We’ve all been hearing about airport security lines as long as three hours, causing people to miss their flights. But you can zip through airport security like a VIP with a “known traveler” card that gets you onto the expedited TSA PreCheck line.
If you fly more than twice a year, you are a fool not to carry this magical card, which costs $85 or $100 for five years, depending on which of two cards you get. The $100 card is for international travel, since it includes also gives you expedited US Customs and immigration when you return home to the USA.
That’s $20 or less a year. That’s less than $2 a month, less than many of us spend on lattes in one month.
Every time I zip through the TSA line in minutes, instead of many minutes or even hours, I tell the TSA security guard with a giant smile that it’s the best $100 I ever spent.
Plus, I don’t have to take off my shoes, like you do. And I don’t have to take my laptop or that quart-size bag of liquids out of my carry-on, like you do.
I just plop my handbag and my carry-on onto the conveyor belt and walk through the scanner.
My five-year Global Entry card gives me expedited access to TSA security lines when I leave, and also lets me avoid the US Customs lines on international travel when I return. Instead, I use the lightning fast kiosks instead. Because my re-entry is electronic, I don’t get a souvenir stamp in my Passport. So sorry to complain about that while you are waiting forever.
TSA PreCheck is available at more than 150 airports and 12 participating airlines, including US-flag carriers American, Delta, UAL and JetBlue. Note that you have to register the KTN (known traveler number) with each airline you fly, to get the TSA PreCheck clearance printed on your boarding pass. The airlines don’t know you have TSA PreCheck until you register your number with them.
It’s a pain to register with each airline you want to give you expedited security, but it takes less time than standing on an airport security line for two hours. And once it’s done, it’s done for the five-year life of the card.
Check the TSA website to see which airports and which airlines participate in the program.
For $15 more, or $100, you get the Global Entry card, also for five years. Both require applications similar to applying for a US Passport or state driver’s license, plus getting fingerinted (your fingerprints are how you sign in to the touch-screen koisks). If you travel to and from Canada often, the NEXUS card, or SENTRI, for regular US travelers to Mexico, offer a similar fast pass through airport security and immigration lines.
Here’s a quick and easy official comparison chart to help you decide which program is right for you.
A recent survey by SmarterTravel indicated that:
- 23% don’t even know about these programs
- 32% have signed up for Global Entry (which includes TSA Precheck)
- 26% have signed up for TSA Precheck only
- 21% don’t find them necessary
That’s a shame.
Photo of a recent security line at Chicago O’Hare Airport courtesy NBC News.