Travel Programs – TSA Precheck & Global Entry

Lately, I’ve been looking at some government programs that make travel a lot easier, namely TSA Precheck and Global Entry. I actually started by just looking at Precheck because I recently noticed that some friends of mine had used it. So what good is it? For domestic travel with participating airports/airlines, it allows you to go through an expedited screening process that doesn’t require you to take off your belt, light jacket, or shoes and also doesn’t require you to take things like liquids and computers out of your carry-on. Who wouldn’t want that?? It doesn’t necessarily apply to all travel as you will sometimes still be required to go through the normal screening process and it doesn’t apply to any international flights. Still worth it though! So, I filled out the application a week or two ago (very easy – just asks for some basic information about you) and then went in to the enrollment center to finish the process. The in-person portion is required – that’s where they take your fingerprints, look at your passport, and you pay for the process ($85 fee for five years). When I went through the online process, it prompted me to schedule an appointment at the local enrollment center, but since the first available time was about a month away, I decided to try my hand at doing a walk-in. They do accept walk-ins, but they’re very clear that appointments are given priority. I guess I lucked out because there was no one there when I arrived and the guy who arrived right after me for his scheduled appointment didn’t bring his passport with him, so he had to leave to get it. Sad for him, but yay for me! 🙂 They called my name a minute later and the whole process took less than five minutes. Easy-peasy! You can check your application status online and by the next day, I was approved and had been given my Known Traveler Number. Nice! It’s rare that any process runs that smoothly, but it’s especially nice when it’s a government process. So I figured I was good to go! But then, enter Global Entry…

I was talking to a friend at work about Precheck and he said “Don’t apply for that! A world traveler like you would be better off with Global Entry.” Now, I had already applied, so there was nothing I could do there, but in researching Global Entry, it definitely seems like the better route for anyone who travels outside the country. This program lets you bypass Customs when you come into the US. You get a card as part of the program, so you just walk up to the Global Entry kiosk at Customs, slide your card, and you get a receipt to take to the Customs officer on your way out. This could be a BIG time-saver! Although it only applies to international flights arriving to the US, the added bonus is that you also get the Precheck benefits with it. Of course, I learned all that AFTER my Precheck application. D’oh! I did call the TSA and asked if there was anyway to upscale my Precheck status by paying the additional money (GE is $100 for five years) and doing the in-person interview, but I was told there isn’t. Dang. The prospect of Global Entry is pretty enticing though, especially with more international travel for me in the next six months (new blog posts on that soon!) so I’m thinking I will just go ahead and apply for it. I just want to make sure that I won’t face any issues since I just went through the Precheck process, so I’m waiting on a call back from the local enrollment center. If you’re considering applying, be sure to click that link to see if there’s an enrollment center near you. You must show up in person for the interview (among other things, I assume), so if your local airport doesn’t have one, you should wait to apply until a time when you’ll be going through an airport that does.

So what do you guys think of these programs? Do you use them? Do you love them? Are there any fun facts about them that aren’t widely known that you can share? If you’ve never heard of them before, I would encourage you to go out and apply for them! I love the fact that these government agencies, who typically take a one-size-fits-all approach, are going to more of an individual, risk-based process for travel. If nothing else, they’ll save you some time when you’re traveling!

8 thoughts on “Travel Programs – TSA Precheck & Global Entry

  1. I’m a huge fan of both (I went for Global Entry knowing TSA pre-check was part of it). It’s like traveling before 9/11–ten minutes or less from arriving to the airport to getting to the gate. I don’t know how I ever traveled without it!

  2. Ooh, that’s great to hear, David! That makes me look forward to both programs that much more. 🙂 Especially since I know you’re a big international traveler!

  3. My boss has one of those – I’m not quite sure which. He flies somewhere every other week practically – so very handy for him. I, on the otherhand, maybe fly 1-3 times a year? Since one flight this year is with my son who flies about once every 5 years, he wouldn’t get the expedited treatment – so not much value to me – but great for frequent travelers!

  4. Update! I went ahead and applied for Global Entry today. I couldn’t help myself! 🙂 I have no idea how long the process takes, but hopefully I’ll hear back on the status of my application sometime next week. And then I’ll have to schedule my in-person interview. Still, it’s exciting!

  5. Global Entry does sound like a pretty enticing time saver. The biggest hang-up for me is that the nearest enrollment center for me is three hours away, so I’d need to take a day off from work just for that. I think it would take a while to make back that much time, esp. when my closest airport with PreCheck and Global Entry (Charlotte) tends to have pretty reasonable lines. Even so, it’s still tempting. I’ll be interested to hear how it turns out for you.

    1. Totally makes sense, Andy. It’s too bad you don’t have a closer airport option! I know you like to travel out of the country, so I think you could benefit from GE!

  6. I have been kicking around the idea of PreCheck (I didn’t know about Global Entry) – but the cost made me think twice about it. I’d love to hear your experience with it – maybe you can convince me that it is worth the cash? 🙂

    1. It sounds like both plans are so worth it! I feel like you’re just better off doing GE, even if you don’t travel internationally much. It’s only $15 more for the same period of time (five years) and then you’re set in case you ever do fly outside the country in addition to any domestic flights. I’ll let you know how they work out once I get the chance to start using them!

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About thejeffelston

Based in St. Paul, MN and love to blog about travel. Comment, follow, and join me on my journey!