Flying Within the Next Five Years? Do This Now

Air travel is really taking off.

The industry predicts 231 million Americans will take to the skies this summer, a 4 percent increase from last year. All those travelers have been straining security screening at airports nationwide, with some airports in recent weeks suggesting passengers arrive up to three hours before their flight.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

There are a number of strategies to reduce the wait, but the simplest and most reliable way is to get either TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Here’s a look at both programs.

TSA Precheck

Precheck is run by the Transportation Security Administration, the folks who do the screenings at airports. The cost is $85 for five years, or about $17 annually, and the process is fairly simple. You fill out an application, either online or in person at a TSA office. It’s pretty straightforward. It asks things like your addresses over the past five years and questions about felony convictions.

Some felonies, such as treason, murder or dealing in explosives can result in a lifetime ban from the program. Most other felonies only preclude you from the program if you were convicted in the last five years. There’s a complete list here, so if you’re concerned, review them before applying.

After submitting your application, you’ll use the same website to schedule an in-person appointment. While there can sometimes be a wait of a month or more, it will probably be quicker. (The reporter in the video above only had to wait a few days after for an appointment in Miami.)

Depending on where you live, you’ll likely find multiple potential interview locations, including the local airport. If you’re in a hurry, check every location to see which has the earliest appointment.You’ll need to bring ID – a valid passport, a driver’s license along with a birth certificate, or a number of other options.

Once there, you’ll meet with a TSA rep who will ask you a couple of questions, check your ID and scan your fingerprints. You may receive a confirmation letter on the spot, or it may come in the mail within two to three weeks. That confirmation will contain your Known Traveler Number,

Once you have that number, you’ll use it every time you book a flight. Even if you’ve already booked a flight, you should be able to check your itinerary online and put the number in. When you print your boarding pass, it will have the TSA Precheck symbol on it.

It’s critical to include the number before you check in for the flight, however. You can’t just show a card with your number on it after arriving at the airport. No TSA Precheck authorization on your boarding pass, no precheck line, no exceptions.

What TSA Precheck gets you

In exchange for jumping through these hoops, you’ll breeze through security. The line is shorter and moves faster, since you can leave your shoes, belt and light jacket on, and you don’t need to remove your liquids or laptop. You might also go through a simple metal detector rather than the body scanner.

If you are traveling with children age 12 and under, those children can use the precheck line if their parents have gone through the process. At 13, they must have their own Known Traveler Number.

Global Entry and other programs

The Global Entry program, run by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, has a similar application process, right down to the fingerprinting. It costs $100 and, like TSA Precheck, that fee covers you for five years. As with the TSA program, you’ll get a Known Traveler Number and will be able to use the TSA Precheck line to breeze through domestic security. In addition, when you’re returning to the U.S. from abroad, you can use what amounts to an express line going through customs and passport control.

Customs and Border patrol has two other programs, NEXUS and SENTRI, which can be worth looking into if you live along the Canadian or Mexican border and drive over frequently. NEXUS allows expedited entry into the U.S. from Canada, while SENTRI allows it from Mexico. However, if you have one it works for the other. Typically, these are used in land border crossings. It’s important to note that everyone in the car must be in the program to use the “express” lanes.

Global Traveler gives you all the benefits of these programs as well.

Similar, but separate

It’s important to note that while similar, Global Entry and TSA Precheck are separate programs. Filling in the application for one won’t help with the other. If you apply for TSA Precheck, then decide later you should have used Global Entry, you’ll have to start from scratch.

That’s why most travel experts will tell you that if there’s even a slight chance you’ll travel internationally, spend the extra $15 and go with Global Entry.

Have you joined any of the precheck programs? Share your experiences below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Why Is My Pension Killing My Social Security Benefit?
Why Is My Pension Killing My Social Security Benefit?

A reader says the government is penalizing him for having a pension. Is he right?

Half of All Retirees Say They Fear This
Half of All Retirees Say They Fear This

Chances are good that you share this fear. Here’s a way to overcome it.

11 ‘Disposable’ Items You Should Be Reusing
7 Steps to Keep Your Car Looking Like New
7 Steps to Keep Your Car Looking Like New

Take a few steps to preserve the beauty of your car, and you stand to get a lot more money at trade-in time.

This Is the Best Time of Day to Take Blood Pressure Meds
This Is the Best Time of Day to Take Blood Pressure Meds

The right timing can help you prevent a big — and possibly fatal — mistake.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar
9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar can save you a lot of money, but using it like this can cost you.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

4 States Where Taxes on Social Security May Fall Soon
4 States Where Taxes on Social Security May Fall Soon

These states are considering reducing — or even eliminating — income taxes on Social Security benefits.

10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently
10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently

These habits and characteristics can help put you on the track to success.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.