Whatever your level of travel experience is, we can all agree on one thing: waiting in airport security lines is the worst. With travel levels getting close to what they were before the pandemic, there are likely to be long lines at the airport.
People who travel often know about TSA PreCheck, which is offered as one of the best ways to save time at the airport. It’s more important than ever to quickly go through security at the airport, and the price has recently gone down, making it even cheaper. Although it has become more famous over the years, the process can still be hard to understand. There are a few ways to get this famous trusted traveler program for free, as well as instructions on how to sign up and make sure it works.
How Does TSA PreCheck Work?
Officially, the Transportation Security Administration, which is part of the federal government, runs PreCheck as a program for known travelers. Officially, it’s your pass for skipping security at the airport.
Members of this program are the only ones who can use the TSA PreCheck lanes. This means that lines are usually much shorter than the regular checking lines. Furthermore, you don’t have to take off your coat, shoes, or belt once you’re inside. You also don’t have to take tools or liquids out of your bag. In turn, this means the line moves a lot faster.
Simply put, TSA PreCheck can cut your time in line for security by a long margin. You’ll be sorry you didn’t join the program sooner after your first time using it.
In what ways do I apply for TSA PreCheck?
You can sign up in a couple of different ways. It’s free if you have the right credit card. That’s more to come later.
Starting, you can apply straight with the TSA online. You can quickly and easily fill out the PreCheck application. It’s as easy as filling it out and paying the $78 fee for a five-year registration. Later, you’ll go to a certified enrollment center for a background check. This will include a picture, fingerprinting, and a short interview (bring your passport!). An average conversation lasts 10 minutes or less. Starting with the application and ending with approval should take no more than two or three weeks if everything goes as planned.
Travelers can get two great benefits from Global Entry. In addition to getting through immigration and customs quickly when you come back to the U.S., you’ll also get PreCheck. An annual membership only costs $100, which is one reason why we often suggest it to visitors who aren’t sure whether to use Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
The only problem is that it can take a lot longer to apply for Global Entry. It needs a face-to-face interview, just like PreCheck. The federal government’s conditional approval before your interview can take months, but it usually only takes a week or so. More Global Entry registration centers are needed across the country, so setting up an interview can take weeks or even months.
Regardless of the path you choose, you will be given a Known Traveler Number once you are approved for PreCheck. Ensure that you enter this number into your frequent flyer accounts with the airline(s) you’re going with. Enter it by logging in online and looking up your account information.
After signing up, you’ll have to update your PreCheck every five years. Luckily, renewing TSA PreCheck is now much easier and cheaper as well. In contrast to the initial application, which needs a background check, most current TSA PreCheck members can easily renew their memberships online. It’s possible to renew starting six months before the current end date.
To be more consumer-friendly, the TSA lowered the cost of extending PreCheck to $70 for another five years when done online last fall. Travelers will still have to pay $78 to update their licenses in person for another five years, like when they change their name.
You can renew your TSA PreCheck membership by going to the registration page and filling out the form. If you use Global Entry to get into TSA PreCheck, you’ll have to update Global Entry instead. You might be wondering if you can get PreCheck reimbursed.
If you sign up in a certain way, you can avoid paying the $78 to $100 that PreCheck usually costs for five years. The right vacation credit card can pay off in this situation. To help you pay for your application for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, more and more credit cards are offering credits of up to $100. After every four years, it works again. You will be instantly refunded if you use one of these credit cards to pay the application fee.
Will TSA PreCheck always be available to me when I fly?
Sadly, no. Membership in PreCheck doesn’t give you automatic entry to the faster PreCheck line. It makes no sense, we get it. What matters most is which airline you’re taking. While PreCheck could be a comprehensive security program linked to your ID, it only operates with certain flights.
Because of this, you need to enter your Known Traveler Number for each flight separately. Period. You will not get PreCheck if you do not. It doesn’t always work, though, even if you’re going with a TSA-approved airline. A lot of people at TSA stress that it can be different for everyone, even people who have paid for the service.
What happened to TSA PreCheck on my boarding pass?
Known Traveler Numbers and boarding passes must have the same name. Thereby, your PreCheck benefit stays with you, and the TSA knows you can be trusted. Therefore, if you’re annoyed at not getting PreCheck, you should see if there was a problem.
An easy fix is usually available. Message the airline you’re going with on Facebook or Twitter. It’s the fastest way to fix any flying problems. This happened to me once because my name didn’t copy correctly on an award reservation. The problem was fixed in about 15 minutes, and the TSA PreCheck badge appeared on my boarding pass.
Is TSA PreCheck available for my kids and family too?
Not all the time, but sometimes yes. It depends. Following TSA rules exactly, a child under 12 who is booked on the same ticket as an adult will be able to use that adult’s PreCheck membership. The person who has TSA PreCheck should book the tickets, and it should almost always work for kids who are flying with the same reservation.
However, what about partners, family members, or friends? Theoretically, those advantages won’t be passed on. However, planes will sometimes apply it to the whole reservation. Companies that run airlines can choose whether to give these perks to everyone or not. Additionally, it appears that airlines and the TSA are being less generous with this benefit for families flying. To put it simply, airlines will sometimes let the rest of your flying party use your TSA PreCheck benefits. But you can’t depend on it all the time.
What about CLEAR?
It’s common to use CLEAR and TSA PreCheck interchangeably. They’re both great ways to cut down on time in line for security, but they’re super different. As an example, TSA PreCheck is run by the federal government, while CLEAR is run by non-profits. Some airlines, like Delta and United, offer discounts on CLEAR.
PreCheck costs as little as $70 for five years, while CLEAR starts at a whopping $189 per year. With the $189 annual CLEAR credits on both The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Green Card, it’s even cheaper now that big changes have been made to both cards.