Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Stella Shon
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Joining the service comes with a lot of sacrifices, 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.
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 many others, you find the general airport experience stressful, 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:
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. 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 (DOD) and TSA have joined forces to allow service members access to TSA PreCheck for free.
TSA PreCheck is a must-have for the savvy airport traveler. As a traveler with kids under 12, you and your family can use the TSA PreCheck line without having to complete additional paperwork.
In addition, since spring 2023, children 17 and under who are flying on the same reservation as a TSA-approved adult may also use the TSA PreCheck line!
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 from bags.
Although TSA PreCheck isn’t available at all airports, it has a huge presence throughout the U.S. — with lines located at 200+ airports and 85+ 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.
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 in 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, 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.
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 need 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 been saved — in any case, be sure to speak to someone in order to get the issue rectified.
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.
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’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.
If you’re dead set against getting Global Entry or 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.
Although the Global Entry fee is not charged 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 a TSA PreCheck reimbursement of up to $78 can instead give you a Global Entry credit of up to $100. 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 the best credit cards for 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 Amex Platinum reigns supreme for luxury travel, offering the best airport lounge access plus generous statement credits, and complimentary elite status.
When it comes to cards that offer top-notch benefits, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better card than The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Make no mistake — the Amex Platinum card is a premium card with a premium price tag. With amazing benefits including best-in-class airport lounge access, hotel elite status, and tremendous value in annual statement credits, it can easily prove to be one of the most lucrative cards in your wallet year after year.
One of our favorite credit cards for military members due to its absurdly generous benefits, the Amex Platinum card normally comes with a hefty $695 annual fee (rates & fees) — one of the steepest you’ll find anywhere). If you’re an active-duty military member, Amex doesn’t charge the annual fee and you’ll be able to get all of those perks for no additional fee.
Along with the TSA PreCheck credit, you can also get these perks (some of which require enrollment) with the Amex Platinum card:
A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.
If you’re looking for an all-around excellent travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the best options out there.
The card combines elite travel benefits and perks like airport lounge access, with excellent point earning and redemption options. Plus it offers top-notch travel insurance protections to keep you covered whether you’re at home or on the road.
Don’t forget the $300 annual travel credit which really helps to reduce the annual fee!
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, or NEXUS credit as well as tons of other benefits:
A premium card for Marriott fans who want perks like an annual statement credit and Free Night Award, plus a fast track to Marriott elite status.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card is a premium card designed with road warriors and Marriott Bonvoy loyalists in mind.
So is the card a worthwhile addition to your wallet?
In addition to the Global Entry fee credit, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card has tons of other high-end perks (some of which require enrollment):
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card comes with a $650 annual fee (rates & fees).
The perfect card for IHG fans, offering a free night every year, automatic Platinum Elite status, and your fourth night free on award stays.
If you regularly visit IHG hotels throughout the year, then the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card is probably a perfect card to have in your wallet.
The IHG Premier card offers a great bundle of perks and benefits, including automatic Platinum elite status, an annual free night certificate, and travel protections.
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 or NEXUS credit.
It also has a few other perks worth mentioning:
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 won’t be charged and you’ll be able to enjoy easy airport access without encountering any costs.
And don’t forget to hit up the USO airport lounge! 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.
Yes! As long as you have a DOD ID card, such as an active-duty member or a cadet or midshipmen of the U.S. Military Academy, Naval Academy, Coast Guard Academy, and Air Force Academy, you can get and use TSA PreCheck for free.
TSA PreCheck is automatically granted to members of the military due to a partnership between the DOD and TSA. You simply need your DOD ID number to use as your KTN.
Unfortunately, TSA PreCheck for military spouses is not available under the partnership program. If you want your spouse to receive your extended TSA PreCheck benefits, you’ll have to apply and be approved for the standard TSA PreCheck just like everyone else.
You sure can. The DOD ID number located on the back of your common access card (CAC) will get you TSA PreCheck when flying.
Unfortunately, no. TSA PreCheck has no special program for veterans which means you’ll have to get it via the standard application.
Military dependents can get TSA PreCheck by applying for access. Children (under the age of 12) of active-duty military members can receive TSA PreCheck along with their parents. Children under 18 can also get benefits, but only if they are flying on the same reservation as you. Service members can opt to get credit cards that will reimburse those membership fees. If they’re on active duty, those credit card annual fees won’t be charged.
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