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Are you a frequent international traveler? If you’re tired of the long lines at customs, seemingly endless security checks and potential delays associated with flying into the U.S., the Global Entry program may help.
Global Entry is a program offered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security designed to make it easier for low-risk travelers to enter the U.S. by air. Frequent flyers like The Points Guy say Global Entry helps them get in and out of customs in less than three minutes.
But how exactly does Global Entry work? Who qualifies? And most importantly, how much does it cost?
Bankrate answers all your Global Entry questions – and even shows you how to get the $100 application fee for Global Entry refunded when you pay with one of many top-rated travel rewards credit cards.
Benefits to Global Entry
Global Entry lets you breeze through customs on your way into the U.S.
Upon arrival at any participating U.S. airport, Global Entry travelers scan their passport or U.S. permanent resident card at the Global Entry kiosk, scan their fingerprints, and complete a customs declaration. It’s that easy.
If everything checks out, the traveler receives a receipt. If you’ve declared any items, your receipt will have an “O” printed on it.
If the receipt contains an “X,” the traveler should report to the closest passport control booth to meet with a CBP officer. In most cases, a quick conversation will clear up any questions or problems.
When all goes smoothly, you’ll get through customs with no questions asked, much faster than the average traveler.
As an added benefit, most flyers who qualify for Global Entry also receive TSA PreCheck, allowing you to skip the standard airport security lines and cutting your airport time down to a minimum.
Who is eligible for Global Entry?
The Global Entry program is reserved for travelers the CBP deems “low-risk.” To earn Global Entry status, you must pass a rigorous background check and the in-person interview.
Many frequent travelers will qualify if they fill out the application accurately and in full. Withholding or falsifying information on the application could disqualify you from ever participating in the program.
You may also be disqualified if you’ve ever been convicted of any criminal offense, have pending criminal charges, are inadmissible to the U.S. under immigration regulation or if you’ve been found in violation of any customs, immigration or agriculture regulations in any country.
You may also be kept out of the Global Entry program if you’re the subject of an investigation by any federal, state or local law enforcement agency.
What to expect at your Global Entry interview
The Global Entry interview is easier than you might expect.
Make sure to bring your valid passport or permanent resident card, a print-out of the letter of conditional approval you receive after you submit your application and evidence of U.S. residency. Valid evidence of residency includes a driver’s license with your current address, a mortgage statement or a utility bill.
During the interview, the CBP officer will review your paperwork and then ask some questions about your world travel, as outlined on your application. Be prepared to confirm the countries you’ve visited and describe the purposes of your trips, including whether they were for business or leisure.
Finally, the CBP officer will take your fingerprints. This part of the process is crucial, because next time you travel internationally, you’ll have to scan your fingerprints at a Global Entry kiosk to pass through U.S. customs.
Even if you have an appointment, there may be a short wait for your interview. Take heart in the knowledge that you won’t have to wait in customs lines ever again.
Due to the popularity of the program, the CBP recently relocated and expanded the Global Entry Enrollment Center at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Travelers on the West Coast may get faster service, since the enrollment center has space to conduct 10 interviews at one time.
You may also save a trip to the airport by using the Enrollment on Arrival program. Once you’ve been conditionally approved to join Global Entry, you can complete your interview at an enrollment center as soon as you land in the U.S.
Assuming you pass the interview, you’ll get a Known Traveler Number (KTN). Enter this number in your frequent flyer profiles, and you may be granted TSA PreCheck status, saving even more time at the airport.
Within seven to 10 days, you’ll receive a Global Entry card in the mail. You don’t need this card to pass back into the U.S. using the kiosks, but you may need it to pass through the border into the U.S. from Mexico or Canada if you’re using ground transportation, so it’s important to activate your card through your Trusted Traveler Program online account.
Cards that will pay for your Global Entry application fee
There is a $100, non-refundable application fee for Global Entry. If you are disqualified during any stage of the process – the initial application or the interview – you will not receive this money back.
Global Entry is valid for five years before you must re-apply. You may or may not have to conduct another in-person interview. In many cases, you can pay your application fee and renew easily online.
Global Entry is a great bargain to save hours every time you travel at a price that works out to $20/year.
But wouldn’t it be even better if you could get Global Entry for free?
Many travel rewards credit cards offer Global Entry free as one of the perks. Just use that credit card to pay for your Global Entry application, and the card issuer will refund the money as a statement credit automatically or within the next month.
We found 6 cards that offer a $100 statement credit for Global Entry.
Bonus: These cards all have no foreign transaction fees and the opportunity to earn points when you book travel using the card.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
A great card for international travel, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card reimburses your Global Entry application fee and has a flexible program allowing you to earn rewards on flights, hotels, rental cards and more.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Not only does the Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa refund up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry every four years, but you also receive a $300 statement credit on travel purchases annually. Combine this with high value rewards points, and a 1:1 transfer on points from partner loyalty programs, and you’ll be happy to carry this card wherever you go.
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
The IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card issued by Chase is a World Elite Mastercard offering up to a $100 statement credit on Global Entry every four years, plus a generous sign-up bonus of 80,000 points if you spend $2,000 within the first three months.
United Explorer Card
The United Explorer Card issued by Chase not only pays for up to a $100 Global Entry application fee every four years, but it also offers your first checked bag free for yourself and a companion on every United flight, up to a $120 value each round-trip.
Citi® AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
The Citi AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard reimburses your Global Entry application fee up to $100 once every five years. Spend even less time at the airport with perks like priority check-in and early boarding when you fly American Airlines.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express is a charge card, which means you’ll never pay interest because your balance is due in full every month. American Express covers up to $100 in statement credit for Platinum members’ Global Entry fee every four years. Be aware: American Express is not as widely accepted overseas as Visa or Mastercard.
Which travel card is right for you?
Travel rewards credit card
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card||$95, waived the first year||17.99%-25.24%|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||$450||19.24% – 26.24% Variable|
|IHG® Rewards Club Premiere Credit Card||$89||18.24% – 25.24% Variable|
|United Explorer Card||$95, waived the first year||18.24% – 25.24%|
|Citi® AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®||$450||17.99% – 25.99%|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||$550||Does not apply|
If you’re a frequent world traveler, using one of the above credit cards for Global Entry can help you save time and money.
Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.