TSA PreCheck Guide 2020 – Cost, Enrollment, Airports, Airlines & Tips
There is good news if you find it a hassle navigating traditional security lines at the airport. TSA PreCheck allows you to go through a usually shorter line while not having to remove your shoes, belt, liquids bag, laptop, and light jacket. While the service can save you a ton of time and reduce travel-related anxiety, there is an $85 fee to apply.
Here is what you need to know so you can decide if TSA PreCheck is right for you.
What is TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck was established in October of 2011 by the Transportation Security Administration for low-risk travelers. With 10 million members and growing, the program is perfect for both personal and business travelers who wish to get through security as quickly and stress-free as possible. It is one of the five United States Trusted Traveler Programs, which also includes Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST.
In February of 2020, the TSA said 92 percent of PreCheck passengers made it through security in less than five minutes, which is considerably faster than traditional lines. The TSA reported 100 percent of PreCheck members made it through security in less than five minutes in April of 2020, but that is likely due to empty airports because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
With PreCheck, you do not have to remove your shoes, laptop, 3-1-1 liquids bag, belts, and light jacket. You will also go through a metal detector as opposed to a body scanner.
How Much Does TSA PreCheck Cost?
It will cost you $85 to apply. Unfortunately, you will not receive a refund if you are denied. If approved, your membership will be valid for five years, after which you can renew for another five years for $85. Payment is accepted during your interview at the enrollment center, and you can pay by credit card, money order, company checks, and certified/cashier’s checks.
Credit Cards Offering Reimbursement for the Application Fee
The good news is a variety of different travel-focused credit cards offer 100 percent reimbursement for the $85 TSA PreCheck application fee. The bad news is most of the cards providing this benefit have an annual fee. While the PreCheck reimbursement may pay the annual fee by itself for the first year, we recommend choosing the card that is right for your own travel needs and budget. Here are a few of our favorite cards offering reimbursement:
- American Express Business Platinum Card® (every 4.5 years; $595 annual fee)
- American Express Consumer Platinum Card® (every 4.5 years; $550 annual fee)
- American Express Corporate Platinum Card® (every 4.5 years; $550 annual fee)
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card (every four years; $95 annual fee)
- Capital One® Spark® Miles Card (every four years; $0 annual fee first year, then $95 per year)
- Capital One® Venture® Card (every four years; $95 annual fee)
- Chase Sapphire ReserveSM (every four years; $550 annual fee)
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World EliteTM MasterCard® (every five years; $450 annual fee)
- Citi Prestige® Card (every five years; $495 annual fee)
- IHG® Rewards Club (every four years; $89 annual fee)
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (every 4.5 years; $450 annual fee)
- MasterCard® Black Card™ ($495 annual fee)
- MasterCard® Gold Card™ ($995 annual fee)
- Navy Federal Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Card ($0 annual fee first year, then $49 per year)
- Provident World+ Travel® ($0 annual fee first year, then $45 per year)
- SunTrust Travel Rewards World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card (every five years; $0 annual fee first year, then $89 per year)
- United Explorer Card ($0 annual fee first year, then $95 per year)
- United Club Infinite Card ($525 annual fee)
- US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card (every four years; $400 annual fee)
- US Bank FlexPerks® Gold American Express® Card ($85 annual fee)
While some of those card’s annual fees may seem high, many of them offer travel statement credits upwards of $300 or more.
Give Your PreCheck Credit Card Reimbursement to a Friend
If you already have PreCheck and a friend or family member wants to sign up, you can give them your credit card reimbursement. All you need is one of the credit cards listed above and have them use it as their payment method. There is no rule stating only the credit card holder can receive the reimbursement, so you are free to transfer it as you please.
Do I Have to Become a Member to Receive PreCheck?
To introduce more people to the advantages of PreCheck, the TSA randomly offered the service to many nonmembers when the program first started in 2011. While there is still a chance you can get PreCheck as a nonmember (I got it in March of 2019 before I became a member), the TSA cut back on this practice in 2017, according to CNBC.
The Vacationer Tip
We highly recommend applying for TSA PreCheck if you want to almost guarantee access to the expedited line.
As a Member, Will I Always Have Access to the PreCheck Line?
Unfortunately, no, but you will probably have PreCheck on your boarding pass for the majority of your flights. For reasons only known to the TSA, sometimes you will have to go through the traditional security line despite being a member of PreCheck. You may also have to go through additional security screening measures.
Applying for TSA PreCheck
Applying for PreCheck is quick and easy (it should take 5-10 minutes), but only U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and select U.S. Nationals are eligible for approval after a background check.
Go to the TSA website and click Apply Now. The first page of the application asks basic questions such as your full legal name, gender, date of birth, preferred language, email address, phone number, and preferred method of contact. You must use your full name as it will appear on your airline reservations.
The second page asks for your city and country of birth, as well as your country of citizenship.
As you go through the application, you will also be asked for your address, height, weight, hair color, and eye color, and other important information.
Scheduling and Attending Your Interview
After completing the application, you will then have the opportunity to schedule an interview at more than 380 enrollment centers. While walk-ins are welcome, the TSA recommends scheduling an appointment because enrollment centers may be busy.
At the interview, be sure to bring a form of payment as well as required documents to prove your identity and citizenship. If you have a U.S. Passport Book/Card or an Enhanced Driver’s License, you should be able to just bring one of those. If you only have a state-issued Driver’s License or State ID Card, you are going to have to bring another form of ID such as a birth certificate or expired U.S. Passport. To be safe, we recommend using the required docs link above to be sure you have everything required.
The interview is short and mainly done to verify your documents and information. Your fingerprints and a photograph will also be taken. If approved, you will receive written notification a few weeks after your interview. You can also check the status of your application online if you want to find out sooner.
Using PreCheck With Your Known Traveler Number (KTN)
After approval, you will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN). This number links your PreCheck membership to your airline reservation. When booking a flight, simply enter your KTN in the required field. For flights booked prior to PreCheck approval, you can update your current reservation with your KTN online or by calling the airline.
For convenience sake, we recommend updating your frequent flyer profile with your KTN in the required field. Doing this will automatically insert it into any new bookings that you make in the future. For existing flights, you still have to update any current bookings with your KTN.
Confirm TSA PreCheck is on Your Boarding Pass
As a member of TSA PreCheck, you will not receive an ID card. Instead, your KTN grants you access to the expedited lines. As detailed above, you should enter your KTN in your airline reservation. If successful, your boarding pass will show TSA PreCheck on it granting you full access. You will not have access to the line unless your boarding pass has the indicator on it.
If your boarding pass does not have the TSA PreCheck indicator, you should call your airline. You may have forgotten to enter your KTN on the particular flight reservation, or you may have entered it incorrectly. It is also important that your name and birthdate on the airline reservation match exactly how it was written on your PreCheck application.
As previously mentioned, in some cases you will not be eligible for the expedited lines on a particular flight despite being a member of the program and entering everything correctly. This is normal and entirely up to the TSA.
The Vacationer Tip
Your boarding pass must have the TSA PreCheck indicator on it or you will not be able to access the lines. If it does not show the indicator, contact your airline or the TSA.
Using PreCheck With a Third-Party Booking Service
If you booked your flight with a third-party booking service, such as Expedia or a travel agent, you can still use PreCheck. On occasion, your KTN may not transfer to the airline or there may not be a place to enter it.
You should call the airline or check online to see if your KTN was properly submitted to them. If it was not, they will easily be able to update your reservation with your KTN and verify the rest of your information.
Is PreCheck Available at Every U.S. Airport and Airline?
Not yet. Currently, it is available at more than 200 airports and 73 different airlines. Expect this list to expand in the future, but here are the current locations.
Below, you can find a list of the busiest airports in the United States participating in PreCheck.
Top Airports Offering PreCheck
|Austin-Bergstrom Int’l Airport (AUS)||Baltimore- Washington Int’l Airport (BWI)||Boston- Logan Int’l Airport (BOS)|
|Charlotte-Douglas Int’l Airport (CLT)||Chicago Midway Int’l Airport (MDW)||Chicago O’Hare Int’l Airport (ORD)|
|Dallas Love Field (DAL)||Dallas/Ft. Worth Int’l Airport (DFW)||Denver Int’l Airport (DEN)|
|Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)||Ft. Lauderdale- Hollywood Int’l Airport (FLL)||Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Int’l Airport (ATL)|
|Honolulu Int’l Airport (HNL)||Houston – G. Bush Intcntl Airport (IAH)||Las Vegas – McCarran Int’l Airport (LAS)|
|Los Angeles Int’l Airport (LAX)||Miami Int’l Airport (MIA)||Minneapolis- St. Paul Int’l Airport (MSP)|
|Nashville Int’l Airport (BNA)||New York – John F. Kennedy Int’l Airport (JFK)||New York – LaGuardia Airport (LGA)|
|Newark Liberty Int’l Airport (EWR)||Orlando Int’l Airport (MCO)||Philadelphia Int’l Airport (PHL)|
|Phoenix Sky Harbor Int’l Airport (PHX)||Portland Int’l Airport (PDX)||Salt Lake City Int’l Airport (SLC)|
|San Diego Int’l Airport (SAN)||San Francisco Int’l Airport (SFO)||Seattle-Tacoma Int’l Airport-SeaTac (SEA)|
|Tampa Int’l Airport (TPA)||Washington National Airport (DCA)||Washington-Dulles Int’l Airport (IAD)|
See the full list of more than 200 airports participating in PreCheck.
Airlines Offering PreCheck
|Aeromexico||Air Canada||Air France|
|Air India||Air Serbia||Alaska Airlines|
|Alitalia||All Nippon Airways||Allegiant Air|
|American Airlines||Aruba Airlines||Asiana Airlines|
|Austrian Airlines||Avianca||Azul Airlines|
|Boutique Airlines||British Airways||Brussels Airlines|
|Cape Air||Cathay Pacific Airways||China Airlines|
|Condor Airlines||Contour Aviation||Copa Airlines|
|Delta Air Lines||Eastern Airlines||Edelweiss Air|
|Elite Airways||Emirates||Etihad Airways|
|Frontier Airlines||Hawaiian Airlines||Icelandair|
|Inter Caribbean Airways||Interjet||Japan Airlines|
|JetBlue Airways||Key Lime Air||KLM Royal Dutch Airlines|
|Korean Air||Lufthansa||Miami Air Int’l|
|Norwegian Air||PAL Express||Philippine Airlines|
|Porter Airlines||Qantas||Qatar Airways|
|Scandinavian Airlines||Seaborne Airlines||Silver Airways|
|Singapore Airlines||Southern Airways Exp.||Southwest Airlines|
|Spirit Airlines||Sun Country Airlines||Sunclass|
|Sunwing Airlines||Swift Air||Swiss Int’l Air Lines|
|Swoop||TAP Air Portugal||Turkish Airlines|
|United Airlines||Virgin Atlantic||VivaAerobus|
Is PreCheck Available 24/7?
PreCheck lanes are not currently available 24/7. Depending on the day and airport, certain terminals may close their lines earlier than others. The good news is you can still receive expedited screening by showing the indicator on your boarding pass in a traditional lane if the PreCheck one is closed. You can check current schedules at the TSA website.
Will The Rest of My Party Have Access to PreCheck Lines?
Officially, only those in your party who are members of the PreCheck program will receive it. Anecdotally, we have seen every person in a party receive PreCheck if they are all on the same reservation as the booking member. Children 12 and under who are traveling with you are always allowed to use PreCheck lines if it appears on your boarding pass. Children 13 and older must go through the traditional security lines if their boarding pass does not have the indicator.
Is TSA PreCheck Available During International Flights?
Since PreCheck is run by the United States-based Transportation Security Administration, it is only available on domestic flights and flights taking off from the United States. That means you will be eligible for PreCheck lines when traveling internationally from the United States but not when returning home from a foreign country.
The Vacationer Tip
Consider Global Entry for expedited entry through customs when returning to the United States as well as PreCheck for domestic flights.
Global Entry Includes TSA PreCheck But Costs More
If you plan on traveling internationally in the next five years, it may make sense to sign up for Global Entry instead of PreCheck. The application fee is $100, and your membership will be valid for five years upon approval. Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck as well as expedited entry through customs when returning to the United States. Even if you do not have any current plans to travel internationally in the near future, it may still make sense to pay the extra $15 just in case.
I became a member of Global Entry in the summer of 2019, and I am loving the benefits. While the interview is tougher to schedule (there are fewer enrollment centers) than the PreCheck appointment, it is possible to get it sooner if you follow a few tips. To access PreCheck with your Global Entry account, enter your PASSID in the Known Traveler Field when booking airline reservations.
The credit cards list above also reimburses the $100 application fee for Global Entry, so you can essentially get it for free using one of those cards.
NEXUS and SENTRI Also Include PreCheck for Certain Members
Stack TSA PreCheck With CLEAR For An Even Faster Experience
Before entering the traditional or PreCheck security screening area, you have to wait in another line to verify your boarding pass and identification with a TSA agent. Even if you have PreCheck, you may have to wait in a long line to reach the agent.
CLEAR is a system that allows you to confirm your identity at the airport using your eyes or fingerprints. This is done at a kiosk, and it is only available for members. After confirming your identity, you will then go straight to the security bins in the traditional or PreCheck line.
It costs $15 per month (or $179 per year), so it is not exactly cheap. It is available at over 65 airports, stadiums, and other locations that may have long wait times, so it may be worth it for you.
Five years, after which you can renew for another five.
Yes, but you have to have one of the many credit cards offering reimbursement. Otherwise it is $85 for five years.
You cannot. PreCheck and Global Entry are run by different organizations, so you will have to apply separately to both. Global Entry does include PreCheck, however.
Times can vary considerably depending on the airport and time of day. In most cases, you should be through security in five minutes or less.
Children 12 and under traveling with you can use the PreCheck lines if you are eligible. Children 13 and older must become members to use the service.
It depends on the airline. Frontier Airlines, for example, states PreCheck is only available through them if you book directly on their website. We recommend calling your airline to confirm their policy if you are not booking directly with them.
Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI all include TSA PreCheck. If you are a member of any of those programs, enter your PASSID in the Known Traveler Number field on your next domestic flight booking.
The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts + Cheat Sheet
Becoming a member of TSA PreCheck is a smart decision for anyone who dislikes going through traditional security screening lines. Getting your credit card to reimburse you for the $85 application fee is even smarter, but be aware of high annual fees.
Featured Image via Transportation Security Administration
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