TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You?
TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - The Basics - TSA PreCheck and Global Entry Explained
Navigating airport security can be a major pain point for travelers, with long lines and invasive screening procedures. That's why two programs exist to help expedite the process: TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. At their core, both offer an expedited way for pre-approved travelers to pass through airport security with less hassle. However, there are some key differences between the two.
TSA PreCheck is specifically focused on speeding up the security checkpoint process. It allows members access to dedicated screening lanes where they don't need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets. Once approved, your known traveler number is added to your reservation when booking flights and you can access the TSA PreCheck lanes. The application process involves an in-person appointment and background check. Membership costs $85 for five years.
Global Entry's main benefit is speeding up the customs and immigration process when entering the U.S. from abroad. It offers access to automated kiosks and dedicated lanes so you can bypass long passport control lines. Global Entry also includes TSA PreCheck privileges as a built-in perk. To enroll, you'll need to complete an online application, interview and background check. There's a $100 fee that covers five years of use.
Both programs make air travel vastly more pleasant by allowing low-risk travelers to bypass some of the biggest pain points in the airport experience. TSA PreCheck helps shorten security wait times, while Global Entry lets you skip the often agonizingly slow passport control process.
Frequent international travelers tend to benefit most from Global Entry, since they'll use both the customs fast track as well as TSA PreCheck lanes. For domestic U.S. travelers who aren't concerned about immigration lines, TSA PreCheck alone may meet their needs. Some feel Global Entry is worth the extra $15 for the added customs and immigration perk.
What else is in this post?
- TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - The Basics - TSA PreCheck and Global Entry Explained
- TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Application Process - How to Sign Up for Each Program
- TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Membership Costs - What You'll Pay for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry
- TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Eligibility Requirements - Who Qualifies for Each Program
- TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Airport Screening - What to Expect with TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry
- TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Trusted Traveler Perks - Other Benefits of Global Entry Membership
- TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Family Coverage - Adding Kids and Spouses to TSA PreCheck and Global Entry
- TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Which to Choose in 2023 - Key Factors to Consider This Year
TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Application Process - How to Sign Up for Each Program
Navigating the application process for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry can seem daunting, but it's worth the effort for the time saved. Here's what to expect when signing up for each program.
For TSA PreCheck, you'll start by pre-enrolling online, which involves entering your personal information and paying the $85 application fee. Then comes the in-person appointment at one of hundreds of enrollment centers across the U.S. Be sure to bring acceptable identity documents like your passport or drivers license. At your appointment, a TSA agent will verify your identity, take your fingerprints, and conduct a quick background check. The process takes about 10-15 minutes. You'll receive a known traveler number that should be added to your flight reservations to access TSA PreCheck lanes. Approval happens within 2-3 weeks.
Applying for Global Entry requires an online application including personal details, travel history, and backgrounds checks. You'll pay a $100 fee that covers five years of membership. Following approval of your application, you can schedule an interview at one of 75+ Global Entry enrollment centers. These are located at major international airports as well as some land border crossings. You'll need to bring a valid passport, another form of ID, and a printout of your application. The interview takes about 10-15 minutes and covers identity verification and a customs declaration. Conditional approval often happens in just 1-2 weeks.
For families, each adult needs his or her own TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership. The good news is that when traveling with a member, minors under 12 can access TSA PreCheck lanes and Global Entry kiosks. For children ages 12-17, the application process is the same as for adults. The benefit is membership then lasts until the age of 18. Adding family members is a huge perk that makes TSA PreCheck and Global Entry even more valuable for parents and kids.
TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Membership Costs - What You'll Pay for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry
When it comes to TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, the membership costs are relatively reasonable given the huge time savings and convenience they provide frequent fliers. However, it's still money out of pocket, so understanding the fees is helpful when deciding which makes sense for your travel habits.
The Enrollment Fee
For TSA PreCheck, you'll pay a flat application fee of $85. This covers a five year membership before you have to renew. Global Entry has a higher upfront cost at $100 for five years of use. This fee is paid during the online application process.
While Global Entry's enrollment fee is slightly higher, it includes TSA PreCheck access by default. So you're essentially getting two programs for that $100 price over five years. Some infrequent travelers balk at paying close to $100 just for airport perks. But for road warriors, it's a no-brainer investment that can pay for itself quickly in time saved.
Application Process Costs
With TSA PreCheck, the enrollment fee is the only cost since it covers your background check and enrollment appointment. For Global Entry, you may have the added cost of getting to an enrollment center for your interview. There are 75+ locations at major airports and border crossings, but if there isn't one nearby, you may need to book a special trip.
For example, a Washington, D.C. resident might need to take a train to New York's JFK airport for their closest interview location. This could mean roundtrip rail tickets plus ground transportation, adding $150 or more to the signup process. For applicants not located near Global Entry sites, it's smart to try to schedule an interview for when you'll already be traveling through an eligible airport.
Trusting Third-Party Services
Many third-party services like CLEAR offer to help expedite the TSA PreCheck and Global Entry application processes for an extra fee. They may claim to schedule interviews faster or help with trip planning to enrollment centers. It's not recommended to use these services. The extra charges are rarely worth it for straightforward applications.
Adding Family Members
A big bonus with TSA PreCheck and Global Entry is that once approved, you can add family members to your application. For young travelers under 18, there's no additional enrollment fee when someone else in the household has an active membership. They'll be included at no added cost. For those 18 and over, additional family enrollments are just $85 apiece for TSA PreCheck and $100 for Global Entry.
Don't forget that TSA PreCheck and Global Entry must be renewed every five years. The renewal price is the same as the initial application fee: $85 for PreCheck and $100 for Global Entry. Members will receive a reminder to renew their membership as they approach expiration. Some report a smoother renewal process compared to initial enrollment.
TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Eligibility Requirements - Who Qualifies for Each Program
When applying for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, there are eligibility criteria travelers must meet to get approved. Understanding the qualifications can prevent wasted time and application fees. These programs aim to expedite screening, so naturally the background check process is strict. You can't have just any old riff-raff bypassing security lines. Applicants must prove they are who they claim to be and have a clean track record.
For TSA PreCheck, you must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible international traveler. Other requirements include providing biographic information, fingerprints, and paying the $85 fee. Crucially, your background check must come back clean. The TSA conducts a detailed security threat assessment and will deny membership to travelers with crimes on their records. Certain factors lead to automatic disqualification, like felony convictions, illegal immigration violations, and being on a terrorist watchlist. Lesser offenses like misdemeanor drug charges can also prevent approval.
Global Entry eligibility requirements are similar. You must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible visa holder from select countries. Providing biographic and fingerprint data is mandatory, along with paying the $100 application fee. A clean criminal history is essential. However, Global Entry's background check digs even deeper, reviewing immigration, customs, agriculture, and national security records. Having any mark on your record from one of the agencies involved can jeopardize approval odds.
For both programs, having even a slight blotch on your history will undermine your chances. Travelers with arrests or charges that were ultimately dismissed and expunged from court records have reported denial. That's because TSA and CBP conduct their own background investigations; they don't simply rely on what shows up on a typical criminal record search.
If denied membership, travelers can appeal the decision within 60 days but reversals are rare. The best approach is maintaining a spotless background. Those with former run-ins with the law should consider consulting an attorney beforehand to understand their odds of approval. Some hire firms that specialize in clearing background checks for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry applicants.
TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Airport Screening - What to Expect with TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry
The most tangible benefits of TSA PreCheck and Global Entry come at the airport itself. When you're actually in the trenches, navigating security lines and passport control, the time savings are clear. Understanding the airport screening experiences with each program helps travelers decide if the membership investment will pay off.
TSA PreCheck members can access special dedicated screening lanes at over 200 U.S. airports. These lanes help you bypass the standard security hassles. Leave shoes, jackets and belts on. Keep laptops in your bag. No need to remove toiletries from carry on luggage. It's a much smoother process that's reminiscent of "the good old days" before the liquid ban and shoe bomber.
The lack of document checking also speeds things up. Just scan your boarding pass and you're through to the X-ray machines in minutes. With TSA PreCheck, most members breeze through security in less than 5 minutes. Compare that to the often 30+ minute waits in regular lines. It lets travelers maximize sleep up until departure rather than arrive hours early.
Global Entry also includes TSA PreCheck access as a built-in benefit. So members can take advantage of those same expedited security lanes. However, Global Entry's biggest advantage is how it expedites clearing customs and immigration when entering the U.S. after international trips.
Upon landing back in the U.S., simply proceed to the Global Entry kiosks, scan your passport, fingerprints and complete a quick customs form. The automated system will print a receipt then you're on your way, skipping the maddening queues at immigration. Vetted as low-risk, Global Entry members can skip directly to baggage claim rather than wait to have documents checked manually.
Global Entry kiosks are available at over 75 international airports across the U.S. as well as some land border crossings. They're located in the immigration hall, so look for signs pointing to Global Entry as you head toward baggage claim. You can also use Global Entry kiosks at airports when connecting from an international to domestic U.S. flight. The program speeds up clearing customs upon returning to the U.S. as well as connecting through airports.
Thanks to Global Entry and TSA PreCheck combined, international trips become far less painful. Breeze through immigration, then at your domestic connection access the TSA fast lanes. Rather than stand in multiple lines that can each take 30+ minutes, you may be through in less than 15 with both programs.
TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Trusted Traveler Perks - Other Benefits of Global Entry Membership
Beyond expedited airport screening, Global Entry comes with a few extra perks that enhance the international travel experience for members. While TSA PreCheck is solely focused on breezing through security, Global Entry members gain advantages across the entire airport journey.
One underrated benefit is access to the Global Entry dedicated help desk, a special customer service number just for members. If questions come up about your membership, pending application or renewal, fast-tracked arrivals, or other issues, help is a phone call away 24/7. Compared to calling general airport customer support lines that often involve long hold times, having dedicated Global Entry agents is hugely valuable.
Global Entry also includes eligibility for CBP's Mobile Passport app, allowing expedited customs screening at participating airports and cruise ports. Members can complete their customs forms and declarations on a smartphone, then use dedicated Mobile Passport lanes to skip long immigration queues. It provides yet another option to fast-track international arrivals and saves fiddling with paper customs forms.
Truly frequent global travelers love how Global Entry allows expedited document checks at TSA checkpoints regardless of whether you're flying internationally. Even on domestic U.S. flights within the Global Entry network, you can flash your known traveler card to access TSA PreCheck lanes. This avoids wondering if TSA PreCheck access is cleared for a given ticket.
Global Entry members also report more success getting gate passes to accompany non-travelers to their departure gate, since you're identified as a trusted traveler. Similarly, when flights are oversold, Global Entry boosts your odds of getting compensated rather than bumped thanks to your verified low-risk status. Airlines are more inclined to reward loyal frequent fliers who hold Global Entry and do what they can to avoid inconveniencing them.
For frequent car travelers along northern and southern U.S. borders, Global Entry also offers access to dedicated lanes at land border crossings. These SENTRI and NEXUS lanes help expedite crossing into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico. You can dodge the often painfully slow standard vehicle queues whenever driving across national borders. It makes road trips involving border crossings far less stressful.
TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Family Coverage - Adding Kids and Spouses to TSA PreCheck and Global Entry
When it comes to family travel, TSA PreCheck and Global Entry can be absolute game-changers. As harried parents know all too well, navigating airport security with kids in tow is a special kind of misery. Endless lines, removing shoes and light jackets, unpacking your entire carry-on...it's enough to give any parent premature grays. Global Entry and TSA PreCheck help families bypass the worst hassles, making travel with children infinitely smoother.
The beauty of these programs is that once one family member is approved, adding additional relatives is a breeze. For TSA PreCheck, children under 12 can fly with a parent through the expedited lanes at no extra cost. And kids between 12-17 can be added to a parent's application for just $85. The process is fast, requiring minimal extra paperwork. Some families report getting same-day approval for teens on existing applications.
For Global Entry, the family coverage works similarly. Kids under 12 get TSA PreCheck access and can use the kiosks to breeze through customs and immigration when traveling internationally with a Global Entry parent. Older kids can be added for $100 each. Again, it's easy to append teens and tweak existing family applications.
Adding a spouse is just as simple. Once one parent has TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, a partner can be added for the standard $85 or $100 fee respectively. It takes only a few extra minutes at an enrollment appointment. Some clever travelers have been known to rotate applying individually every five years once children are over 12. That helps parents avoid always paying fees for entire families.
For larger households, the savings of adding multiple family members under one application really add up. Compare $85 per person to enroll individually in TSA PreCheck ($340 for a family of four) versus about $100 total in added fees on an existing membership. For bigger families, having one parent handle the application legwork and then append others as a group is by far the most affordable way to go.
Outside of the cost savings, having the whole family covered streamlines travel immensely. Imagine breezing through customs together upon landing from Costa Rica, then hustling as a group over to TSA PreCheck and removing zero items before scanning. Not only does it free up time on vacations, but it helps kids learn good travel habits from an early age. Families can also use their Known Traveler Number when booking trips for teens flying solo, letting them access expedited lanes themselves.
TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry in 2024: Which Airport Fast Pass is Right for You? - Which to Choose in 2023 - Key Factors to Consider This Year
For domestic U.S. road warriors flying within the country multiple times per month, TSA PreCheck may make the most sense. The $85 price point is hard to beat for five years of expedited security, keeping your shoes and belt on, and laptop in bag. If you're someone who cringes at the thought of arriving 2+ hours pre-flight and winding through snaking TSA lines, PreCheck will transform that experience.
However, those who travel internationally even just 2-3 times annually are likely better off investing in Global Entry. The included TSA PreCheck perk essentially gives you both programs bundled for only $15 more than PreCheck alone over five years. With Global Entry, you'll speed through customs on re-entry to the U.S. in minutes, rather than potentially wait hours in immigration lines after long-haul flights.
Consider how many trips you'll take over the next five years and whether Global Entry's combined benefits offset the marginally higher signup cost. For most frequent travelers headed overseas, it's worth it - especially if you already hold PreCheck and want to upgrade to Global Entry's added perks.
Also weigh the value of time saved versus Global Entry's higher enrollment effort. Attending an interview adds a step, whereas PreCheck only requires online signup and ID verification. If your nearest Global Entry location is a major detour, the hassle of interviews may outweigh the benefits for some. But frequent international travelers will gladly make the enrollment trek.
For families, Global Entry's ability to cover everyone is invaluable. Once one parent has it, adding kids and teens is easy and cuts individual application costs. And access to TSA PreCheck lanes as a family drastically simplifies security, especially when wrangling young travelers.
When it comes to eligibility, Global Entry's background check is more rigorous. PreCheck denies those with disqualifying criminal records, but Global Entry digs deeper across multiple federal agencies. If you have any civil or criminal offenses in your past, double check that Global Entry's strict criteria won't trip you up. PreCheck is sometimes more accessible for those with minor marks on their records.
Also consider PreCheck vs. Global Entry's airport availability for your frequent travel routes. While PreCheck lanes are now available at 200+ airports, Global Entry kiosks are still less common at around 75 major hubs. If you largely fly through smaller airports, PreCheck will benefit you most right now. But Global Entry locations are expanding rapidly.
For occasional leisure travelers who only fly a couple times per year, even PreCheck may be hard to justify, given TSA sometimes allows regular travelers into expedited lines during off-peak times. But habitual travelers will easily recoup the investment through time savings.