Whether you are boarding a flight or returning from vacation, the lines at airports can be a daunting experience. Frequent travelers may notice some of their fellow explorers breezing through security checkpoints.
How can that be? What allows them to skate through the lines with such ease?
The answer is two traveler programs that allow for smooth entry or exit at U.S. airports across the nation. TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry are two relatively new programs that could benefit U.S. and foreign travelers.
However, are the fees associated with these two programs worth it? How much of a difference does it really make when preparing for your next trip?
Let's dig a little deeper and find out!
What is TSA Pre-Check?
TSA Pre-Check is a five-year membership program priced at $85 that allows pre-approved passengers expedited screening when boarding flights from the U.S. Primarily, TSA Pre-Check is for domestic flights but it can be used for some international flights.
With TSA Pre-Check, you will spend less time in line and you will not have to remove your shoes, liquids, laptops, or belts before boarding your flight. It can be a time-saver being able to skip the primary security line and head straight to your gate.
You will have to pass a background check beforehand that shows you are a low-risk traveler. Also, you will have to visit an enrollment center to provide your fingerprints. Only U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and nationals qualify for the TSA Pre-Check program.
It is worth knowing that some regional U.S. airports do not have separate TSA Pre-Check lines and the benefit cannot be applied. The bright side is that TSA Pre-Check has greatly expanded since first being introduced in 2011.
Over 60 airline companies, both domestic and abroad, allow you to utilize TSA Pre-Check when going through security. The key thing is to make sure you provide the appropriate information when checking in for your flight.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is another five-year membership program but is priced at $100. This program is provided to travelers by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Those who are pre-approved with Global Entry qualify for expedited customs screenings when traveling into the United States from abroad.
Unlike TSA Pre-Check, travelers from certain countries may apply for the Global Entry program. There are numerous partnership programs that allow citizens from other countries to qualify as well.
When arriving to a U.S. airport from abroad, those with Global Entry can head straight to a Global Entry kiosk and bypass the lines that all other passengers must go through.
Similar to TSA Pre-Check, you will have to arrange an appointment to undergo a background check and provide your fingerprints. It may be more of a hassle to sign-up for Global Entry since there are much fewer locations to enroll than TSA Pre-Check. Also, you must already have a passport when attempting to enroll for the program.
A major upside of Global Entry is that you receive the same benefits of TSA Pre-Check in addition to expedited customs screenings upon entrance into the United States.
When using Global Entry, it is crucial to check which airport you fly into when first entering the U.S. You can find a list of U.S. airports that have Global Entry kiosks to ensure a smooth transition through customs upon entering the country.
Which One Should You Choose?
First off, neither program will benefit those who do not travel on a frequent basis. If you only fly once or twice per year, then you would just be throwing money down the drain.
However, frequent travelers will greatly benefit from the quick and easy security checks and customs screenings. Whether you are in a rush or simply do not want to experience the brutal lines to or from the airport, you have much to gain.
If you constantly travel within the United States, then TSA Pre-Check should be sufficient for your needs. However, if you take many trips abroad, then Global Entry is definitely the program for you.
Global Entry is only $3 extra per year and you receive all the benefits of TSA Pre-Check included with speedy entry into the U.S. It is definitely worth the money unless waiting in those awful lines does not bother you.
After all, nothing is worse than having to wait for hours when you are jet-legged after a long-haul flight!