What is TSA PreCheck and how do I apply?

You could spend less than five minutes in airport security.

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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

Luxury Card Mastercard® Black Card™

  • Stainless steel—Outweighs the competition with 22 grams
  • 2% point value when you redeem for airfare
  • 1.5% point value when you redeem for cash back
  • Enjoy 24/7 access to Luxury Card Concierge
  • $100 annual airline credit toward qualifying airline purchases
  • $100 Global Entry application fee credit
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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
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.
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 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles on all purchases and 10x miles at hotels.com/venture
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles at restaurants, hotels and United and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$450
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

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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