TSA PreCheck: What’s The Cost and Should I Sign Up?

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Anyone who has been through airport security knows what a hassle it can be to catch a flight. Some of you probably have TSA PreCheck already and know how much better the airport security experience can be!

For those of you who don’t already have it, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of the program and show you how to get access.

What Is the TSA?

In response to the events on September 11, 2001, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) was created as an agency within the Department of Transportation. It was later moved to the Department of Homeland Security where it currently operates.

The agency’s main function is air travel security, which includes the administration of the screening process at airports. Additional security measures including canine units and Federal Air Marshals are also employed by the TSA at airports.

Not without controversy, TSA has faced significant pushback on some of the enhanced screening measures instituted since its inception. In recent years, TSA’s failure to pass security tests have brought the agency under increased scrutiny.

Hot Tip: Don’t forget to check out our guide to getting through TSA (relatively) quickly and efficiently!

What Is TSA PreCheck?

It is 1 of 5 trusted traveler programs, which also include Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS. These 4 are intended for personal and business travelers, while the fifth program is for commercial trucking (FAST).

Unlike the other trusted traveler programs that are administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, TSA PreCheck is run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The program was started in October 2011 and allows the TSA to expedite the security checkpoint process for low-risk travelers.

What Airlines Participate in TSA PreCheck?

Below are the airlines that are currently part of the TSA PreCheck program:

AeromexicoCathay Pacific AirwaysKLM Royal Dutch AirlinesSun Country Airlines
Air CanadaCondor AirlinesKorean AirSunwing Airlines
Air FranceContour AviationLufthansaSwift Air
Air SerbiaCopa AirlinesMiami Air InternationalThomas Cook Airlines (UK)
Alaska AirlinesDelta Air LinesOneJetThomas Cook Airlines (Scandinavia)
All Nippon Airways (ANA)Dominican WingsPhilippine AirlinesTurkish Airlines
Allegiant AirEmiratesPorter AirlinesUnited Airlines
American Airlines
Etihad AirwaysScandinavian AirlinesVirgin Atlantic
Aruba AirlinesFinnairSeaborne AirlinesWestJet
AviancaFrontier AirwaysSilver AirwaysWorld Atlantic
Boutique AirlinesHawaiian AirlinesSingapore AirlinesXtra Airways
British AirwaysInterCaribbean AirwaysSouthern Airways ExpressAir India
Brussels AirlinesJetBlue AirwaysSouthwest AirlinesAsiana Airlines
Cape AirKey Lime AirSpirit AirlinesChina Airlines
Eastern AirlinesElite AirwaysEVA AirwaysJapan Airlines
TAP Air PortugalVolarisEdelweissQatar Airways
Austrian AirlinesSwoopPAL ExpressVivaAerobus
Interjet

TSA PreCheck Airport Locations

200+ airports in the U.S. participate in the program, including the 30 busiest airports in the nation:

Note that if you are at an international airport outside the U.S., you will have to wait in the normal security line with everyone else. Sorry, it’s only a U.S. program!

What Are The Benefits of TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck Perks
Leave your shoes on, keep your laptop in your bag, and much more. Image courtesy of tsa.gov.

After years of taking off your shoes to go through airport security, the most noticeable difference might be that you can finally just leave them on when using TSA Pre. Additional perks include leaving on light outerwear and jackets, belts, and keeping laptops and small liquids in your bag.

Essentially, it makes having carry-on luggage a breeze as you won’t have to take everything you carefully packed into it back out to go through the security line!

These aspects of the program make the screening process much quicker, which is perhaps the best benefit of them all, especially on busy travel days.

Even with these perks, randomly selected travelers will still be pulled for extra screening, but the overall time through security will still be an improvement.

Bottom Line: TSA reported that the PreCheck wait time for 98% of travelers was less than 5 minutes in December 2016. This is significantly faster than going through standard security!

How Does The Program Work?

To use it, you first need to complete the membership application and approval process. If approved, your membership will be active for 5 years. At this point, you will have to renew your membership if you wish to keep it.

Once you have completed the in-person appointment (assuming everything checks out), you will be notified, receive your Known Traveler Number, and become eligible to use the TSA PreCheck security lanes.

Before traveling, make sure you add your Known Traveler Number to your reservation to ensure you have access to TSA Pre. Many airlines will allow you to do this online, but you can also call the airline to have your number added to your reservation.

You can also add this to your frequent flyer accounts so it will be automatically included when you book your flights.

If you notice that “TSA PreCheck” is not printed on your boarding pass or showing on your mobile boarding pass, speak with the appropriate airline check-in desk for assistance. It must be listed on your boarding pass, or you will not be allowed to access those security lanes.

For parents and guardians with children ages 12 and under, your children are eligible to use the TSA PreCheck security lanes with you. Children older than the age of 12 will need their own membership.

If you are flying with an airline that is not a partner of the program, you will not be able to utilize the program. Fortunately, TSA continues to partner with more and more airlines.

Who Is Eligible? What Are the Requirements and Restrictions?

To apply, you must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident and pass a background check.

Violations of transportation security regulations and incomplete or false information on your applications can disqualify you from membership access.

Additionally, there are several criminal offenses and factors that can disqualify you.

How Much Does TSA PreCheck Cost?

The application fee is $85. If you are rejected from the program, you will not receive a refund. This application fee is only required upon membership renewal every 5 years.

Fortunately, there are several credit cards that will reimburse the fee regardless of approval. Additionally, 2 loyalty programs will pay the fee for you; we’ll discuss all of these options below.

What Credit Cards Reimburse the TSA PreCheck Application Fee?

As big fans of credit cards and the many travel benefits they provide, we want to share with you our recommended cards that will reimburse you for the application fee.

If you use one of the following cards to pay the $85 application fee, you will receive a statement credit. You could also use the following cards to be reimbursed for the $100 fee for Global Entry instead since it provides access to TSA Pre too.

Cardholders are eligible for the statement credit once every 5 years, which is the length of your TSA Pre or Global Entry membership.

The Platinum Card® from American Express - Be sure to make use of the $100 fee credit for Global Entry or $85 for TSA PreCheck. There's currently a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months.

This is our favorite card for getting into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide (including Priority Pass) and we get about $1,500+ in value from the card every year. For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, click here.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - This is a premium travel rewards card with a higher annual fee, but it'll get you into a lot of airport lounges. Also included is a $100 fee credit for Global Entry (or $85 for TSA PreCheck) as well as a $300 travel credit per year. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points, worth $750.

If you already have a membership and don’t need the credit, you can pay for a friend or family member’s application and receive the credit that way. Not a bad birthday gift if you ask us!

Several of these cards will extend this benefit to authorized users as well. While you may be charged for adding authorized users on some cards, the $100 credit can help make it more manageable.

Alternative Ways of Paying for Membership

If you hold Delta Platinum or Diamond status, you can choose a Global Entry voucher as one of your Choice Benefits. Platinum members receive 1 $100 voucher, while Diamond members receive 2 $100 vouchers. If you’re a Diamond member, this guarantees you the ability to share the perks of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.

Remember that if you often travel to Canada, you can pay $50 for NEXUS and gain access to both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. While there is not a credit card that will reimburse this fee, it might be worth it if you are a frequent traveler to Canada.

Applying For TSA PreCheck

To apply, you must fill out an online application so the TSA can conduct a background check. You’ll have to include information such as citizenship, address, date of birth, and immigration documentation (if applicable).

Once you have finished your application, you will need to make an appointment at an enrollment center. There are over 380 enrollment centers located throughout the United States.

At your interview, you will be required to show a valid photo ID, proof of citizenship, and immigration documentation if applicable.

The interview is quick and mostly for verification. You can expect questions about yourself and your travel, and you will be fingerprinted during the process.

You will be notified of approval (or denial) within 2-3 weeks once the in-person interview is complete, but many people are approved within several days. During this time, you can check your status online.

Don’t wait to apply as in-person appointment slots can fill up quickly.

Bottom Line: With a clean background, it’s highly unlikely you’ll have trouble being approved.

How Did I Get TSA PreCheck Without Applying?

When the program was first rolled out in late 2011, some members of frequent flyer programs were invited to participate free of charge. These frequent flyers were not given Known Traveler Numbers, though, so they were still required to formally enroll in the program.

However, you have 3 other options for getting access without directly applying for it. If you are approved for Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI, you will be given access to TSA Pre.

A Step-by-Step Application Walkthrough

If you’re looking for a quick rundown on the application process, we have you covered! Let’s dive right into it:

Step 1: Visit the TSA Pre Home Page

TSA PreCheck Application Homepage
From the homepage you can start your application.

Once on the homepage, you need to click on the red “Apply Now” button in the middle of the page. This will bring you to the first page of the application, which asks for biographical information.

Step 2: Complete the Application

TSA PreCheck Bio
Get your application started by filling in your biographical information.

Work your way through each page of the application. The application is simple to complete and won’t take more than 15 minutes if you have all the necessary information on hand.

Step 3: Schedule Your In-Person Interview

The final piece of the application process is to select a location for your in-person interview. You will need to search for your location. The search results will show options near you and how many appointment slots are available in the next 45 days.

TSA PreCheck Interview Schedule
Once you’ve completed the application, you’ll need to select a location for your interview.

After selecting a location, you will need to choose a date and time for your in-person interview. You will also have the option to “walk in” for an interview, but we strongly recommend scheduling a time to prevent unnecessary delays.

Step 4: In-Person Interview

Bring all the required documents. You will select which 2 forms of ID you will bring in the online application. This could be a driver’s license and a passport. If applicable, bring any required immigration documents as well.

You will also need to bring a credit card to pay the $85 fee. You could pay by cashier (or certified) check, but with so many credit cards that reimburse you for the fee, why would you?

Step 5: Wait for an Update

Most will be notified shortly after their appointment, but it can take a little over a month. Keep this in mind when planning a trip: you don’t want to leave your application and interview to the last minute!

Step 6: Add Your Known Traveler Number to Frequent Flyer Accounts

Once approved, you will be notified and provided your Known Traveler Number. Add this to your frequent flyer accounts so it is automatically included in your itineraries going forward.

Step 7: Use the Benefits

You can now use the TSA PreCheck security lanes at over 180 airports nationwide. Enjoy your expedited screening process experience!

Comparing to Other Trusted Traveler Programs

There are four total Trusted Traveler Programs, so how do you know which one to choose? This section compares each of the different programs so you have a better idea.

TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry

Global Entry provides expedited screening upon re-entering the United States from abroad. The program is administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security.

If you are a member of Global Entry, you are provided access to TSA Pre. However, having membership does not provide access to Global Entry.

The enrollment process is similar as each requires an application and in-person interview. The Global Entry application is available online. The fee for Global Entry is $100 but can be reimbursed by several credit cards and loyalty programs.

TSA PreCheck vs. NEXUS

NEXUS provides access to both Global Entry and TSA Pre. It is a joint program between the United States and Canada designed to allow more efficient travel between the 2 countries.

In addition, NEXUS provides expedited entry into Canada. Global Entry and TSA Pre members do not get this benefit.

The cost is only $50, which is a fantastic deal, but you will have to visit one of the enrollment centers located in select cities in the northern U.S.

TSA PreCheck vs. SENTRI

On the southern border of the United States, the SENTRI program provides similar benefits to that of NEXUS in the north. Members of the SENTRI program also receive access to Global Entry and TSA Pre.

To receive an expedited entry into Mexico, you are required to have a SENTRI membership, so again neither Global Entry or TSA Pre on their own will be enough. Enrollment centers are located in Arizona, California, and Texas.

Final Thoughts

If you’re going to travel often, you definitely want sign up for this program to make the security checkpoint process a little less painful!

With so many credit cards that will reimburse you for not only TSA Pre, but Global Entry as well, you might as well sign up for Global Entry if possible. You get the same access to TSA PreCheck, and it will make your return to the United States much easier.

If you know you won’t travel outside of the U.S. for 5 years, though, perhaps you only need TSA PreCheck.

Whatever the case may be, think about enrolling in this program to save time and increase efficiency at the airport!


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TSA PreCheck Review

FAQ

What is TSA PreCheck?

It is a trusted traveler program administered by the TSA that allows pre-approved passengers to enjoy expedited airport security lanes.

Where are TSA PreCheck Enrollment Centers?

There are over 380 enrollment centers throughout the U.S. You can find the ones closest to you by using TSA’s Enrollment Center Locator.

Who can apply for TSA PreCheck?

U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are eligible to apply for TSA Pre.

Which airports have TSA PreCheck?

Over 200 airports currently offer the ability to use the program.

When does TSA PreCheck Expire?

Your membership lasts for 5 years, at which point you will need to renew it.

How long does it take to get TSA PreCheck?

The online application can take around 15 minutes. Depending on the enrollment centers near you, it could take over a month to get an appointment, so schedule your in-person interview as soon as possible.

Once you have completed the interview, it can take up to a month and a half to receive a notification of approval, but it’s usually much quicker.

Do members of the military get TSA PreCheck?

Yes. If you are a member of the armed services, you can enter your DoD ID number as your Known Traveler Number when you make flight reservations.

Are TSA PreCheck and Global Entry the same?

No. TSA Pre provides expedited screening when going through airport security. Global Entry provides expedited reentry to the U.S. after visiting another country. A Global Entry membership provides access to TSA PreCheck, but TSA Pre does not provide Global Entry access.

Spencer Howard

About Spencer Howard

Always a fan of flying, it was only natural that Spencer was drawn to finding a way to improve the travel experience. Like many, he started this journey searching for cheap flights to take him around the world. This was fun for a while, but Spencer was intrigued by the idea of flying in business and first class! Throwing himself into what became an extensive research project, Spencer spent 3-4 hours per night learning everything he could about frequent flyer miles over the course of several months (he thinks this is normal).

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34 comments

  1. Dick Wallin · April 10, 2018 · Reply

    How does a person renew the Trusted Traveler Pre check after 5 years? Do you go to an enrollment center, or can it be done on line? Thanks

  2. Bud Wright · September 16, 2018 · Reply

    The process for applying for TSA PreCheck is more cumbersome than going through the regular line.

    • It was a wonderful process! Only 12 minutes from start to finsh!

    • Nik Carter · March 10, 2019 · Reply

      No Bud, you’re wrong. TSA Precheck gets a special shorter line because less people have it. So, it is much quicker. No Shoes off, No Laptop out etc. And don’t forget you apply once in 5 years. How many times do you fly in 5 years domestic and international, use TSA Precheck.

  3. Carrie Hansen · November 13, 2018 · Reply

    Do they require a govt photo ID for a 13 and 14 year old? My daughters do not have a drivers license of course. Any other options besides applying first for a state issued photo id?

    • Jeff Brownson · November 13, 2018 · Reply

      Hey Carrie, a passport would work for a photo ID and would be a great thing for your kids to have so you can take advantage that next cheap airfare for a trip out of the country. Hope that helps.

    • Nik Carter · March 10, 2019 · Reply

      Carrie … If children travel with parents
      TSA Precheck of parent cover all kids too

  4. I received TSA PRECHECK after filling out info on myself before I accompanied my wheel chair bound mother to the gate several years ago and received pre check always after that except now recently I haven’t been receiving it. What do I need to do to get it back?

    • Hi Gretchen. You’d need to get approved for TSA PreCheck so that you are guaranteed to get PreCheck whenever you’re traveling alone, with others etc

  5. MARGARET A LUTHER · December 14, 2018 · Reply

    I do not know my TSA number. How do I find it? Yes, I have one. I used it December 2017.

    • Christine Krzyszton · December 15, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Margaret! If you signed up for TSA PreCheck and paid the $85 for the 5 year membership, you can access your account with this link. You may also search your email for a confirmation notice of your registration. If you have a Known Traveler Number, you can also access that account here. https://universalenroll.dhs.gov/programs/precheck Thanks for your question.

  6. Mike Rickert · December 22, 2018 · Reply

    Can I use a debit card for the application fee?

    • Christine Krzyszton · December 23, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Mike and thanks for your question. The TSA website does not list debit cards as an acceptable form of payment. It reads, “You may pay the $85 TSA Pre✓® Application Program fee with a credit card, money order, company check, or certified/cashier’s check.” However, some debit cards are capable of processing a transaction as credit. Personally, I would try it.

  7. I already have a level 2 background screening. Do I still need a background check?

    • Stephen Au · January 4, 2019 · Reply

      Hey Betsy,

      TSA will perform the background check when you apply for PreCheck. It’s a part of the application process. But, the good thing is that you won’t see any of this. All you do is apply!

  8. Dante Martinez · June 2, 2019 · Reply

    I was approved and added my known traveler number with Delta. However, on my last flight my boarding pass did not indicate TSA PreCheck. When I called Delta, they advised me that TSA randomly selects to not allow you through the PreCheck lines. Does this sound correct? If that’s true, it would be quite frustrating as you are paying for and applying for what then??

    • Christy Rodriguez · June 2, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Dante, technically TSA PreCheck isn’t a guaranteed perk. However, we’ve noticed that TSA PreCheck isn’t included only when something goes wrong with your booking process.

      For example, did you happen to book the flight before you added your known traveler number to your account? Sometimes it isn’t applied to prior bookings. It could also have something to do with your TSA PreCheck information not exactly matching your ticket’s information. It’s hard to know specifically what happened, but I don’t believe it’s a common occurrence to not be granted PreCheck.

      I definitely agree that’s frustrating, so be sure to check those common issues above. Hope this helps and thanks for reading!

  9. Annabelle McCaw · June 3, 2019 · Reply

    DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY ON THIS. I’ve had this for 5 years and has never showed up on my boarding pass.

    • Christy Rodriguez · June 3, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Annabelle, sorry to hear that PreCheck wasn’t worth it for you.

      Please be advised that you do have to add your known traveler number (received from TSA PreCheck) to your airline’s information. This isn’t done automatically. If you still have PreCheck, make sure you add this when you’re making your next booking!

      Otherwise, I would be sure to contact TSA directly here: https://www.tsa.gov/contact
      as you should be eligible for this on your flights!

      • Annabelle McCaw · August 18, 2019 · Reply

        Hello Christy, TIN was added everytime I booked but never shows up on the boarding pass. I recently encountered another lady who has been having the same problem with TSA.
        Decided it’s best to keep your money in your pocket, where it belongs, and be a responsible adult and just arrive at the airport early, it’s not that hard people.

        • Christy Rodriguez · August 18, 2019 · Reply

          Hi Annabelle, I’m not exactly sure what a TIN is. If you have TSA PreCheck, make sure you’re entering it in the Known Traveler Number (or KTN) area. If that’s not working, I would definitely contact TSA as this should work the vast majority of times!

          But yes, TSA PreCheck is definitely not a necessity, but sure nice to have – especially if you’ve already paid for it!

  10. Rebecca L Schmitt · July 22, 2019 · Reply

    I had purchased TSA precheck in 2016, however when I traveled this last weekend I was told I did not have it. I am wondering how I can get TSAPrecheck on my current ticket to travel to Michigan on July 24, 2019 (traveling with Frontier Airlines from Orlando FL) and for future travel. I believe I have another two years left on my TSA Precheck.
    Also I was wondering if TSA Precheck covers all airlines, or do I have to purchase TSA Precheck for every airline? (I wouldn’t think so).
    Please advise ASAP. Thank you, Rebecca L Schmitt

    • Christy Rodriguez · July 22, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Rebecca! So TSA PreCheck lasts for 5 years, so you should still have it. A few things to check:
      1) When you make a reservation, you have to include the Known Traveler Number that you received when you originally got TSA PreCheck – this isn’t done automatically. If you don’t know this, you can check that here. You can also include this after the fact for bookings you have previously made by managing your booking online.
      2) Not all airports participate, so I’m not sure where you flew from/to last weekend, but this may also be why you didn’t have it. We have a list of participating locations in the article, but Orlando is included!

      As far as which airlines are included, we actually have a list of all of the participating airlines in this article, so be sure to check that out.

      Hope this helps!

  11. Francis Keays · July 26, 2019 · Reply

    I had my in person interview- not much of an interview past getting fingerprinted and my credit card charged begining of the week. I was told that I could be able to get my KTN in a few days by looking it up. I have, but it doesn’t give me my number, it give me this message, “ELIGIBILITY DETERMINED
    TSA mailed you a letter with information regarding your eligibility determination. If you do not receive this letter within 10 days of receiving this status, please contact the UES Call Center for assistance.
    Status as of 7/23/2019.”
    Does this mean I have been declined?

    • Christy Rodriguez · July 26, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Francis, from the “Eligibility Determined”, it sounds like you have been approved. It does typically take a few days to get your official approval letter, so I would suggest checking again early next week regarding your status.

      Just as a reminder, we are not affiliated with TSA is any way, so I would suggest contacting them directly with any questions. Here is a link with all of the contact options.

      Thanks for reading!

  12. Suzanne · August 20, 2019 · Reply

    I only have 5 weeks until my already scheduled vacation. Do I have time to get the TSA PreCheck? Do I have time for the Global Entry? We plan on a London trip next year, so the Global may be better, but, would I have time to include this trip? Thanks

    • Christy Rodriguez · August 20, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Suzanne. On their website, TSA notes that the TSA PreCheck approval process “takes approximately 2-3 weeks, although many applicants receive their approval in a few days.” Global Entry (which does come with TSA PreCheck) processing times takes on average 11 weeks to be conditionally approved. After that, you would need to schedule an interview, which may be a few months out.

      So it seems like you might have time to get TSA PreCheck, but this would be double cost if you plan on later applying for Global Entry. Ultimately, the decision on what is best is up to you!

  13. How does this work if you travel with a pet?

    • Christy Rodriguez · August 25, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Val, great question. If you have TSA PreCheck, you will proceed through the designated line as usual. You may be asked to hold your pet or walk them through the machine. (TSA agents may also ask you to put their leash and collar through the x-ray belt.)

      Also, we have a whole guide to the best airports for pets with a guide to navigating security that you should definitely check out. Thanks for reading!

  14. I was told that my Texas Commercial Drivers License allows me to go through TSA PreCheck. Just wondering if this was true. My company bought me a ticket to fly me home and it was on my boarding pass. Wasn’t sure if it was a company thing or for my CDL.

    • Christy Rodriguez · September 14, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Michael, I think what you’re referring to is TSA’s Hazmat Endorsement. The website says that you should apply if you have a state-issued CDL and are required to transport materials that require placarding under the Department of Transportation hazardous materials regulations.

      This is a separate program and doesn’t grant automatic access to TSA PreCheck. Check out this website for more details: https://universalenroll.dhs.gov/

      There are a few reasons you could get TSA PreCheck without paying – but basically the TSA runs your information prior to your flight and determines that you are a low-level threat and grants you the one-time privilege. The only way to ensure that you get this is by applying for the PreCheck program.

      Hope this helps and thanks for reading!

  15. If we get approved for PreCheck but have already purchased our boarding passes (prior to getting approved), can we use the PreCheck lines? Or are we out of luck?

    • Christy Rodriguez · September 16, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Cathy, I’m not sure what you mean by “purchased our boarding passes”. If you mean that you’ve paid for your tickets before getting approved for PreCheck, yes! You can still go in and manage your reservation online and add in your Known Traveler Number (that you will receive once approved for PreCheck) on to your reservation.

      If you’ve already received your boarding passes for your flight in the next day, then you would be out of luck for this trip since the TSA PreCheck marker does need to be on the boarding pass to use the PreCheck lines.

      Hope this helps!

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