you’ve got any other tips or tricks, let us know!

Bottom line

Most of us at one time or another have asked the question, “Why does my TSA PreCheck not work??” It’s important to understand that TSA PreCheck isn’t a given, even if you’re an official member. There are several things that can foil your expedited security, but nearly all of them 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!

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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