For frequent travelers, security streamlining programs like Global Entry and TSA Precheck have been a godsend and made flying less of a nightmare. But, while certain flyers have been enjoying the perk of leaving their shoes on through security over the past year for free, that kickback will soon be coming to an end.
Random, non-paying flyers and elite frequent flier rewards members have been given the privilege to speed through security in special elite lines at no charge, but Trusted Traveler Programs have been so successful that the TSA has decided to limit expedited security to paid members of Precheck or Global Entry.
So, which program is right for you?
If you travel internationally often, enroll in Global Entry, which allows “pre-approved, low risk” travelers to speed through customs upon entering the country. Special kiosks read members’ passports, fingerprints and customs declarations and allow them to bypass the line. Global Entry members also automatically qualify for TSA Precheck to speed through security in U.S. airports. Other programs like Nexus (which costs $20 per year) and Sentri expedite the customs reentry process as well, but don’t come with PreCheck. Global Entry costs $100 for five years.
If you’re a frequent domestic traveler, PreCheck is your best bet. The enrollment fee is $85 for five years, and it allows you to avoid the dreaded body scanner machines and sail through the old-fashioned metal detector—reminiscent of how the security line worked prior to 2011. Both Global Entry and PreCheck require an interview appointment along with the fees.
So, is it worth it ?
‘Time is money’ is part of the American mantra, so a lot of people who suffer through a convoluted flying experience on a regular basis would say yes, the fee is absolutely worth the time it saves waiting in line. A spokesperson from the United States Customs and Border Protection said Global Entry reduces the wait time about 70 percent on average.
Of course, there are some caveats. The old-fashioned detectors always sound off for travelers with artificial metallic joints, you’re still limited to one measly zip-top bag of toiletries in 3.4-ounce containers, and if you check a bag, the wait time Global Entry shaves off is often canceled out. Also, the TSA reserves the right to send you through regular security.
We know it’s all mind-boggling. These links should help:
Find out how first-hand flyers are finding the expedited experience.
Think about your travel habits. Is the fee really worth it for you?
Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply.