If you are a seasoned traveler, you may have come across the TSA Precheck program on your journeys. You may have wondered what TSA Precheck is, and if so, you have come to the right place. TSA Precheck is one of the five trusted traveler programs. Global Entry is another you may be familiar with.
TSA Precheck expedites you through Transportation Security Administration lines. In simple terms, you can get through airport security when flying on a domestic flight or leaving the U.S. with less hassle.
You can pass through without taking off your shoes, removing electronics, removing some liquids, or taking off your jacket and bag. TSA Precheck claims that 93% of its users waited less than 5 minutes in October 2019. You should be aware, however, that just because you are a TSA Precheck user, you are not exempt from random security screenings.
The airport is the first step on many journeys, and anything that can make that experience less stressful is worth considering. If you do decide to apply for TSA Precheck, you should not worry about getting your money’s worth. TSA Precheck operates at 200+ airports, including the 30 busiest airports in the U.S. Savings are great, but the time you can save may be worth more.
I Am Sick of Waiting in Line. How Do I Apply?
If you are a traveler who likes the sound of what TSA Precheck can offer, you should head over to the TSA website at tsa.gov/precheck and start your application. The online form only takes 5 minutes to fill out. However, that is solely for preapproval.
After passing preapproval, you will need to schedule an appointment for a 10-minute in-person interview as well as a background check that includes taking your fingerprints. To succeed with your application for TSA Precheck, you will also need a valid U.S. government photo identification and proof of citizenship or proof that you are a permanent resident. Your driver’s license and birth certificate will work, for example.
Any previous breach of transport security regulations or providing incomplete or false information can disqualify you from gaining membership access. Several criminal offenses will automatically disqualify you. Espionage, treason, terrorism, murder, and smuggling are just some examples.
Be Ready to Pay
If you pass both preapproval and the interview, you will be granted TSA Precheck for five years. There is an $85 application fee you will have to pay for enrollment, and you will have to renew your membership after the five years are up. If you fail the application, you will not get a refund, and it usually takes two to three weeks for you to find out.
Once you have gone through the application process, you will receive a known traveler number. You will need to provide this number when booking your airline tickets to take advantage of TSA Precheck.
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Get TSA Precheck Without Spending $85
Now, $85 is not a large amount, mainly because it covers you for five years. If you are a regular traveler, then you can soon get your money’s worth. However, if there were a chance to save that $85, you would take it.
Luckily for you, travel rewards cards exist. You can use a travel rewards credit card to pay the application fee outright by using the cashback option. Alternatively, some cards offer statement credit to cover the amount you have spent on the application fee. With a travel rewards card, you will also get some additional bonuses. Let’s take a look at some of your options.
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Capital One Venture Rewards Card
The Venture Rewards Card from Capital One is a generally great travel rewards card. You receive a strong points bonus of 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Further miles or rewards points can be earned, with two points offered for every $1 spent on any purchase.
If you are a frequent flyer, then you may have a preferred airline. With the Venture Rewards card, you can transfer your points to participating airline loyalty programs, with the ratio of points transferred to reward points received differing per airline.
Despite the above rewards program, this Capital One offering deserves mention due to the TSA Precheck credit you receive. You will receive up to $100 in application fee credit every four years. This credit is for either the TSA Precheck or Global Entry trusted traveler programs.
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Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
Chase has a few different offerings for travel rewards cards and credit cards as a whole. However, for those looking to get credit toward TSA Precheck or Global Entry, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card is your best option. Just like the Capital One Venture card, you receive $100 every four years as credit toward either TSA Precheck or Global Entry.
As well as TSA Precheck credit, Chase offers its rewards program called Ultimate Rewards. As an introductory bonus, you can earn 50,000 points by spending $4,000 in the first three months. Fifty thousand points equal $750 when redeemed for travel expenses through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program.
Earn More Points
You can earn more points by using your credit card. To start, you will earn $300 in statement credit as reimbursement for travel purchases. After you have received those $300, you will earn 3 points per $1 spent on worldwide travel.
You also earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining. Any other purchases will net you 1 point per $1 spent. You can then use those points toward statement credit, straight cashback, discounts on travel and dining, gift cards, and more.
It is also possible to transfer your points with a 1:1 ratio to select airline and hotel loyalty programs. Another bonus with this card and most travel orientated cards is that there are no foreign transaction fees.
There is a price for the vast selection of rewards, and that price comes in the form of a $450 annual fee. You should also prepare yourself for a higher than average variable APR with rates between 18.99% and 25.99%.
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PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card
The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards card by American Express is a great travel rewards card if you can get your hands on it. To apply for this card, you must either have a PenFed checking account, specifically the Access American checking account, or be a member of the military.
If you fit into one of those categories, then this card is free to you. If not, you can join a military support organization and pay a one-time fee of $17. That may sound like a lot of trouble for one rewards card, but PenFed does make it worth your time.
You can earn 25,000 bonus points for spending $2,500 in the first 90 days. Then, you can gain 3 points per $1 on travel purchases, with 4 points offered per $1 on travel if you are a PenFed Honors Advantage member. You receive 1.5 points for all other purchases.
On top of the point earning possibilities, you will also receive an application fee credit of $100 for Global Entry or $85 for TSA Precheck. To get this credit, you must pay the actual fee with your PenFed Rewards card. You can also earn an extra $100 credit for airline purchases: food and drink, baggage fees, etc.
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No Annual Fee and Low APR
For a card with no annual fee, this is an excellent travel rewards card option. And with a variable APR on purchases between 12.74% and 17.99%, which is lower than the average APR on a rewards card, this credit card is an excellent deal.
The Platinum Card from American Express
Another American Express card that helps you cover both the TSA Precheck and Global Entry application fee is The Platinum Card. You will find the fee reimbursed as a statement credit every five years. There is also a $200 offering in statement credit to cover airline fees. Another $200 comes to you in the form of Uber credits. Each month, you receive $15 in Uber cash, with an extra $20 as a bonus in February.
What is better than getting through customs quickly? Getting through customs quickly and then being able to relax in a private airport lounge. With this Amex card, you can gain access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide.
Of course, The Platinum Card does more than cover your TSA Precheck application fee. You earn 5 points per $1 spent on hotels and airfares purchased through amextravel.com. For any other purchases, you receive 1 point per $1 spent.
The current introductory offer gifts you 70,000 points for spending $5,000 in the first three months. You can then use those reward points for saving on travel, a statement credit, gift cards, and more.
Get Ready for One of the Highest Annual Fees
The Platinum Card is a great travel reward credit card and makes your whole journey easy. However, the luxury comes with a high annual fee of $550. If you have a less than excellent credit score, you should look elsewhere.
A Credit Card Usually Means an Annual Fee. Can I Get TSA Precheck for Free?
Some of the credit cards that offer TSA Precheck credit do not have an annual fee. However, some of them do, and the cost is high. If you want to use TSA Precheck but do not want to commit to a credit card or pay a cent, there is good news for you, as it is possible.
How to Get TSA Precheck Free of Charge
- Randomly issued – It is possible to receive TSA Precheck for free at random—no strings attached. That’s not to say you should count on this happening to you, but on occasion, TSA likes to introduce people to the program. Random issuings are rarer than they used to be due to developments in customs and border security. They might be scrapped altogether soon.
- Military Benefit – A serving member of the military, is considered trustworthy. If you are a member of the armed forces, you need to enter your department of defense identification number into the ‘known traveler number’ field of your flight reservation. Some DoD federal citizens may also be able to skip the application process.
- Airline Loyalty Programs – Mentioned above was the fact that you can transfer your credit card reward points to an airline loyalty program if you wish. You can use those same loyalty programs to earn points for flying and then spend those points on TSA Precheck. Loyalty programs are not the best option for TSA Precheck. You will spend many hours standing in airline queues and building up miles when you could be using a credit card and earning rewards as you go.
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TSA Precheck Versus Global Entry
With the above card entries, you probably have noticed Global Entry alongside the TSA Precheck. Global Entry is another DHS trusted traveler program. Both programs come from the department of homeland security. However, they have some significant differences.
TSA Precheck is for expediting you through the security checkpoints of domestic flights and for leaving the U.S. Global Entry, on the other hand, will get you through the U.S. checkpoint faster on international flights both coming and going.
Global Entry also provides the benefits of TSA Precheck. You may be thinking, “why shouldn’t I just apply for Global Entry?” To apply for Global Entry, you will have to pay the $100 application fee. If an extra $15 is off-putting to you, the above rewards cards can help you out.
Applying for Global Entry
For your Global Entry application, you need a passport, as you will be traveling internationally. Unlike Global Entry, TSA Precheck application does not necessarily require a passport as long as you can provide an alternative form of photo ID.
The screening program for Global Entry is also much stricter. To be a trustworthy traveler, you must remain lawful. A minor misdemeanor may not mean much for TSA Precheck but can see you instantly disqualified from Global Entry.
If you pass the preapproval of Global Entry, you will have to schedule an appointment and then head out to a Global Entry enrollment center. The number of these centers is a lot fewer than their TSA Precheck counterparts, and they are usually backlogged for interviews, meaning you will have to wait a couple of months. If you have no intention of traveling internationally, TSA Precheck is the better option.
The More You Know, the Better
Now you know what it takes to become a trusted traveler and join the TSA Precheck program. You also have the information necessary to ensure it doesn’t cost you a thing. However, the more you know, the better, so let’s take a look at some additional information not yet covered.
Answers to Some Frequently Asked Questions
- There is no room for mistakes with your booking. The name you use for your TSA Precheck application and the name on your airline reservation must be the same. Failure to ensure they are means you will not be able to use TSA Precheck. If you are using a travel rewards card or a frequent flyer loyalty program, your name must also be listed the same there. You will also need to provide any previous names or aliases for screening purposes.
- You can bring your children up to the TSA Precheck kiosks. If a child is under the age of 12 and is with a parent or guardian that has TSA Precheck membership, then they can also use the expedited customs security lines.
- You do not receive any physical ID card or documentation stating you have TSA Precheck. Instead, your boarding pass will have the symbol printed on it. If you do not have the checkmark symbol, you will not be able to use the TSA Precheck security line.
- You can pay for TSA Precheck in a variety of ways. Credit cards, debit cards, money orders, company checks, or a certified/cashier’s check are all accepted as a method of payment.
TSA All the Way
TSA Precheck can be a valuable time saver for domestic travelers. The application process can be tedious but not as stretched out as the Global Entry application screening.
If you already use one of the suggested travel rewards credit cards, then there is no excuse for not becoming a TSA Precheck member. The application will effectively be free for you. So, don’t wait around; get your hands on a known traveler number. For $85 every five years, you can end your days of waiting in line at the airport.
Are you a trusted traveler? Do you take advantage of travel rewards credit cards to avoid paying the application fee?
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