Nobody’s Guaranteed TSA PreCheck 100% of the Time – There Are Quirks You Should Know About

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Global Entry is useful, even for folks who don’t travel outside the country that often.  That’s because you’ll receive a free membership to TSA PreCheck, which is helpful for scooting past the security checkpoint without undressing or taking your laptop and toiletries from your carry-on bags.

You probably already know that.  But something you may not know is that you’re never guaranteed to receive TSA PreCheck 100% of the time.  Whether you’ve got Global Entry or you’ve actually applied for TSA PreCheck, there will still be some times you’re not selected, and you’ll have to wait in the regular line just like all the normal travelers.

On top of that, there are some airline quirks that will further prevent you from receiving TSA PreCheck.  I ran into a problem when booking a domestic American Airlines flight with Iberia Avios points.

As a reminder, you can get TSA PreCheck (via an up to $100 statement credit) with cards like:

  • United℠ Explorer Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
Do you have a TSA PreCheck membership?  It doesn’t mean you’ll always get to walk through the fast lane

TSA PreCheck Is Never Guaranteed

While booking an American Airlines flight with Iberia Avios points, I could not find anywhere to attach my Trusted Traveler Number (Global Entry or TSA PreCheck number).  As far as I know, you cannot add your Global Entry number to an Iberia reservation.  I’ve read an account of a traveler calling Iberia and requesting they manually attach a trusted traveler number to his reservation, but I’ve never tried it.

In the past, there have been a couple scenarios where I’ve booked a flight and added my Trusted Traveler Number to my reservation later.  Because I couldn’t add my number through Iberia, I figured I’d try to add it to my reservation at the airport.  My number was already attached to my American Airlines account, so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal.

It was a big deal.

At the airport, the American Airlines agent was very friendly and helpful.  He spent a good 15 minutes trying to add my number to my reservation, despite my constant stream of “don’t worry about it’s.”  This was taking more time than TSA PreCheck would save me.

He asked for my physical Global Entry card, but the system would NOT accept my number.  We then concluded that American Airlines reservations booked through Iberia would not allow for TSA PreCheck (if you’ve ever received TSA PreCheck through Iberia, I’d love to hear it).

The agent then told me to just walk through the TSA PreCheck lane and hand my Global Entry card to the officer, and I should be good to go.

I had been instructed to do this once before by an airline agent, and it didn’t work.  But I said thank you and decided to try it anyway.  It didn’t work.  The TSA officer said that if your ticket isn’t TSA PreCheck, the scanner at the PreCheck lane won’t accept it.  Just an FYI, in case you’re ever instructed something similar.

While there have been a few occasions I’ve not received TSA PreCheck despite having a membership, I’d estimate my success rate is still 95%.  That’s good enough for me.

And because you can download your boarding pass within 24 hours of your flight, you’ve got plenty of time to glance and see if you’ve received it for your upcoming flight (you’ll see the TSA PreCheck logo on your boarding pass).  If not, you can adjust your trip to the airport accordingly!  Don’t always assume the airline agent can manually add your number to your reservation.

If you’ve ever been denied TSA PreCheck for a similar reason, I’d love to hear it.  And subscribe to our newsletter below!

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Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

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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