TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR – Which is Better? (June 2023)
Popular trusted travel programs like Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are essential for travelers hoping to expedite the airport screening process. But what’s the difference? Which is better? And most importantly, which is cheaper? This article will compare each program’s benefits.
TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry – Main Features Compared
Global Entry is for those returning from international travel; TSA PreCheck is for those flying out of a United States airport.
With Global Entry, you skip the standard customs lines and head to special kiosks. After the machine recognizes your face, you may or may not have to fill out a digital customs declaration form (I have not had to in years). Approach the CBP officer; They will ask for more information or allow you to exit. All Global Entry memberships come with TSA PreCheck.
With TSA PreCheck, you can use the special security lanes at more than 200 U.S. airports. In addition to usually faster lines, you do not have to remove your shoes, laptops, liquids bag, light jacket, or belt. TSA PreCheck memberships do not come with Global Entry.
Here are each program’s top features.
|TSA PreCheck||Global Entry|
|Application Cost||$78 for a Five-Year Membership||$100 for a Five-Year Membership|
|Renewal Cost||$78 in Person; $70 for Online||$100 (same as the initial fee)|
|Main Benefit||Access to domestic expedited airport security lanes; No need to remove shoes, laptops, quart-size liquids bags, light jackets, etc.||Access to Global Entry kiosks to quickly clear customs when returning to the U.S. after traveling internationally. Includes TSA PreCheck.|
|Locations to Use Benefits||Over 200 U.S. Airports||Over 75 U.S. Airports Plus Many Seaport and Land Borders|
|Ease of Applying||Over 500 Enrollment Centers||Over 100 Enrollment Centers|
|Application Processing Time||Days to Weeks||Currently 4-6 Months or Longer|
|Ease of Approval||Fairly Easy||Harder and Stricter|
|Eligibility||U.S. Citizens and U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents.||U.S. Citizens, U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents, and Certain Foreign Nationals.|
|Kids Use it Free?||Yes, for children under 12*||No, all kids must be members|
|Do any Credit Cards Cover the Cost?||Yes||Yes|
The Case for TSA PreCheck
Here are the major benefits of signing up for TSA PreCheck instead of Global Entry.
- Cheaper: TSA PreCheck costs $78 for new applicants and $70 for online renewals. Global Entry costs $100 for new applicants and renewals. If you do not plan on traveling internationally in the next five years, choose the cheaper option in TSA PreCheck.
- More Locations to Use It: Most United States airports (over 200) have at least one TSA PreCheck lane; Some have multiple lanes at various terminals. Global Entry kiosks are only available at more than 75 United States airports. Regardless of the difference, most United States international airports have kiosks.
- Easier Application/Approval Process: TSA PreCheck and Global entry both require online applications, in-person interviews, fingerprinting, and background checks. The major difference is the TSA PreCheck process is much easier and faster than the Global Entry process. After applying for Global Entry, you must wait for conditional approval, which can take six months or longer. After being conditionally approved, you schedule an interview, which can be almost impossible to secure; Even if you do get an interview, it may not be for many months and at a faraway location. TSA PreCheck has over 500 enrollment centers; Global Entry only has slightly over 100.
- Great if You Have Kids Under 12: Children under 12 can access TSA PreCheck lanes when traveling with an adult who has TSA PreCheck on their boarding pass. With Global Entry, all children must be members to access the kiosks.
- No Passport Required: Those applying for TSA PreCheck do not need a passport. Those applying for Global Entry must have a valid passport. Passport processing times are currently very long, so keep that in mind if you need to apply or renew.
Further Reading: TSA PreCheck Program and Benefits Guide and TSA PreCheck Renewal Guide.
The Case for Global Entry
- Great for International Travelers: Global Entry is essential for frequent international travelers. It provides expedited entry back to the United States from various airports, seaports, and land borders. TSA PreCheck only benefits international travelers flying out from a domestic airport; It does not offer any benefits when returning home.
- It Includes TSA PreCheck: For only $22 more for five years ($30 more at renewal), you get Global Entry, which includes TSA PreCheck. That comes out to $4.40 per year for the first five years. After renewal, it is $6 more per year.
- You May Be Able to Get it Free With a Credit Card: Many credit cards reimburse the $100 Global Entry application fee. Those same cards also reimburse the $78 TSA PreCheck application fee, but the better value comes from using it on Global Entry.
- Nationals & Citizens of Other Countries Can Apply: Only U.S. Citizens and U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents are eligible for TSA PreCheck. Global Entry is open to U.S. Citizens, U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents, Certain Foreign Nationals, and Citizens of Certain Foreign Countries.
Further Reading: Global Entry Program and Benefits Guide
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Consensus: Which is Better?
Global Entry provides much better value for the price for anyone contemplating international travel. If the approval process was not so lengthy and difficult, I would recommend it to everyone, regardless of international travel plans.
But the entire Global Entry process takes as long as one year. If you only want TSA PreCheck benefits, you should sign up for it and skip Global Entry. If you do not mind waiting, you should go with Global Entry.
Further Reading: How to Get a Global Entry Interview Appointment Faster and Known Traveler Number Guide.
Credit Cards That Reimburse Global Entry & TSA PreCheck Application Fees
Numerous credit cards offer up to a $100 credit for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck application fees. Depending on the card, the reimbursement is available every four to five years. Here are a few of the more popular travel-focused credit cards reimbursement.
- The Business Platinum Card® From American Express® (every five years; $695 annual fee)
- The Platinum Card® from American Express® (every four years; $695 annual fee)
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (every four years; $95 annual fee)
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (every four years; $395 annual fee)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® (every four years; $550 annual fee)
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (every five years; $450 annual fee)
- IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card (every four years; $99 annual fee)
Further Reading: Best credit cards for Global Entry & TSA PreCheck reimbursement.
What About Other Trusted Traveler Programs?
While CLEAR is often viewed as a trusted traveler program, a private company runs it. Here is how it relates to Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.
CLEAR uses biometrics to confirm your identity at the airport security line. You still have to go through security, but CLEAR members essentially jump to the front of the line. TSA PreCheck members can use CLEAR, so you do not have to pick one or the other. Non-PreCheck members can jump to the front of the line but still must use the normal security lanes.
Memberships cost $189 per year, but holding certain credit cards and airline status levels entitle you to credits and discounts. There is no background check, so it is easy to become a member.
Global Entry is a trusted traveler program for pre-approved travelers to clear customs quicker when entering the United States after international travel. Travelers can enter at eligible airports, seaports, and land borders. Its application fee is $100, and memberships last for five years.
You can apply at https://ttp.cbp.dhs.gov/.
TSA PreCheck is a trusted traveler program for pre-approved travelers to use expedited security lanes when flying out of a domestic airport. Its application fee is $78 ($70 for online renewals), and memberships last for five years.
You can apply at https://www.tsa.gov/precheck
Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck, and its application fee is only $22 more. The drawback is the entire approval process takes several months; For some people, it can take as long as one year.
Get TSA PreCheck if you do not plan on traveling internationally. If you plan on international travel, consider Global Entry, but be aware of the potentially long wait.
You can stack CLEAR with TSA PreCheck since both are for domestic travel. You can be both a CLEAR and Global Entry member, but the benefits do not work together.
The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts
Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are my two favorite travel tools. I regularly use both benefits and could not imagine traveling without them. At the minimum, I recommend those traveling domestically at least three times per year sign up for TSA PreCheck. If you can deal with the long wait time, go with Global Entry to solidify yourself for both domestic and international travel.
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