12 key things to know about TSA PreCheck
If you haven’t already considered getting TSA PreCheck, now — ahead of the busy summer travel season — is the time to apply.
As the pioneer expedited airport security program, TSA PreCheck is a timesaver and stress reliever well worth the $78 five-year membership fee (and $70 online or $78 in-person renewal thereafter).
Here’s what you need to know before you apply.
It gets you through airport security faster
Launched in 2013, TSA PreCheck is a program for travelers who are deemed low-risk by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. PreCheck members go through specially designated security lines at airports that often move much faster than the standard TSA security lane.
PreCheck users do not have to take off their shoes or belts or remove laptops or liquids from their bags. Travelers are also usually screened with walk-through X-ray machines rather than the full-body scanners most people are subjected to.
In March, 89% of PreCheck travelers experienced wait times of five minutes or less, per TSA data.
It costs $78, but you can get it for free
To apply for TSA PreCheck, you must pay a nonrefundable $78 fee.
However, many credit cards offer a statement credit for this application fee (usually worth up to $100) that can be used once every four or five years as part of their benefits, including:
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card (every four years).
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (every four years).
- Chase Sapphire Reserve (every four years).
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (every five years).
- IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card (every four years).
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card (every 4 1/2 years).
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (every 4 1/2 years).
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (every 4 1/2 years).
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card (every four years).
- United Explorer Card (every four years).
If you have multiple credit cards with this perk, you can even use them to pay for friends' or family members’ applications.
It’s not the same as Global Entry or Clear
TSA PreCheck gets you into expedited security lines with fewer hoops to jump through when you get there. However, it will not help you speed through customs and immigration when returning to the U.S., as Global Entry does.
Although Global Entry includes membership to TSA PreCheck, it does not work the other way around. If you are a frequent international traveler, apply for Global Entry first to get access to both programs’ benefits for an extra $22 more than TSA PreCheck.
Clear is a biometric verification program that sends members to the front of security lines at airports. However, it will not get you into TSA PreCheck lanes if you do not also have PreCheck.
It’s for security at US airports, but you can use it for international travel
Currently, TSA PreCheck is available at more than 200 airports across the U.S., with more than 85 airlines participating.
So, even if you are traveling abroad from the U.S., you might still be able to use PreCheck lanes during the security process. You just won’t be able to take advantage of it when originating abroad and returning to the U.S.
Non-US citizens can join
The program is open to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and legal permanent residents, so some foreign residents might be eligible to apply. For more information, see here.
There are 2 steps to the application
First, you must submit an online application. The form is brief and asks for identifying information, including your date and location of birth, address, height, weight and eye color, among other metrics.
Once you’re conditionally approved, you must schedule an in-person appointment at one of the 400 enrollment centers nationwide, which will include fingerprinting and a background check. This process usually only takes a few minutes, but it could take weeks or even months to schedule an interview, so apply in advance.
If you are unable to schedule an appointment at your desired location, check all the enrollment centers in your area for open slots. Or, consider using one at an airport whose enrollment center allows walk-in appointments if that fits your travel plans.
After your interview, you will receive the result in writing within two or three weeks. However, you can also check your application status online.
You must add your Known Traveler Number to your accounts and reservations
Even if you are accepted to TSA PreCheck, you won’t automatically get to use the expedited security lines. Although you do not receive a membership card, as you do with Global Entry, you will be given a Known Traveler Number, which you must add to your frequent flyer accounts or during the booking process so that it is attached to your reservations.
When traveling, you will know if you are able to use the TSA PreCheck lanes when you see it noted on your boarding pass with a green check mark. If you don't see it, ask the agents at your airline’s check-in desk whether your Known Traveler Number is attached to your reservation. If it's not, you should be able to add it at the airport so you can access the PreCheck lines.
Your membership expires every 5 years
A TSA PreCheck membership lasts five years, which means you must reapply and pay the application fee ahead of its expiration.
You can renew your membership up to six months before the expiration date in order to ensure your membership does not lapse, and the process is easier than joining initially. Most people can renew online, though some might have to return to an enrollment center to complete the process.
Online renewals cost $70, while in-person renewals cost $78. However, you can renew your membership for free by using the right credit card.
You can be disqualified from the program
If you violate federal security laws and regulations, such as interfering with security operations, using fraudulent documents, making a bomb threat, bringing a firearm on board or a variety of other actions, you can be disqualified from PreCheck.
You need to update your membership if your personal information changes
If your name or address changes, contact the TSA regarding what documentation you need to provide in order to process the change.
There are no age restrictions
You don’t have to be a certain age to apply for TSA PreCheck. However, kids age 12 and under can use the lanes when traveling with an eligible parent or guardian, even if they are not members themselves.
You won’t get to use the faster lines every time
Even if you have TSA PreCheck, you may be directed to use the normal security lines at times. This can be for any number of reasons, including PreCheck being closed. View the checkpoint schedule before you travel.
If you are unable to use TSA PreCheck every single time you fly, though, you might want to contact the TSA to see if there is an issue with your membership.
TSA PreCheck has made the airport experience much quicker and easier for flyers who have chosen to participate. While you do have to jump through a few hoops to apply and attach it to your flight reservations, that extra few minutes is well worth the many minutes saved to skip the ever-growing lines at security checkpoints in airports around the U.S.
You can even enroll for free by paying for your application with a credit card that refunds the application fee.
- Clear to become TSA PreCheck enrollment provider
- I just went through the interview process for Global Entry: Here's what it was like
- TSA PreCheck just got cheaper, but remember that you can get it for free
- Which airports and airlines use TSA PreCheck?
- 13 things you need to know about Global Entry
- What is the Clear expedited airport security program — and is it worth it?
- Best credit cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
- Should you get Global Entry or TSA PreCheck?
- Tips for getting a Global Entry appointment when nothing is available
Additional reporting by Caroline Tanner.