Lines are Lame – What’s the deal with Global Entry and TSA Precheck?

It’s time to pull the trigger on TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Not sure which to pick? We’ve got you covered.

Airport Line

Featured photo credit: On the Move – Color Version via photopin

I was way overdue for some international travel, so I’m planning a trip to South America in June, and another trip to Greece in July. South America will be cultural, while Greece is looking like 100% party (more on this soon).

Because of these two trips, I’ve finally found the need to pull the trigger and apply for Global Entry, a program that is designed to save valuable time on your way back to the US on international trips. Why have I waited so long, you ask? Because applications suck, I’m lazy, and this process seems a bit daunting…at first.

Global Entry vs. TSA Precheck:

At first, it may be difficult to quickly understand the difference between the two programs and which one to apply for. Let’s help…

Put simply, you’ll want to apply for Global Entry since it allows you to bypass customs when returning from international trips and makes you eligible to receive TSA Pre✓ on domestic flights. Your Global Entry membership is good for 5 years and is only $15 more than TSA Pre✓ – making it well worth it.

However, if you know you won’t be traveling internationally and want more locations to complete the interview, then all you’ll need is TSA Pre✓ which is $85 for the same 5 years.

The Process – Global Entry:

The process is pretty quick and easy, as long as you have a valid U.S. passport.

  1. Create a Global Entry account here (yes, we feel your pain…the website is a bit outdated).
  2. Fill out the application and pay the $100 application fee. The most important part of this is remembering all of your jobs and addresses in the past 5 years. If you’ve moved around a lot, this part is tedious. Make sure you have a passport, and the rest is pretty easy (estimated time 15-20 minutes).
  3. Once you submit the application, you need to wait until you are conditionally approved for an interview. I received an email letting me know I was cleared to sign up for an interview slot within 2 days.
  4. Choose an interview slot, along with a location. I was able to find a time about a month from when I was approved. If you don’t want to wait that long, you can also choose less in-demand locations (ex. there was a slot open at JFK airport only a week from when I was conditionally approved).
  5. Go to the interview. Don’t freak out…it’s pretty easy. They’ll just ask you a few questions, take your fingerprints, and take a selfie.
  6. You’re good to go! You will immediately receive your Known Traveler Number (KTN) that you can add to your airline frequent flyer program. I had a flight the next day and was ecstatic to see TSA Pre✓ on my boarding pass. You’ll also receive your Global Entry card within a few weeks, but you’ll never need it.
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An example of Delta’s profile where you add your KTN #

The Process – TSA Pre✓:

The process is almost identical to Global Entry.

  1. Pre-Enroll here and schedule an appointment. Alternately, you can simply show up at any of the 300+ locations.
  2. During your appointment, you’ll be fingerprinted and will need to provide all the necessary documents.
  3. After enrollment, you’ll receive your Known Traveler Number (KTN) by mail (yes, mail…I guess it’s a government thing) within 2-3 weeks.
  4. Once you’re approved, don’t forget to add your KTN # to your airline frequent flyer program or when booking your flights.

What’s it like?

Domestic: It’s quite possibly life-changing. Gone are the days of taking off your shoes, belt and watch. No more lugging out your computer to put in a separate bin. No more being yelled at by TSA to empty everything from your pockets because you usually go through the metal detector vs. body scanner. I’m averaging about 5 minutes from Uber to airport terminal – it really is that quick.

International: Arriving back into the US after an international trip is the worst. You’re tired, anxious to get home to your bed, and the last thing you want to do is wait in a long line at customs with hundreds of other people who feel the exact same way. Imagine – coming back from your trip and flying right by this line by quickly scanning your fingerprints at the kiosk.

Possibly the best part of having either of these: that awkward moment when you have to split up with your friends/family at the airport because they have to wait in line.

So, what do I do next?

Go for it! If you find yourself wasting valuable time at the airport, consider applying to either Global Entry or TSA Pre. There’s really no reason not to take the time on a rainy day to get this all set up. Once you do, let us know in the comments how your experience was and how much time you’ve saved!

TPS Pro Tip: I currently have the American Express Platinum card, which offers credit statements for the $100 fee associated with Global Entry or the $85 TSA Pre✓ application, so it would have been dumb to not at least take advantage of the card benefit. So, if you this card, the Citi Prestige card or are a United Airlines Global Services, Premier 1K or Platinum, then these programs all waive the application fee.

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