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INSIDE: Did you know you can use TSA Precheck family to get through the airport security faster? This is particularly useful when traveling with kids. Learn what it is and how to access it for free right here!
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 security line and I had to fumble to get the laptop out of my carry-on bag while coordinating the removal of the family’s shoes, belts and jackets.
While pretending to maintain composure, in that 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?
The TSA Precheck program saves you time and stress by providing an expedited security screening process and a dedicated Precheck security line. Currently, the program is available for flights departing from more than 200 U.S. airports on 73 airlines. Participating airlines print a TSA Precheck logo on your boarding pass. It allows you to zip through the security line without having to remove shoes, belts, light jackets, laptops or 3-1-1 liquids, which you have to remove for standard screening procedures. While I love having Precheck status and 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 it?
TSA Precheck saves time and sanity when you’re 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 people. 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 at the security checkpoint. According to the Transportation Security Administration website (TSA.gov), in May 2019, 92% of TSA Precheck passengers waited less than five 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 him or her may use the Precheck line as well. The child is not required to go through the application process or pay the TSA Precheck cost.
How do I apply for TSA Precheck?
The application process for TSA Precheck can be completed in three relatively simple steps, which are outlined below.
- Apply Online– Submit an online application in five minutes, and schedule an appointment at any of 380+ enrollment centers.
- Undergo a Background Check– A ten-minute (mine was about three minutes), in-person appointment includes a background check, fingerprinting and an $85 application fee.
- Enjoy TSA Precheck! Once the process is completed, you are given a Known Traveler Number (KTN), which you can then add to your reservation when booking flights.
Should I get Global Entry instead?
Absolutely! Global Entry is another Trusted Traveler Program that includes TSA Precheck, so 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, using Global Entry kiosks at the airport. The application process is similar to that of TSA Precheck. The application fee is $100, but unfortunately all family members (including children) need their own Trusted Traveler Program 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 three hours away.
How do I get free TSA Precheck or Global Entry?
While the TSA Precheck cost is $85 and Global Entry costs $100, both programs provide a lot of value during the five-year membership. Even better, there are multiple credit cards or loyalty programs that will pay your TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee. Ian has talked about some of these cards that provide free TSA Precheck or Global Entry in a previous post. Remember that in order to be reimbursed, you need to pay the fee using the credit 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 credit card has no annual fee for the first year (it’s $95 per year thereafter), a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus after $3,000 in purchases, AND it will cover the Global Entry or TSA Precheck application 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 five-year membership in the process. Read more and apply here.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – The CSR credit card has a $450 annual fee, which is offset by a $300 travel credit, and it’s currently offering 50,000 bonus points after you spend $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 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. Benefits include unlimited free Wi-Fi and four upgraded boardings per year.
Whether you’re a solo traveler or you travel with a crew, if you have Global Entry or TSA Precheck at your home airport and travel even occasionally, it’s a nice time-saver and makes the beginning or end of each trip dramatically smoother.
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