Since airport Security was tightened up several years ago, going through checkpoints has become a hassle. You have to take items of clothes off, laptops, liquids, and a host of other items and have them scanned and checked separately. Then once you are through the scan and possibly subjected to a pat down, you have to hurry to your belongings and start repacking them and getting dressed again. These new procedures have become time-consuming and often clearing security can require a long wait. Fortunately for regular travelers who pose little or no threat they can always opt to enroll in the TSA Pre✓ program which will let you breeze through expedited security clearing at airports in the US. So read along to for our complete guide to TSA Pre✓
What is the TSA
TSA Strands for Transport Security Administration, and is responsible for amongst other things the security of US airports. While most people are familiar with TSA passenger screening locations at airports, the TSA does much more than that, including screening checked bags, and a host of other things.
What is TSA PreCheck
TSA Pre✓ is a way for frequent travelers to speed up their progress through airport security. The system uses a trusted traveler program where members are subjected to a background check which then clears them to use TSA Pre✓ lanes. Since the traveler is known to the TSA, the process of screening can be speeded up, by conducting less stringent checks.
Benefits of TSA PreCheck
The main difference when going through TSA PreCheck is speed, according to the TSA, the average wait time for 94% of TSA Pre✓ enrolled passengers to clear security is 5 minutes or less. This is achieved through a different screening process.
Standard screening requires travelers to remove their Belts, Shoes, Jackets, Liquids, and Laptops and other electronic equipment, and place them in trays through the security scanners. Going through the TSA Pre✓ lanes means travelers do not have to remove any of those items.
One thing to be aware of is if belts or shoes have any metal parts they will have to be removed and scanned along with hand luggage regardless of whether you have TSA Pre✓ or not.
If you are traveling as a family, then children aged 12 and under can use the TSA Pre✓ security lanes with an enrolled parent. Children over that age require their own TSA Pre✓ enrollment.
How Does TSA Precheck Work
The Key to TSA PReX is the Known Traveller Number KTN system, after successfully enrolling in TSA Pre✓ you will be issued with a KTN, after this whenever you book a flight with a TSA Pre✓ participating airline, you will be prompted to enter your KTN when making your booking.
Once you receive your boarding card (either digital or paper), it will be marked with your KTN and TSA Pre✓, you then use your boarding card along with your photo ID to access the TSA Pre✓ lines at your departure airport.
To take advantage of your TSA Pre✓ membership, you will have to be flying with an airline that is enrolled in the program. Currently, there are 56 airlines involved in the program.
Which Airports Have TSA PreCheck
There are over 200 airports with TSA Pre✓ screening facilities across the nation. This includes the busiest and biggest airports Like Atlanta ATL, New York JFK, and Los Angeles LAX. One thing to remembers is that while TSA Pre✓ may be available at an airport, it may not be available at all terminals in the airport, so it is always worth checking if your airport and terminal have TSA Pre✓.
TSA Precheck Cost & Validity
Applying for TSA Pre✓ will cost you $85; if you are accepted for the program, your enrollment will be valid for 5 years.
Who is Eligible for TSA PreCheck
Enrollment in TSA Pre✓ is not open to everyone. To be eligible to join the program you must be:
- A US citizen resident in the US
- A foreign Citizen legally resident in the US
- Foreign nationals who qualify and are members of the Global Entry program may also be eligible for TSA Pre✓
Applying For TSA PreCheck
Applying for TSA Pre✓ is a relatively simple process. All you need to start is head over to the TSA website and hit apply now. You will then be taken to the first application page where you will enter your details.
After this, you will be offered different locations and time slots to attend a short in-person interview. Once you have selected an interview slot, you are done. And you can prepare the required documents needed for the interview.
Finally, you will have to attend the short interview (it usually takes about 10 minutes). You will need to bring the following with you:
- A credit card to pay the $85 enrolment fee
- Two forms of photo ID- in most cases if you travel internationally a passport and drivers license are a great choice
- You may also be asked to bring any immigration documentation if you are not a citizen but are a US resident
After the interview, you will have to wait to be notified if your application was successful or not. In most cases, you will be notified shortly after the interview, although this process can take between 3 to 4 weeks. So if you have any upcoming travel plans an are thinking of applying, make sure to leave ample time between your interview and your travel dates.
Hopefully, if you are successful, you will receive confirmation from the TSA along with your Known Traveller Number KTN, and you are set to go and enjoy the benefits of TSA Pre✓.
How To Get TSA Pre✓ For Free
Fortunately one of the best perks of several credit cards is that they offer a statement credit to cover your TSA Pre✓ application fees, meaning that it is essentially free. Cards that we know of that offer this statement credit include:
The list is by no means exhaustive, and if you know of any other cards that include a statement credit for TSA enrollment, let us know, and we will add it to the list.
It is worth noting that some loyalty programs allow you to redeem points for TSA Pre✓ application fees, while this is a welcome addition it is not to be recommended since the rates tend to be very low and you can get better value for your points elsewhere.
Who Should Apply For TSA Pre✓
There are basically two types of travelers who should apply for TSA Pre✓:
- Any traveler who holds a credit card offering a statement credit on TSA Pre✓ application fees. This applies even if they only fly once or twice a year. Most credit cards providing a statement credit are fee-paying cards, so you have already paid for your TSA Pre✓ application so why not take advantage of it regardless of how often you use it.
- Frequent flyers, who travel several times per year may consider paying the $85 for the convenience of breezing through airport security. Although if you travel that frequently then getting a travel credit card can make a lot of sense in the long run, and most of these will tend to offer a TSA Pre✓ statement credit.
Global Entry Option
If you travel a lot internationally, then You may want to consider applying for Global Entry. While TSA Pre✓ covers the security side of things, Global Entry provides expedited immigration clearance. This makes getting back into the US much easier. It is so easy that even foreign nationals who are enrolled in the program can enter the US quicker than Citizen using the normal immigration channels. As an additional bonus Global Entry will also entitle you to use TSA Pre✓ lanes when boarding flights in the US.
If you regularly travel within the US then signing up for TSA Pre✓ is a no Brainer. With an average time of 5 minutes to clear security screening, the $85 application fee will save you a bundle of time on your travels. That is valuable time you can spend relaxing on your travel or even catching up on some work if in a lounge.
Choosing which membership to go for will ultimately depend on your travel plans and patterns if you mainly fly in the US then TSA Pre✓ will do. On the other hand, if you have a fair amount of International travel, then Global Entry might be a better option.