Imagine the following situation: you had a late night with your coworkers on your business trip and now have to take a red-eye flight back home. With your boarding pass in hand, you head to the TSA security screening line. Did I mention you also have a pounding headache? Do you really want to go through the process of waiting in line, taking your shoes off, removing your laptop and so on? Probably not.
To ease this pain there are many different programs that allow frequent travelers to go through expedited security screening. Most of us who live at the Canadian border are familiar with NEXUS, or if you’re further south on the Mexican border you probably use or have heard of SENTRI. However, there are also programs available for those who fly domestic and abroad. Our favorites are TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, due to their ease and inclusion of many different locations.
The TSA making travel easier sounds like a sentence from an Onion article. Maybe it's their way of making up for all of the times they took your Diet Coke because it broke the 3-1-1 liquid rule. Either way, TSA Precheck actually makes travel a lot easier by allowing expedited screening for domestic flights. Members receive a KTN, or Known Traveler Number that they enter when booking flights. Once in the airport, the program allows those signed up to go through a faster line labeled TSA PreCheck. While in the TSA PreCheck line, there is no removal of shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts, or light jackets. Frequent fliers walk through a metal detector and then head off to wait for boarding! It’s that simple. The program is available at more than 150 airports and 12 participating airlines. You can find out if your airport and airline uses the program by checking their website. The only negative of the program is that occasionally members may still have to go through normal security procedures just to keep everyone on their toes.
Sounds good, right? Well, it gets even better! Global Entry, a program from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, allows members to use touch-screen kiosks instead of going through the line at customs. This saves travelers time and trouble when entering the U.S. from travel abroad. The program also includes TSA PreCheck and its benefits at no additional cost. Both programs last for five years before the need for renewal.
By now you are probably wondering which one is for you? Well, it depends on how you travel. Below is a quick summary of each program.
- Domestic flights only
- Available at 150 airports & 12 participating airlines
- Allows you to go through an expedited screening line
- No removal of shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts, and light jackets
- Cost $85
- Includes TSA PreCheck and its benefits
- Also allows members to use touch-screen kiosks instead of going through the lines at customs when entering the U.S
- Cost $100
Personally, we recommend Global Entry because you get the benefits of TSA PreCheck and Global Entry for $100, which is only $15 dollars more than TSA PreCheck. However, if you really only fly for business or don’t plan to go abroad within five years of signing up, then TSA PreCheck is the better choice. Applying for both programs requires you to go through interviews before receiving access. For more information on if you’re eligible and to apply for TSA PreCheck check out their site, or if you’re interested in Global Entry click here.