How TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Can Save You Time and Frustration at the Airport

A photo to accompany a story about TSA PreCheck and Global Entry Getty Images North America

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If you’re already dreading hours-long airport security lines and post-pandemic travel fever, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership can make your life easier.  

“TSA PreCheck is the only reason you can leave 30 minutes before your flight and still have time to get your coffee,” says Sarah Stocking, a travel expert and destination editor for Lonely Planet, which like NextAdvisor is owned by Red Ventures. 

To enroll in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, you’ll undergo a background check and other screening processes to ensure you can be deemed a “Trusted Traveler.” With this designation, you’ll get to skip many standard airport security procedures, and save time and hassle at the airport. 

What’s the Difference Between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck?

Global Entry and TSA PreCheckoffer similar benefits and eligibility requirements. The main difference is Global Entry is better for international travelers. 

While TSA PreCheck allows for expedited security screening benefits for flights departing from U.S. airports, Global Entry simplifies customs procedures for travelers entering the U.S. from abroad. You do not need TSA PreCheck if you have Global Entry — the benefits of TSA PreCheck are included with your Global Entry membership. But if you only have TSA PreCheck, you will not get expedited customs clearance when returning to the U.S. from another country. 

The other main difference is the cost of the programs. TSA PreCheck costs $85 for a 5-year membership. Global Entry costs $100 for a 5-year membership. 

TSA PreCheckGlobal Entry
Faster security screening benefits for flights departing from U.S. airports TSA PreCheck benefits, plus expedited U.S. customs screening for international travelers entering the U.S. 
$85 for 5-year membership$100 for 5-year membership

Benefits of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

Both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck can reduce wait times you’ll face at airports. Not only are the actual security lines shorter for travelers who pay for these programs, but you’ll spend less time undergoing security checks, since Trusted Travelers are exempt from some of the most time-consuming airport security measures.

“You’ll eliminate a bit of time, but a lot of frustration,” Stocking says. “Especially if you travel with technology.” 

You won’t need to unpack devices and technology from your carry-on; take liquids or aerosols out of your bag; or remove your shoes, belt, or jacket. 

Plus, you’ll get to go through a separate, usually much shorter line. TSA reported that 100% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes to go through security in February 2021.

Global Entry gives you all the benefits of TSA PreCheck, plus easy entry back into the United States after traveling abroad. Global Entry members can check in at a kiosk and pass right through customs. That means: no processing lines, no paperwork, and reduced wait times. 

Pro Tip

You do not need TSA PreCheck if you have Global Entry — the benefits of TSA PreCheck are included with your Global Entry membership.

How to Apply for Global Entry or TSA precheck

The application and approval processes for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are similar:

  1. Start by determining which program is right for you depending on your travel needs, then begin your application to either program. 
  1. Make sure you have important documents ready to verify your identity including (but not limited to): Social Security number, driver’s license or other government ID, and passport. A passport is not required for TSA PreCheck, but is for Global Entry. Global Entry will also require some verification of your residence. Your driver’s license or passport will work if your address is up to date. If not, you will need to provide something like a mortgage statement, rental payment statement, or utility bill. 
  1. For both programs, you will be required to pay your non-refundable fee upfront ($100 for Global Entry, $85 for TSA PreCheck). This means you will not be refunded if you do not meet the program qualifications.  
  1. After you apply or create your profile, you’ll need to enroll in an in-person appointment at a qualifying TSA enrollment center or Global Entry enrollment center. Your appointment will include things like a face-to-face identity verification and fingerprinting for a background check. Prepare to follow standard COVID protocols and mask requirements for the time being. You might also wait a bit longer than usual, with reduced or staggered appointment availability to minimize interactions.
  1. Confirm whether you need to bring any physical copies of your documents with you to your appointment (you most likely will). 
  1. If you qualify, you should receive your membership verification for TSA PreCheck about 2-3 weeks after your appointment. Global Entry requires a more extensive background process, and can take anywhere from 6 months to a year for processing. 

Where Can I Use Global Entry and TSA PreCheck?

You may not be able to use your program benefits at every airport. TSA PreCheck is currently available at more than 200 participating airports, and Global Entry is offered at even fewer

Check to make sure your local airport, or the airports you fly into and out of most frequently, have the program before you apply. Otherwise, membership may not be worth the cost for you. 

How Do I Use Global Entry Once or TSA PreCheck Once I Have It?

After you’re approved for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number, or KTN. For Global Entry, this number is also known as your PASSID. You should include your KTN along with the rest of your traveler information (like your name, address, and frequent flier number) when you book future flights to use your program benefits. 

When you download or print your boarding pass, look for a TSA PreCheck indicator. This can vary between boarding pass type (mobile, printed) and airline. Some variations include TSAPRECHK, TSA PRE, or TSA PreCheck®. Here’s one example from a JetBlue mobile boarding pass:

If your ticket is missing this callout, double check whether you entered all of your other personal information correctly, like your full name, birthday, and license or passport number. All of this information will need to be identical to the information submitted on your TSA PreCheck application. 

If you still don’t see your verification, get to the airport early and speak to an agent at your airline’s check-in counter. 

How Do I Find My Known Traveler Number?

Lost that first email with your number? Don’t panic. 

For TSA PreCheck, you can easily look up your Known Traveler Number using other information like your name, address, and social security number. 

Global Entry members can find their PASSID (KTN) by logging into their portal through the Trusted Traveler Program website

How Much Does It Cost to Get Global Entry and TSA PreCheck?

Global Entry membership costs $100 for five years, and TSA PreCheck costs $85 for five years. 

“Frankly, I would get [Global Entry] even if I only was traveling out of the country once or twice,” Stocking says. “Just because it would make that one trip that much better.” 

Plus, there are easy ways you can get these memberships for free — namely by signing up for a credit card that will cover the fee for either program. 

These are some of our favorite cards with a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credits. Each offers up to $100 in credits toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership every four years when you use your card to pay the fee: 

These cards can also offer other travel rewards and benefits for you to maximize your spending with every trip through the airport. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get certified for TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck approval usually takes 2-3 weeks after you’ve had your in-person enrollment appointment. Global Entry, however, may take anywhere from 6 months to a year.

How expensive is TSA PreCheck and Global Entry?

TSA PreCheck membership costs $85 for 5 years, and Global Entry costs $100 for 5 years.

Do I need both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck?

You do not need both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. TSA PreCheck can expedite security through American airports, while Global Entry is a good choice for international travelers required to pass through customs upon their return. If you have Global Entry, you’ll also receive all the benefits of TSA PreCheck.