Global Entry vs. TSA Precheck: Which is best for you?

3 min read
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Nothing eats up your time more than the airport security line. There’s the process of taking off your shoes, removing any liquids and laptops from your carry-on, standing hip-distance apart as you’re scanned, then proceeding through the checkpoint to grab your belongings and rush towards your gate.

If you do any traveling, whether for business or pleasure and want to avoid the hassle, programs like Global Entry and TSA Precheck can streamline the security process and reduce your travel stress.

Enrollment process

TSA PreCheck

TSA Precheck is available to U.S. citizens, nationals and lawful permanent residents who are traveling on domestic flights within the U.S., and international flights departing from the U.S. For the majority of domestic flights, TSA PreCheck lets you keep your shoes, belt, laptop and liquids in-place – for a non-refundable fee of $85, for 5 years. The approval process can take approximately 2-3 weeks, but many applicants get approved in just a few days.

To start the approval process, you first have to submit an online application on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website, then schedule an appointment at any of the 380+ enrollment centers, for an interview, fingerprinting and background check.

Once approved, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number or KTN, which you’ll use when making your airline reservations.

Global Entry 

While the Global Entry application process takes a bit longer, benefits include TSA Precheck and expedited customs screenings for travels entering the U.S. from foreign airports. At $100 for 5 years, the cost for Global Entry is just $15 more than TSA PreCheck. Because Global Entry is more comprehensive, requirements are also more stringent.  It’s important to note that you’ll need a valid passport and evidence of U.S. citizenship or are a lawful permanent resident to qualify.

Before you submit an application online through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), you must create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account. Much like TSA PreCheck, Global Entry requires an in-person interview, followed by a background check. However, the program has fewer enrollment locations than TSA Precheck, so the process could take longer.

A plus side to Global Entry allows you to do enrollment on arrival once you’ve been approved for an interview. This program allows you to do your Global Entry interview when arriving in the U.S. from an international flight.

Cost

Again, TSA Precheck will cost you $85 for a five-year membership, while Global Entry, which also includes TSA Precheck, offers a five-year membership for $100. There is only a $15 difference between the two programs, so if you have the time to complete the Global Entry process and you do your fair share of overseas travel, it’s definitely worth it. Renewal for each program costs the same as the original enrollment price.

If you’re considering either of these two programs, you may be able to get them at no cost. It all depends on what kind of credit cards you have. Quite a few travel rewards cards offer statement credits to reimburse you for the cost of your application fees. The Platinum Card® from American Express offers its cardholders a statement credit every four/four and a half years to cover your enrollment charges and your renewal. The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card offer similar perks in the form of an application fee credit every four years for up to $100.

The information about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Advantages and disadvantages

These two programs offer very similar advantages. They will both potentially save you time at the airport. Precheck does this by providing security lanes that have lighter screenings. Global Entry gives you access to the Precheck security lane, but also to the Global Entry automatic kiosks.  When arriving from international travel, these kiosks will allow you to simply scan your passport and fingerprint to receive a ticket that will allow you to skip the immigration line and go straight to baggage claim and customs. There are over 70 airports with Global Entry Kiosks and over 200 airports with TSA Precheck.

While the advantages of these two programs are clear, there are some downsides. For starters, the cost can feel quite steep and fees are nonrefundable. So you won’t get your money back if your application is declined. And applications can take some time to process, especially for Global Entry, which has tighter restrictions. And while both programs are meant to expedite your time getting through airport security, neither can guarantee you’ll get each time you travel.

Bottom line: Should you get TSA Precheck or Global Entry?

When you’re frequently traveling, convenience is important. There are few tips and tricks out there to help make travel smoother, and both TSA Precheck and Global Entry are definitely on the list. While it can take a bit of time to complete the enrollment process, it will translate into less time and frustration at the airport. And if you’re a savvy traveler with a good travel rewards card, you could have your application fees covered. It’s a win-win.