Signing-up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Enrolling in TSA PreCheck is one of the biggest steps you can take to immediately upgrade your travel game.
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 even need to take off your shoes or jacket.
That means you won’t be one of those folks scrambling to retrieve items from 5 different bins and staggering in your socks toward the nearest bench with your belt in your mouth and an armload of loose items.
A 5-year membership to TSA PreCheck costs $85. But if you pay with the right card, you can get it completely free:
- 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
Last week I finally got around to taking my girlfriend to get TSA PreCheck. I’ll show you how easy it is!
TSA PreCheck Is Better Than Global Entry for Some
I have 3 credit cards that offer a statement credit to cover the cost of either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. A great thing about these credits is that you can use them for ANYONE, not just you. As long as you pay for the application with your card, you can use it for your friends or family!
Of the 2 programs, everyone will tell you Global Entry is the obvious choice. Global Entry gives you expedited clearance into the US. So when you return from overseas, you don’t have to wait in that hellacious immigration line with everyone else. Plus, Global Entry gives you TSA PreCheck for free.
Because of this, Global Entry really is the no-brainer option for most folks. However, there are a couple drawbacks:
- Global Entry enrollment centers aren’t NEARLY as plentiful as TSA PreCheck. There are 8 TSA PreCheck locations within ~100 miles of me, and only 2 Global Entry locations.
- Global Entry appointments are exponentially harder to find. The soonest my “local” Global Entry enrollment center can fit me in is February 25, 2019, while my local TSA PreCheck enrollment center can fit me in tomorrow morning.
Despite these inconveniences, everybody opts for Global Entry (including me). I wanted to see how the TSA PreCheck enrollment process worked. So I scheduled an appointment for Sarah at our nearest TSA PreCheck location to see how painless it would be.
Enrolling in TSA PreCheck Is Surprisingly Easy
The TSA PreCheck application could not be easier. You’ll spend ~5 minutes filling out general information like birthplace, height, weight, etc. No real sensitive information. You’ll then choose the location you’d like your appointment, and submit the form. Immediately you’ll receive an email with tips for the day of your visit. You need to bring 2 forms of identification (your drivers license and passport are sufficient).
We made a reservation through IdentoGO on Friday for the following Monday. And there were plenty of open time slots. An unfamiliarity for Global Entry applicants.
The office was very tiny and in no way intimidating. We signed-in and waited 15 minutes for her name to be called.
Once in the interview room, Sarah had to provide some personal information (like her Social Security Number), and confirm the information written in the online application. There were no additional interview questions. They scanned her passport, took her picture, fingerprinted her, and she was done! The whole thing took 10 minutes.
Note: TSA PreCheck performs background checks, so if you have any kind of sordid past (like assault or drug charges) you are much less likely to be approved for a trusted traveler program like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
At the end of the interview, I paid the $85 fee with my Chase United Explorer card. The credit posted the SAME DAY.
As a Global Entry member, I’ve been issued boarding passes without TSA PreCheck a handful of times. I’ve asked the airline check-in desk the reason behind this, and they’ve told me I’m not guaranteed TSA PreCheck with a Global Entry membership. If I wanted to ensure I qualified for TSA PreCheck every time, I’d have to actually apply for TSA PreCheck.
I asked the TSA PreCheck agent about this and she said it’s nonsense. She told me that even folks enrolled in TSA PreCheck aren’t guaranteed to receive it every single time. That said, I’d estimate I personally have a 95% success rate in receiving TSA PreCheck, so it’s really no big deal.
After the interview, they handed Sarah the receipt with her Universal Enroll ID. She also received an email with all her necessary information.
The TSA PreCheck agent said she will also receive some sort of documentation in the mail, along with a perforated “card” with her info on it. You don’t get a proper card like you do with Global Entry.
Sarah received her Trusted Traveler number in the mail within a week. Now, all she needs to do is hop online, add the number to her airline loyalty accounts, and forget about it! She’ll receive TSA PreCheck (almost) every time she flies participating airlines (and pretty much all the useful miles & points airlines participate).
For months I’ve been meaning to take my girlfriend to enroll in TSA PreCheck. And I have to say, the entire process was a joy. I know it’s not as multi-purpose as Global Entry, but it was fast, the enrollment center was nearby, and we could interview as soon as we wanted. That’s NOT what you’ll find when opting into Global Entry.
I even saved the $85 membership fee by using my Chase United Explorer to pay for the application.