If you are a frequent flyer, you’ve probably asked yourself whether it’s worth applying for TSA PreCheck in order to skip the standard airport security lines. If you travel internationally on a regular basis, you might have asked yourself whether it’s worth applying for Global Entry so you can access the timesaving Global Entry Customs Kiosks when you return to the U.S.
If you’re trying to decide between PreCheck vs. Global Entry, we can help. What are the differences between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck? Does Global Entry include TSA PreCheck? Let’s take a close look at Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck to help you decide which Trusted Traveler Program is right for you.
TSA PreCheck is a Trusted Traveler Program administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration. Once you complete the 5-minute online application and pass a 10-minute in-person background check, you’ll receive a known traveler number that you can enter whenever you book a flight.
Once your known traveler number is added to your flight reservation, your ticket will be given the TSA PreCheck stamp of approval. This is what gives you access to an expedited airport security line. When you’re in the PreCheck security line, you no longer need to remove your shoes, belt or light jacket before clearing airport security. You can even leave your laptop and your TSA-approved liquids and gels in your carry-on.
(Occasionally, passengers are randomly selected for traditional airport security screening—so keep that in mind when you’re asking yourself how early to leave for the airport.)
Want to know more about how TSA PreCheck works? Check out our complete guide to TSA PreCheck. Want to know how TSA PreCheck stacks up against private airport security programs like Clear? Read Bankrate’s analysis of TSA PreCheck vs. Clear—and use that information to decide which program might be best for you.
The availability of TSA PreCheck
TSA PreCheck is available at over 200 domestic airports and 73 airlines. If you want to know whether your local airport or favorite airline offers TSA PreCheck, visit the official TSA website.
Am I eligible for TSA PreCheck?
If you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent U.S. resident, you are eligible to apply for TSA PreCheck.
TSA PreCheck application process and cost
The TSA PreCheck application process includes two simple steps. First, fill out a 5-minute online application with basic personal information like your address and date of birth. Then, schedule a 10-minute appointment at a TSA PreCheck enrollment center to receive a background check and fingerprinting.
This two-step application process costs $85, and your TSA PreCheck enrollment status remains valid for five years. When the five years run out, you can renew for the next five by returning to an enrollment center and paying another $85 or—better option—renew online for $70.
Many top travel credit cards offer statement credits for TSA PreCheck application costs, so you might want to check if you have a credit card that covers the cost of TSA PreCheck before you apply. The best travel credit cards also come with other cost-saving benefits like travel insurance and airport lounge access, and we recommend all frequent flyers have at least one good travel credit card in their wallets.
Benefits of TSA PreCheck
For most travelers, the biggest benefit of TSA PreCheck is the expedited airport security line. Whether you like being able to clear airport security in less time or simply enjoy keeping your shoes on and your luggage packed during the screening process, TSA PreCheck has a lot to offer. If you travel often, it’s worth taking the time to complete a TSA PreCheck application and become a Trusted Traveler.
Like TSA PreCheck, Global Entry is a Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) administered by the federal government. Unlike PreCheck, which is for domestic travel, Global Entry is designed to help travelers expedite the customs process when returning to the United States after traveling internationally.
Trusted Travelers with Global Entry membership can use Global Entry Customs Kiosks when reentering the United States, eliminating the need for an in-person customs interview and allowing travelers to skip the process of filling out customs paperwork. Global Entry Kiosks use fingerprint verification to confirm identity, and travelers can complete their customs declaration at the kiosk.
Plus, Global Entry membership automatically includes TSA PreCheck membership—which means that travelers with Global Entry can enjoy a faster screening process whether they’re traveling domestically or returning to the United States after a trip abroad.
The availability of Global Entry
Global Entry Customs Kiosks are available at over 75 airports in 13 countries. If you want to know whether your nearest airport offers expedited customs processes to travelers with a Global Entry membership, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website offers a complete list of airports with Global Entry Kiosks.
Am I eligible for Global Entry?
If you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent U.S. resident, you are eligible to apply for Global Entry. Select foreign nationals are also eligible to apply.
Global Entry application process and cost
The Global Entry application process begins with an online application, after which you may be conditionally approved for a Global Entry membership. Once you receive your conditional approval status, you’ll need to set up an in-person interview at an authorized Enrollment Center and pass an in-depth background check.
Some travelers may be able to use the Enrollment on Arrival program to speed up the process. If you are flying into the U.S. after traveling internationally, you may be able to complete your Global Entry interview as you clear customs without having to set up an interview in advance.
The Global Entry application process includes a $100 nonrefundable application fee, and your Global Entry membership lasts for five years. TTP accepts credit cards—Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and Diner’s Club International—or electronic debit from a checking or saving account from a U.S. bank. After the payment is processed, your application should have a status of “Pending Review.”
As with TSA PreCheck, many top travel credit cards offer statement credits to cover the cost of your Global Entry application—which is good because Global Entry is a little more expensive than TSA Precheck.
The Global Entry application process can also be more time-consuming than the TSA PreCheck application—which is something to keep in mind when you’re considering PreCheck vs. Global Entry. The Department of Homeland Security notes it can take over 90 days to process an application and advises travelers who are not planning an international trip in the next six months to consider applying for TSA PreCheck instead.
Global Entry now has about 10 million participants and the CBP reports it’s processing more applications than ever—in excess of 3.5 million applications per year.
Benefits of Global Entry
For most people who travel internationally on a regular basis, the biggest benefit of Global Entry is the ability to access expedited customs processes on their return to the United States.
However, many travelers underestimate the other major benefit of Global Entry membership. Since Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck, successfully completing the Global Entry application process gives you access to two Trusted Traveler Programs instead of just one.
Which is better: Global Entry or TSA PreCheck?
Trying to decide between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck? What you really need to do is ask yourself how often you plan to travel internationally.
If the majority of your travel is within the United States, TSA PreCheck is probably the best choice for you. Once you’re enrolled in TSA PreCheck, you’ll be able to use your Trusted Traveler status to access expedited security lines at nearly all domestic United States airports.
If you regularly travel outside of the United States, you might want to consider Global Entry. Not only will you get all of the benefits of TSA PreCheck, but you’ll also be able to access an expedited customs process when you return to the United States after traveling abroad.
If you don’t know whether TSA PreCheck or Global Entry is better for you, the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Program website can help you find your best match.
Advantages of having both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
Since the Global Entry program includes TSA PreCheck, there are no advantages to applying for both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.
Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck but TSA PreCheck does not include Global Entry, so anyone planning to travel internationally while debating Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck should just apply for Global Entry. That way, you get the advantages of having both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck—and with the right credit card, all of your application costs will be covered.
If you already have TSA PreCheck and want to switch to Global Entry, you’ll need to complete the entire Global Entry application process, including the $100 application fee. This is why it’s a good idea to think about the benefits of having both Global Entry and PreCheck before applying for either of the programs.