Joining the service comes with a lot of scarifies, but it also comes with a lot of perks. We’ve talked a bit about those — from the best Chase and Amex cards for military members to discounts offered to active-duty service members and veterans. But did you know there are more perks available to you when you’re flying? As a service member, you’re entitled to TSA PreCheck, the airport service that allows you to speed through security. Let’s take a look at what TSA PreCheck is, how to get it, and why you should.
What Is TSA PreCheck?
When was the last time you made your way through the airport? How early did you need to arrive? And when you finally made it through check-in and headed over to security, how long was the line? Did it feel a little weird traipsing through the airport without any shoes?
If like everyone else, you find the general airport experience to be a highly stressful event, TSA PreCheck is probably a good option for you. TSA PreCheck is a program administered by the Transportation Security Administration that allows you to speed right through the airport. Among its many other benefits, it allows you to:
- Keep your shoes on
- Leave your laptop in your bag
- Stuff those liquids deep into your luggage without having to worry about digging them out
Even better, most of the time, the line for TSA PreCheck is much shorter and proceeds much more quickly than regular security, which means you can save valuable time at the airport. In fact, according to the TSA’s website, 98% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited 5 minutes or less in line. That’s a hefty time savings — and especially important when you’re trying to get through the airport with family.
Fortunately for service members, the Department of Defense (D0D) and TSA have joined forces to allow service members access to TSA PreCheck for free. Why wouldn’t you sign up?
Why Should You Get TSA PreCheck?
If we haven’t already convinced you, TSA PreCheck is a must-have for the savvy airport traveler.
But there is more than 1 reason to acquire TSA PreCheck, and it has everything to do with your children. As a traveler with kids under 12, you and your family can use the TSA PreCheck line without having to complete additional paperwork. This can be a lifesaver when you’ve got 4 iPads, bags of toiletries, and 5 sets of shoes that you’d otherwise have to remove.
Although TSA PreCheck isn’t available at all airports, it has a huge presence throughout the U.S. — with lines located at over 200 airports and 79 participating airlines. This means that whether you’re flying from Los Angeles (LAX) or Raleigh (RDU), you’ll be able to make use of this service.
Aside from those flying with families, TSA PreCheck can be especially helpful when flying through large airports. We’ve all seen those long lines snaking back for miles at New York (JFK), and while there may still be a bit of a line even with TSA PreCheck, you’re still going to save a lot of time.
Finally, if you’re a frequent flyer or someone who likes to piece together separate tickets — such as positioning flights, award and cash tickets, or cheap one-ways — getting TSA PreCheck can mean peace of mind (and actually making your next flight) during a tight connection.
Which Military Members Get TSA PreCheck?
The partnership between the DoD and TSA is far more generous than most military benefits. It extends to all service members — whether you’re active duty, in the Reserves, or the National Guard, you can take advantage of this benefit. In short: as long as you have a DoD ID card and thus a DoD ID number, you can use the TSA PreCheck for U.S. Armed Forces.
Even better, you can still use the program if you aren’t quite in the military yet. If you’re a cadet or midshipman of the U.S. Military Academy, Naval Academy, Coast Guard Academy, and Air Force Academy, you can get and use TSA PreCheck for free.
Unfortunately, veterans are not able to take advantage of this perk. Once you’ve received that DD214 (and sweet, sweet, freedom), you’ll no longer be eligible to use the partnership. In this case, you’ll need to separately apply for and receive TSA PreCheck.
Hot Tip: Make sure you check out all of the other flight discounts that are available to military members.
How To Get and Use TSA PreCheck
For Service Members
Getting TSA PreCheck as a member of the military is simple. Since service members undergo their own strenuous levels of screening, there is no additional interview or application required for TSA PreCheck. Instead, you’ll simply need your DoD ID card, which will act as a military Known Traveler Number.
In order to actually utilize your access, you’ll first need to begin booking your flight. How you’re booking will change how you add your number. If you’re booking through an online travel agency (OTA) or a website that otherwise doesn’t save your information, you’ll input your information during the booking process.
Many websites, such as Delta’s, will save passenger information on your account so you won’t have to enter it every time you book. This option can be found within your online profile.
In any case, you’ll need to enter the 10-digit DoD ID number located on the back of your card into the “Known Traveler Number” section of your booking.
This can be done at the time of booking, after booking, or even once you’ve checked in and arrived at the airport.
Hot Tip: You can still get TSA PreCheck after you’ve checked in. You’ll just need to head to the airline service desk and ask them to add your Known Traveler Number to your booking. They can reprint any boarding passes for you — which should refresh to populate with TSA PreCheck.
Do note that if you’ve entered your DoD ID number and TSA PreCheck doesn’t show up on your boarding pass, you’ll still want to speak to the airline desk at the airport. While TSA PreCheck isn’t necessarily guaranteed 100% of the time, if you’ve entered your number correctly you should be getting clearance. There may be an issue with what you’ve put in or it may not have saved — in any case, be sure to speak to someone in order to get the issue rectified.
For Everyone Else
Unfortunately for your friends and family, the DoD/TSA partnership providing free TSA PreCheck doesn’t extend beyond the service member. In this case, they’ll have to apply for and receive TSA PreCheck just like everyone else.
What About Global Entry?
Global Entry is a program offered by Customs and Border Protection. It allows travelers returning from abroad to speed through customs instead of having to wait in lines. Unfortunately, unlike TSA PreCheck, Global Entry is not automatically granted to service members. It also isn’t free, though several credit cards (detailed in the next section) offer a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit. But if you’re going to be traveling overseas anytime soon, it’s well worth getting Global Entry.
Hot Tip: You have questions, we have answers. Check out our helpful frequently asked questions for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry!
How To Get Global Entry
You’ll first need to create a Trusted Traveler Program account via the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website. You can then complete the application for Global Entry. After completing your forms, you’ll have to go to an appointment to complete enrollment. You can either schedule an appointment in advance — or some locations offer walk-in service.
The regular fee for Global Entry is $100 and membership is good for 5 years, after which you’ll need to renew (and possibly complete another interview). Global Entry comes with the added benefit of TSA PreCheck, so if you’re trying to enroll your family you may as well opt straight for Global Entry rather than just TSA PreCheck. This is doubly true once you get out of the military and TSA PreCheck is no longer a complimentary offering.
Bottom Line: Global Entry is an invaluable benefit when traveling internationally, even if you’re only using it once or twice a year. Use a credit card with a waived annual fee to get your membership for free.
Mobile Passport Control
If you’re dead set against getting Global Entry (why would you be, though?), or simply have a trip coming up too quickly for you to complete your Global Entry application, you may want to consider the CBP’s Mobile Passport Control app.
This free application allows you to fill out your personal information prior to getting to passport control. This allows you to bypass the snaking lines of folks waiting for kiosks. Although it isn’t always as fast as Global Entry, it is completely free and a good option to use while you’re waiting for your membership to be approved.
Credit Cards That Offer a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Credit
Although the Global Entry fee isn’t waived for active-duty military, you can still snag Global Entry (and thus TSA PreCheck) for free by using the right credit cards. Every credit card that’ll give you the $85 TSA PreCheck reimbursement can also, instead, give you a $100 Global Entry credit. This credit renews every 4 or 5 years, depending on which card you hold. You can use the credit for yourself or a family member or friend.
We’ve talked a few times about all the different credit cards that are best for active-duty military members, whether that’s Amex or Chase, but here are some of the best credit cards for scoring a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit so that you can enjoy high-end travel perks and your friends and family can join you in the speedy security line.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
One of our favorite credit cards for military members due to its absurdly generous benefits, the Amex Platinum card normally comes with a hefty annual fee (one of the steepest you’ll find anywhere). If you’re an active-duty military member, Amex waives the annual fee and you’ll be able to get all of those perks for free.
Along with the TSA PreCheck credit, you can also get these perks (some of which require enrollment) with the Amex Platinum card:
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Chase also waives the annual fee for its premium Chase Sapphire Reserve card for active-duty service members. The card offers a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry/Nexus credit as well as tons of other benefits:
- $300 annual travel credit
- Priority Pass Select membership
- DoorDash DashPass subscription
- Rental car elite status with National and Avis
- Trip cancellation/trip delay insurance
- Purchase protection and extended warranty protection
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
The Hilton Aspire card is the most generous hotel card on the market and will cover either a TSA Precheck or Global Entry application as a statement credit reimbursed to you. That’s not all, however — such an expensive card also offers tons of benefits for its holders:
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
In addition to the $100 Global Entry fee credit, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card has tons of other high-end perks:
IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card
Although the IHG Premier card is considered a mid-tier credit card from Chase, you’ll still find plenty to like about this card, which, offers a $100 Global Entry/Nexus credit.
It also has a few other perks worth mentioning:
Bottom Line: Although your family members don’t qualify for TSA PreCheck by virtue of your military status, you can still get them free TSA PreCheck status by using a credit card that reimburses membership fees.
As a military member, there are so many benefits to take advantage of, especially when flying. Don’t waste your time in line at security — simply use your DoD ID number to score complimentary TSA PreCheck and keep those liquids in your bag.
If you’re flying with family or traveling overseas, consider getting a credit card that features a statement credit that will reimburse you for any Global Entry or TSA PreCheck costs. As long as you’re on active duty, those annual fees will be waived and you’ll be able to enjoy easy airport access without encountering any costs.
And don’t forget to hit up the USO! Visit our extensive list of detailed U.S. airport guides to find out more about the lounges military members can access at the airports you plan to transit through.
The information regarding the Citi Prestige® Card and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, click here.