The most annoying thing about traveling these days is the laborious and time-consuming process of clearing airport security. It is hard to believe that in the 1950s and ’60s there was no airport security and travelers could regularly take their guns rifles, shotguns on board without any questions being asked. During that era, airlines viewed airport security as a burden that would dent their bottom line. Sadly we now have to endure strict security screening, but thankfully there are various trusted traveler and expedited security programs, that can significantly speed up your progress through airports.
Most programs charge an enrollment fee, although there are multiple options to receive either a statement credit from your credit card to a substantial discount on these memberships. So read on to check out the various programs and what are your best options to get them as cheaply as possible.
What is Expedited Security
There are two types of Expedited security. The first type details with the physical security screening for all travelers as they board their flights regardless whether they are domestic or international. The second type deals with clearing emigration when arriving in the US. There are separate programs for each type, and while programs like TSA Pre✓ are dedicated to the physical security of the journey, others like Global Entry is concerned with the clearing emigration.
When clearing the Physical security at an airport, there are two steps to the process:
- Identity verification
- Physical checks
Expedited security programs are designed to speed up both processes. Enrollment in various programs will require the payment of a fee, submitting various documents, and in most cases attending a short interview at participating locations.
Available Expedited Security Programs
By far the most well-known program and one that deals with the physical security of travelers at airports via security screenings. The program is available at over 200 airports in the US. Also, there are over 50 airlines participating in the program, where travelers can enter their Known Traveller Number KTN when making their booking. Enrollment in the program costs $85 for five years. Once enrolled travelers can leave liquids and laptops in there carry-on bags and are not required to remove their jackets, shoes or belts when going through security.
This is a specialist program between the US and Canada and allows travelers to use special Kiosks at border crossings to expedited the process. Enrolling in the program costs $50.
The SENTRI program is similar to the NEXUS program but applies at the US Mexico border. The program does not apply when entering Mexico, but only for eligible travelers wishing to re-enter the US via the Mexico border.
CLEAR works hand in hand with the TSA Pre✓ to speed up the identity check portion of the security screening. It is the only privately run program and unfortunately is not as widespread as we hoped, but is available at over 40 airports across the nation.
Using Clear is by far the fastest way to get through airport security. The program uses biometrics to establish your identity, Once this is done you will be taken by a CLEAR agent to the front of the TSA security screening line, or if you have TSA Pre✓ to the front of the TSA Pre✓ line if you are eligible.
CLEAR Is the most costly trusted traveler program and will set you back $179 per year. However, it will provide you with the quickest way possible to get through airport security.
Global Entry is concerned with the immigration side of things. Enrolled members can use special kiosks at airports to clear immigration. The program is open to US citizens and some non-US nationalities. The program is available at 60 US locations, and 13 overseas locations including Abu Dhabi and Shannon in Ireland. Applying for Global entry costs a one of $100 fee.
Credit Cards That Provide Expedited Security
There is a large number of credit cards that provide you a statement credit when you use your card to pay for enrollment in a trusted traveler or expedited security program. Most cards offer you the credit every 4 years. Generally, cards do not offer a statement credit towards all programs, with most focusing on TSA Pre✓, although some do offer other options like Global Entry. Cards offering a trusted traveler statement credit include:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
- United℠ Explorer Card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (learn more)
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (learn more)
- Citi Prestige® Card
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (learn more)
Historically Airline Elites were entitled to use TSA Pre✓ lanes at airports. However, this program has now ended, and Elites will not benefit from this anymore. The one exception is Delta SkyMiles Diamond Medallion members, who can choose CLEAR membership as one of their Choice Benefits. Lower tier members can receive a discount on their CLEAR membership.
If you travel multiple times then joining a expedited security or trusted traveler program is a must. Membership can turn your whole airport experience on its head. Gone are the hours stuck in security lines, instead you will breeze through and spend your time relaxing airside in a restaurant or a lounge!