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Who has waited in an airport security line and seen or heard a crying infant or watched a toddler scamper away from her parents?  Unfortunately, my daughter was guilty of this behavior on the day that I realized I needed to get TSA Precheck.  As she was melting down, the security line inevitably stalled while I dodged looks from non-parents who weren’t sympathetic.  The fun really started when we reached the front of the line and I had to fumble to get the laptop out of my bag while coordinating the removal of the family’s shoes, belts and jackets. While pretending to maintain composure, in this moment, I thought, “If only there was an easier way to make it through security when flying?!?”  Luckily, I learned that for most airports and airlines there is a faster way and you can get this benefit for free!

Chasing your kids in the terminal sure beats doing it in the security line.

What is TSA Precheck?

TSA Precheck is a program that saves you time and stress.  It provides travelers with an expedited security screening process and dedicated line.  Currently, the program is available for flights departing from over 200 U.S. Airports on 67 different airlines. It allows you to zip through the security line without having to remove shoes, belts, light jackets, laptops or 3-1-1 liquids.  While I love breezing through security when traveling on my own or with my wife, it takes on an even greater value when traveling with the whole family.

Why your family needs TSA Precheck?

TSA Precheck saves time and sanity when you are navigating the security line with kiddos.  I don’t know anyone who enjoys the necessary security screening process at the airport, and children seem to lose patience faster than most.  Also, my 4-year-old daughter hates to take off her “princess” shoes and with TSA Precheck she doesn’t have to so there is one more potential crisis averted.  Also we generally breeze through the line so our 2-month-old is less likely to burst into tears.  According to TSA.gov, in May 2019, 92% of TSA Precheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes at security.  A great benefit for families is that if a parent or guardian has TSA Precheck then any child under 12 who is traveling with them may use the Precheck line as well.  The child is not required to go through the application process or pay the fee.

How do I get TSA Precheck?

The application process for TSA Precheck can be completed in three relatively simple steps which are outlined below.

  1. Apply Online– Submit an online application in five minutes & schedule an appointment at any of 380+ enrollment centers.
  2. Background Check– A ten minute (mine was about three minutes), in person appointment that includes a background check, fingerprinting and an $85 fee.
  3. Enjoy TSA Precheck! Once completed, you are given a Known Traveler Number or KTN which you can then add to your reservation when booking flights.

Should I get Global Entry instead?

Absolutely!  Since Global Entry includes TSA Precheck, it makes sense to go this route if you can.  Global Entry provides all the TSA Precheck benefits and it expedites the customs process upon arrival in the United States or partner countries.  The application process is similar to that of TSA Precheck.  The cost is $100 but unfortunately every family member (including children) needs their own TTP account.  If you regularly travel internationally with your kids it would be nice for everyone to have Global Entry. I initially went with TSA Precheck only because I had an enrollment center locally, whereas the closest Global Entry enrollment center was almost 3 hours away.

How Do I Get TSA Precheck or Global Entry for Free?

While the cost is $85 or $100, both provide a lot of value over the 5-year membership.  Even better, there are multiple credit cards or loyalty programs that will pay for your TSA Precheck or Global Entry fee. Ian has talked about some of these cards in a previous post.  Remember to be reimbursed you will need to pay the fee using the card that offers the benefit.

My favorite cards that include reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA Precheck are the following:

  • Capital One Venture Card-  The Venture has no annual fee for the first year ($95 per year thereafter), a 50k miles sign up bonus after $3,000 in purchases AND it will cover the Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee when you pay the fee using the Venture card at your appointment.  Basically, you can test the card for a year for free AND get Capital One to cover your 5-year membership in the process. Read more and apply here.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve-  The CSR has a $450 annual fee which is offset by a $300 travel credit and it currently offering a 50k bonus points offer after spending $4,000.  It has lots of other benefits that allow you to recoup the cost of the annual fee as well.
  • Southwest Business Performance Card–  The new premium Southwest Business card from Chase has a $199 annual fee with a welcome offer of 80,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $5,000.  There are benefits including “unlimited free Wifi” and four upgraded boardings per year.

Whether you are a solo traveler or traveling with a crew, if you have Global Entry or TSA Precheck at your home airport and travel even occasionally it is a nice time saver and makes the beginning or end of each trip dramatically smoother.

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