TSA PreCheck or Global Entry? Here’s How to Decide Which Is Right for You (and How to Get It for Free!)

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TSA PreCheck or Global Entry?  Here’s How to Decide Which Is Right for You (and How to Get It for Free!)

MeghanTSA PreCheck or Global Entry?  Here’s How to Decide Which Is Right for You (and How to Get It for Free!)Million Mile Secrets Team

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No one likes waiting in long security and customs lines at the airport, and it’s such a hassle to remove your shoes and take large electronics out of your bags.  That’s why travelers become interested in trusted traveler programs like TSA PreCheck and Global Entry!

Both of these programs can help expedite the screening process and get you to your flight (or home to your bed!) faster.  But choosing the right program for your particular situation is a little more complicated.  Many of the benefits of each program overlap one another.  So I’ll weigh the pros of each, in order to help you make an informed decision.  And explain how you can get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry for free.

With TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (and the Right Credit Card!), It’s Easy to Avoid Long Security Lines and Delays at Customs

Here’s what you’ll want to consider.

Picking the Right Trusted Traveler Program (TSA PreCheck or Global Entry)

The main factors to consider when deciding between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are:

  • Cost
  • Eligibility
  • Ease of enrollment

TSA PreCheck costs $85 for a 5-year membership, and Global Entry costs $100 for a 5-year membership.  But that shouldn’t be a deciding factor, because there are plenty of credit cards that will reimburse you for the cost of the application fee.  For example, if you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you’ll get up to a $100 statement credit for the application fee (for either trusted traveler program) once every 4 years.

The next thing to consider is the eligibility requirements of each program.  You do not need a passport to apply for TSA Precheck, but a passport is required when applying for Global Entry.  That makes sense given that Global Entry is used at customs when you’re returning to the US and it also includes the benefits of TSA PreCheck.  But if you don’t plan on traveling much outside of the US and are only looking for expedited security during domestic travel, TSA PreCheck will serve you just fine.

It’s also been reported that the requirements for Global Entry and much more strict (again, that makes sense).  I’ve heard stories about folks innocently forgetting to mention a brush with the law from their younger years on an application and getting rejected from the program.  It’s called a “trusted” traveler program for a reason…they want to be able to trust you coming and going without extra screening.

Lastly, consider the ease of enrolling in each of the programs.  The process of getting accepted into Global Entry is far more tedious than what’s required to be approved for TSA PreCheck.  

With TSA PreCheck you can pre-enroll online and make an appointment before visiting an enrollment center.  Plus, walk-in enrollments are accepted at most TSA Precheck enrollment locations.  There are even Staples locations (yes, the office supply store) that offer TSA PreCheck enrollment!

In comparison, you must apply for Global Entry online, wait for a conditional approval, and then schedule an appointment for an in-person interview at a Global Entry enrollment center.  This process can take months because many of the enrollment centers are booked months out when it comes to available interview times.

For travelers who don’t live near a major international airport (like me!), the task of getting that Global Entry interview can be incredibly inconvenient.  The closest Global Entry interview location to me is a 4+ hour drive north to the Canadian border.  I have zero reasons to be heading in that direction, so I ended up scheduling my interview in Austin, Texas, during a work trip.

To sum things up, folks who only plan to travel domestically will do fine with TSA PreCheck and can avoid the hoops you have to jump through for Global Entry.  But anyone who travels abroad a couple of times a year could end up saving boatloads of time at customs when re-entering the US, so getting Global Entry is likely worth it!

Either way, if you decide to apply for one of these trusted traveler programs, be sure to use a credit card that will reimburse you for the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee!

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More Info

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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I found the Global Entry enrollment process was painless if you have a nearby enrollment office.

Government shutdown =no global entry interview. My mom and dad couldn’t do their interviews last week Saturday and have to walk in to the office when the shutdown ends.

The entire premise of this article is flawed. If you are approved for Global Entry, you automatically get TSA Pre✔ There’s no “choice” to be made. And if you have history that prevents you from getting Global Entey, the reality is that you probably won’t be approves for Pre✔…they are still running a check on you.

I’ve had both for six years, and it’s worth every penny.