What is TSA PreCheck and how do I apply? | finder.com
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What is TSA PreCheck and how do I apply?

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You could spend less than five minutes in airport security.

While eliminating your wait in the airport security line entirely is impossible, you can curb it significantly with TSA PreCheck. This five-year membership will help you zoom through security lines across the US.

What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck is a government-issued program that helps you get through airport security faster.

It’s available only for flights that depart from US airports. This is a contrast to Global Entry, which includes TSA PreCheck benefits and gets you through customs faster as you arrive in the US.

What are the benefits of TSA PreCheck?

Get through airport security faster.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, 94% of TSA PreCheck passengers traveling in January 2019 waited no more than five minutes in the security line.

You don’t have to remove items you normally would.

You can keep your shoes on, as well as your belt or light jacket. Also, you can leave your laptop or eligible liquids in your bag.

There are exceptions, and you might still be randomly searched.

Available across the country.

Access TSA PreCheck at more than 200 airports across the country. Over 50 airlines participate in the program, including Delta, United and American.

Your membership lasts five years

Paying the application fee could give you TSA PreCheck benefits for quite a while.

How much does TSA PreCheck cost?

A TSA PreCheck application costs $85. This fee is non-refundable, even if you’re not approved.

Don’t want to pay? Look for a credit card that offers a statement credit for your TSA PreCheck application.

Our pick for TSA PreCheck credit and no annual fee

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card

  • 0% APR promo balance transfer rate for 12 months with 3% balance transfer fee now through September 30, 2019. After that, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be 12.99% to 17.99%. APR will vary with the market based on prime rate. Subject to credit approval.
  • Earn 25,000 bonus points by spending $2,500 in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 4x points on travel purchases through the PenFed Honors Advantage program. Earn 3x points on travel purchases for all other card holders.
  • Earn 1.5x points on all other purchases unrelated to travel.
  • $100 annual air travel credit
  • $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck benefit every 5 years
  • No caps or limits on rewards. No annual or foreign transaction fees.
  • Chip enabled for added security.
  • Variable rate as low as 12.99% APR. Rate and offers current as of June 1, 2019 and are subject to change.
  • Federally insured by NCUA.
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Compare credit cards with TSA PreCheck fee credits

With a travel card, you could receive a statement credit for your TSA PreCheck application.

A few cards are priced at a premium — think $450 a year and up. However, you can land the TSA PreCheck benefit with select cards priced around $95 a year.

One standout is the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card, which offers excellent travel rewards and no annual fee.

Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual Fee Filter values
25,000 points after spending $2,500 in the first 90 days
3x points on travel or 4x points if you’re a PenFed Honors Advantage member and 1.5x points on all other purchases
$0
25,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days from account opening.
60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months
5x points on directly-booked flights or on flights and hotels on Amex Travel. 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Get 5x Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5x points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. Rates & fees
50,000 points after spending $10,000 and 25,000 points after spending an additional $10,000 in the first 3 months
5x points on flights and prepaid hotels through Amex Travel, 1.5x points if you spend $5,000 on a single eligible purchase on up to 1 million additional points per year and 1x points on all other purchases
$595
Earn 50,000 points after spending $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after spending an additional $10,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Rates & fees
N/A
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1.5% for cash back
$495
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
N/A
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare or cash back
$995
Earn 2% point value when redeemed for airfare or cash back through the Luxury rewards program.

Compare up to 4 providers

Who is eligible for TSA PreCheck?

You can apply for TSA PreCheck if you’re a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident.

If you’re a Canadian citizen or resident, apply for the NEXUS program. It gives you expedited passage through customs when you enter the United States or Canada.

You’re not eligible if you’ve…

  • Provided false or incomplete information on your TSA PreCheck application.
  • Violated transportation security regulations.
  • Had disqualifying criminal offenses, as defined by the TSA.
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How do I apply for TSA PreCheck?

With a quick online application and in-person interview, you could be on your way to a TSA PreCheck membership. Follow these steps to apply:

    1. Go to the TSA website and submit an online application. Required information includes contact details, citizenship, date of birth and, if necessary, immigration documents.

TSA PreCheck website application form Image: Shutterstock

  1. Schedule an in-person appointment for a background check and fingerprinting.
  2. Attend your 10-minute appointment at your chosen location.

According to many travelers, you’ll typically hear back about approval within one to two weeks. If you’re approved, you’ll receive your Known Traveler Number (KTN) online or via mail.

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What to expect in your TSA PreCheck interview

Don’t go all the way to an appointment center only to be turned away. Have the following documentation on hand:

  • A valid photo ID. A government-issued driver’s license, military ID card, passport book or card, etc.
  • Citizenship or immigration document. A passport book or card, Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL), eligible birth certificate, etc.
  • If necessary: immigration documents. You may be asked to bring these if you aren’t a US citizen.

On the Universal Enroll website, you can use the “What to Bring” tool to determine documents you’ll need at your interview.

What happens in a TSA PreCheck interview?

Interviews are usually under 10 minutes long. You’ll give details about yourself: your travel habits, why you want a PreCheck membership, your criminal record and more.

You’ll also have your fingerprints and photo taken.

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TSA PreCheck interview locations

On the Universal Enroll website, you can use the Enrollment Center Locator to find a TSA PreCheck interview location near you.
TSA PreCheck interview locations Image: Shutterstock

How do I get TSA PreCheck without applying?

If you’re approved for Global Entry, you can access TSA PreCheck benefits at no additional cost.

You can also qualify for TSA PreCheck if you’re approved for NEXUS or SENTRI.

How to use TSA PreCheck

  1. Before your flight, add your Known Traveler Number (KTN) to your reservation.
    Do this while booking your flight. You can likely do so after booking if you wish.

If you’re part of a frequent flyer program, add your KTN to your account. When you book your flight through the account, your KTN will automatically be added to your reservation.

  • When you print your boarding pass, check that “TSA PreCheck” is written on it.
    If this designation is missing, you won’t be admitted through the TSA PreCheck line.
  • When you approach the security checkpoint, look for a TSA PreCheck line.
    This line is usually designated with a sign, and it may have relatively few passengers in it.
  • Keep your belt, shoes and light jacket on. Don’t take out items from your luggage.
    Put your bag through the X-ray machine. If your bag needs additional screening or you’re subject to an additional search, a TSA agent will let you know.
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Which airlines have TSA PreCheck?

These are all of the airlines that participate in TSA PreCheck, according to the TSA.

  • Aeromexico
  • Air Canada
  • Air France
  • Air Serbia
  • Alaska Airlines
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Allegiant Air
  • American Airlines
  • Aruba Airlines
  • Avianca
  • Boutique Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Cape Air
  • Cathay Pacific Airways
  • Condor Airlines
  • Contour Aviation
  • Copa Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Finnair
  • Flycana
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Icelandair
  • InterCaribbean Airways
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Key Lime Air
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Lufthansa
  • Miami Air International
  • Norwegian Air
  • Philippine Airlines
  • Porter Airlines
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Seaborne Airlines
  • Silver Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southern Airways Express
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • Sunwing Airlines
  • Swift Air
  • Swiss International Air Lines
  • Thomas Cook Airlines (Scan.)
  • Thomas Cook Airlines (UK)
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • ViaAir
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • WestJet
  • World Atlantic
  • Xtra Airways

Bottom line

By investing a bit of time and money upfront, you can save a lot of time in the airport security line with TSA PreCheck.

For more products that can help you travel more easily, check out a few airline credit cards.

Frequently asked questions

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Images: Shutterstock

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