What You Need to Know About TSA Precheck and Global Entry

Which one you should choose, and how to apply

A man strolls through an airport with his carry-on and his documents after having cleared the security checkpoint with no hassle.
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JGI/Tom Grill / Getty Images 

If you’re a frequent flyer, you’ve probably grumbled about long airport security wait times, taking off your shoes, or partially unpacking your carry-on before it goes through the X-ray machine. If so, a program like TSA Precheck or Global Entry may save you from such headaches in the future. 

TSA Precheck and Global Entry are government programs designed to speed up security checkpoint and customs processes. Better yet, the application costs for these programs are covered by a number of travel credit cards. 

Here’s the lowdown on each program, plus tips for picking the best one for you, and how to apply.

What Is TSA Precheck?

TSA Precheck gives government-approved, low-risk travelers five years of expedited security clearance at U.S. airports. Once you’re approved for this Transportation Security Administration program, you’ll be issued a Known Traveler Number (KTN). To access TSA Precheck benefits, add that number to all airline reservations and frequent flyer accounts. 

With TSA Precheck, you can keep on your shoes, belt, and jacket while going through the security checkpoint. You won’t need to remove liquids or your laptop from your bag, either. Many domestic airports also have separate security lines for TSA Precheck members to speed up the process even more. 

It costs $85 to apply for TSA Precheck initially, and for each renewal. The application process also requires an in-person appointment, background check, and fingerprinting. 

There’s no age restriction for TSA Precheck, but kids 12-years-old and under can accompany their parents or guardian with TSA Precheck through security. 

What Is Global Entry?

With Global Entry, you get all the benefits of TSA Precheck and then some. It’s offered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and approved travelers get five years of speedy airport security clearance perks, plus expedited customs screening at airports and when re-entering the U.S. by land or sea. 

Global Entry issues members a PASSID instead of a KTN, but you’ll use the number the same way for air travel. You’ll also get a Global Entry Card for use when re-entering the U.S. at a land or sea border. It costs $100 to apply for Global Entry, and you’ll go through a background check and in-person interview to be considered for approval, too. 

If you often travel with children, they will each need to enroll in Global Entry to use the benefits. They can’t piggyback on yours.

TSA Precheck Global Entry
$85 application fee $100 application fee
5-year membership 5-year membership
Access to fast security lines and a simplified security screening process at more than 200 U.S. airports and 73 airlines Access to fast security lines and a simplified security screening process at more than 200 U.S. airports and 73 airlines
Benefits apply to domestic U.S. air travel only Expedited U.S. Customs screening at more than 75 airports
  Benefits apply to air, land, and sea travel for those traveling internationally and re-entering the U.S.

How to Choose Which Program Is Best for You

Use these three questions to help evaluate your options. 

Do you travel only within the U.S., internationally, or both? 

If you’re strictly a domestic traveler, a TSA Precheck membership may be sufficient. However, if there’s even a chance you’ll travel abroad within the next five years, the broad clearance coverage and ease of Global Entry may be worth the extra $15. 

Does your primary airport support TSA Precheck? 

If your preferred airport is small, you may not be able to regularly benefit from program membership. Before applying for either program, use this TSA Precheck location tool to help determine how often you’ll use the perks based on your travel habits. 

Will your credit card reimburse program application fee costs? 

If one of the cards in your wallet will reimburse you for the application fees associated with either of these programs, we recommend applying for Global Entry. You’ll get more travel benefit at a cost your credit card will ultimately cover. (See our list below for cards that include this excellent perk.) 

How to Apply

The application process is slightly different for each program. 

How to Apply for TSA Precheck

  1. Fill out an online application. The $85 nonrefundable application fee will be paid upon submission.
  2. Schedule an in-person enrollment center appointment. Visit the TSA Precheck website to find the closest location. 
  3. Gather identification documents. You’ll need to bring ID materials to the appointment, like your driver’s license and birth certificate. Documentation requirements vary based on citizenship status, though, so use this TSA web tool to find out what’s required for you. 
  4. Go to appointment. It will take about 10 minutes and include a background check, and fingerprinting. 

How to Apply for Global Entry 

  1. Create a Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) account. Click the “Get Started” link in the Global Entry section of this page to sign up. 
  2. Fill out an online application. Through your TTP account, apply for the Global Entry program and pay the $100 nonrefundable fee. 
  3. Wait for conditional approval. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will review your materials and issue a conditional approval if you qualify for the next steps.
  4. Schedule an in-person interview at an enrollment center. Use this webpage to find a Global Entry location near you.
  5. Gather identification documents. You’ll need to show a valid passport and one other form of identification at your appointment. 
  6. Go to appointment. It will include a short interview and background check. If you’re approved, an officer will take your photo and fingerprints. 

If you want the benefits of either program for an upcoming trip, apply early enough to ensure you can schedule an appointment and receive approval in time. The TSA Precheck approval process may take up to two to three weeks, and Global Entry approval may take even longer. 

Credit Cards That Reimburse Application Fees

Many premium travel and rewards credit cards offer statement credits to cover the cost of TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fees. Just use the card to pay for the application fee to earn the credit.

To learn more about credit cards that offer excellent travel benefits, check out our roundups of best travel and best airline cards.

As of the date of publication, the following cards offer a TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee reimbursement benefit: 

Article Sources

  1. Transportation Security Administration. "TSA Pre✓" Accessed Jan. 10, 2020.

  2. Homeland Security. "Trusted Traveler Programs." Accessed Jan. 10, 2020.