How Global Entry Saved Me $570 When I Arrived Late to the Airport

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INSIDER SECRET: Lots of people are intimidated by the hassle of applying for Global Entry, but you can get a same-day Global Entry appointment if you know what you’re doing.

Whenever we talk about Global Entry, we’re usually reminding you that it comes with a free membership to the insanely popular TSA PreCheck program which gives you the privilege of passing through airport security without stripping down to your knickers.

The primary feature of Global Entry is that it allows you to skip the giant immigration line when you return to the US from overseas.  But it serves another purpose, as well.  And it saved me hundreds of dollars (potentially $1,000+) during my trip to Abu Dhabi.

Reminder:   You can receive a 5-year Global Entry membership (up to $100 statement credit) if you pay with one of these cards:

Global Entry kiosks allow you to check yourself through immigration without waiting in a gigantic line. It takes your fingerprints and a picture of your face, and you hand it to an officer on your way out of the airport. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

Global Entry Saved Me From Missing My Transatlantic Flight

After a few days exploring Dubai, I was CRAZY late in arriving to the Abu Dhabi airport for my flight home.  So late, in fact, that when I walked up to the desk and asked for my boarding pass, the airline agent actually laughed out loud.  The flight was scheduled to take off in about an hour.  While that might seem like a manageable amount of time to make it to the plane in a US airport, that’s largely a no-no in other countries.

On top of that, US Customs & Border Protection has added a feature at the Abu Dhabi airport called “pre-clearance.”  I DID NOT KNOW THIS.  Pre-clearance basically means you go through all the customs and immigration stuff at your departure airport instead of your arrival airport.  That extra step practically guaranteed I’d need to buy a separate plane ticket home.

Perhaps the most painful part of the story is that they informed me I’d been upgraded to Business Class.

This exact seat retailed at over $5,500 one-way. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

Out of desperation, I mentioned I was a member of Global Entry.  The desk agent’s demeanor sobered, and he quickly made a phone call asking someone if I had time to make the flight as a Global Entry member.  He then printed my boarding pass and told me to hurry to the gate.  I distinctly remember my feet never touching the ground.

Shopping for tickets from Abu Dhabi to the US after the fact, it looks like Global Entry saved me ~$570.  That’s the price of a coach flight for my route.  But a Business Class ticket would cost significantly more, so I’m elated I didn’t squander the upgrade.

Which Airports Offer Pre-Clearance?

Global Entry will be of great help to you if you’re flying from just about anywhere back to the US.  But it’s extra handy when you need to arrive at the airport early in a foreign country due to pre-clearance.  Here’s where you’ll find US pre-clearance:

Canada:

  • Calgary
  • Edmonton
  • Halifax
  • Montreal
  • Ottawa
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver
  • Winnipeg

Caribbean:

  • Aruba
  • Bermuda
  • Grand Bahamas
  • Nassau

Other:

  • Abu Dhabi
  • Dublin
  • Shannon

US pre-clearance is still trying to add itself to other European countries.  This will make Global Entry even more useful!

Again, you’ll get the $100 Global Entry application fee waived if you use any of the following cards:

I have the 2 above cards. Both has a $95 annual fee but the fee is waived on the United Explorer the first year, so you’ll receive the credit for the Global Entry fee, along with a whole bunch of valuable miles if you meet their spending requirement!

These cards have higher annual fees, but they also come with superior travel benefits.

Let me know if you have Global Entry, or if you see it in your future!  And sign-up for our newsletter for other travel tips and tidbits:

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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.

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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