Is TSA PreCheck Worth Having?
by Daniel | Last Updated February 8th, 2020
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Having to unpack your bag at US airport security to take out laptops, phones, liquids, and even remove your shoes is indeed a hassle. But is TSA PreCheck that much more convenient?
With the cost of a TSA, going through the bureaucracy to get it, and still having to enter security at airports anyway, it's a good idea to evaluate whether TSA Precheck is worth having before signing up.
How Does TSA Precheck Work?
TSA stands for Transportation Security Administration, the US department that monitors such security matters.
So, essentially, a TSA PreCheck is an accelerated security clearance certification. The PreCheck program is available to travelers who are law-abiding and, therefore, 'low risk.' This includes US citizens or nationals and those with indefinite leave to remain.
The PreCheck stipulates that a member is a recognized and known traveler, and therefore, they will move through airport security more quickly and conveniently.
It used to be mainly for people that are registered with frequent flyer platforms, such as Global Entry members, US military members, and US service academies. It has more recently been made open to the general public.
The system was established in 2011 following the 9/11 US terrorist attacks. PreCheck is now available in over 200 US airports. It is valid for domestic and some international travel schedules.
How Do I Apply For Precheck?
To get your PreCheck, you need to:
Submit a background check online
Get fingerprints taken
Pay the $85 service fee
Only the TSA can decide whether you qualify or not for the program. You may be disqualified for any law violations. You can find the list of violations that may disqualify you on the official TSA site.
Travelers will then get issued a number. This TSA PreCheck information will then appear on boarding passes.
You need to consider both the pros and the cons to make your decision as to whether a TSA PreCheck is worth your while.
TSA PreCheck Promises to Speed Things Up
If you are a regular traveler, a TSA PreCheck may well save you quite a bit of time and bother. With a pre-screening, you will qualify to just go through a metal detector rather than having to stand for the body scanner.
You also do not have to take your shoes off, nor do will you need to take your laptop out of your bag to be checked.
It is also more convenient for if you are traveling in winter, with lots of extra clothing that security would otherwise need to check for you.
The TSA PreCheck will help to speed things along if you are traveling with kids, as a bigger group of people, or if you or someone you are traveling with has any special needs.
The pre-check allows travelers who have admittance to private or luxury airport lounges to spend more time relaxing - great if you need to work while in transit.
Even better, PreCheck possessors may also get through the security screening process faster at other events, concerts, etc.
It Is Free for Global Entry Members
If you have Global Entry membership, a program developed for accelerated clearance from customs, you can get TSA PreCheck for no extra fee.
The Global Entry fee is usually $100, and then you won't have to pay an extra $85 fee for PreCheck.
You can, in addition, get your Global Entry fee recompensed in the form of a credit to your account if you are a premium credit cardholder. You can get this bonus with cards such as American Express, Capital One Venture Rewards, Chase Sapphire Reserve, among others.
You can use the credit every time you need to renew the Global Entry membership (valid for five years at a time), or even for the application of a friend or family member for the program.
The TSA PreCheck is also valid for five years. That means no unnecessary security screening queues anywhere for all that time before you need to redo your PreCheck.
It Is Valid at More Airports
There are other accelerated security programs, but these are not as widely accepted as TSA PreCheck. PreCheck is active in over 200 airports in the US and is in some international airports as well.
You can visit the official TSA website for details on exactly which airlines are participating in the TSA PreCheck program.
Recent surveys show that having a TSA PreCheck in place will not save you huge amounts of time.
You still have to pass through airport security, no matter what you do. The TSA declares that travelers with PreCheck will spend only five minutes, maybe less, in security check queues, but research shows that the average wait in line at regular security stations is only about 10 minutes anyway.
Many people may join the PreCheck program in the hope of avoiding some of the more invasive security screening, such as swabs to check residue of explosives, unpacking your entire bag, among other stressful checks. Unfortunately, the PreCheck does not shield you from these screenings altogether. Security officers can still pull you out of line at random for more in-depth investigations.
The cost may not be convenient for travelers on a budget
PreCheck is Not Universal
TSA PreCheck is only valid for certain airlines, so even if you have it, you may still have to wait in the regular security queues.
It is valid for over 70 major airlines and for most US airlines, but you still may be limited in some instances. Global Entry is alternately applicable to any and all airlines.
It Might Not Be Necessary For Your
Because Global Entry offers just about the same service, and arguably a better one, you may wonder if it is worth it to get the TSA PreCheck.
With Global Entry, members have the opportunity to go through security faster when returning from overseas. PreCheck only members, on the other hand, will have to go through exactly the same queues and procedures as all the other travelers.
The PreCheck also is not applicable in many international airports, depending on where you are going. So outside of the US, you will still need to go through the normal security lines and procedures while traveling abroad.
Also, if you are not a regular flyer and security screenings are not really a part of your life, you probably do not need a TSA PreCheck.
This would be the case purely as you are not exposed to these conditions often enough. If you do not travel or go to events all that much, it may be better to save yourself then the $85 TSA PreCheck fee.
In the end, the choice to get TSA PreCheck or not is up to you. It may save you some time and stress on some days, but maybe not. It all depends on how often you travel and what your personal needs are.
You'll have to decide for yourself whether you're more likely to need faster entry or not. For example, if you're chronically late for holiday flights and fly through a major travel hub, then PreCheck just might save you.
You may find that Global Entry is a better option for you, especially as you can have PreCheck for no extra charge in any case with your membership.
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My name is Daniel and I am a full-time world traveler and constantly on the move.