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. It’s also possible to get a TSA PreCheck statement credit with certain travel credit cards.
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. Neither Global Entry nor TSA PreCheck assists with travel documentation.
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 time will TSA PreCheck save me?
The exact time you save depends on the airport, the day of the week and the time of the year. In general, TSA PreCheck lines can save you between 20 and 45 minutes that you would otherwise spend on the standard security check.
Because of that, TSA PreCheck is typically more useful in large airports and at peak times.
Does coronavirus impact TSA PreCheck?
The current coronavirus pandemic impacts TSA PreCheck screening in several ways.
Sometimes, the TSA PreCheck lane may be closed and you could be directed to pass the standard security screening.
You must practice social distancing and keep six feet apart from TSA personnel or other passengers.
You can now carry one liquid hand sanitizer container — up to 12 ounces per passenger — in carry-on bags until further notice.
If your driver’s license or state-issued ID has expired on March 1, 2020 or after and you are unable to renew it, you may still be allowed to use it as a valid ID one year after the expiry date.
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.
Compare credit cards with TSA PreCheck fee credits
The way this works is you apply for TSA PreCheck, pay the application fee and then you get a statement credit from your eligible credit card as a reimbursement. Most of these cards offer the perk once every four or five years, so you can keep getting TSA PreCheck without paying for it.
Typically this is a feature offered by more premium travel credit cards. But you can also find “cheaper” cards with this perk, like the Venture® Rewards from Capital One® or the UnitedSM Explorer Card.
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.
Kevin Joey Chen is a credit cards, banking and investments writer whose work and analysis have appeared on CNN, U.S. News & World Report, Business.com, Lifehacker and CreditCards.com. He's passionate about helping you get your finances in order by expertly navigating cutting-edge financial tools — including credit cards, apps and budgeting software.
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