With TSA security lines becoming longer and no solution in the near future, TSA Precheck–a paid program that offers members a fast track through security–could be a smart investment.
Is giving money to the organization that’s responsible for the problem truly the best solution, though? Is there a superior alternative for whizzing through airport security? We explore these questions and more below.
Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck
If you almost exclusively travel domestically, TSA PreCheck might be the best choice for you. If you travel outside the U.S. more than once a year, though, Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program is likely a smarter investment. Global Entry requires a brief interview at the same enrollment center as TSA PreCheck and costs only $15 more. Benefits included in both programs are expedited screening, no lines and not having to remove shoes or laptops from carryon bags but Global Entry also includes expedited screening at Customs and Border Protection checkpoints when entering the U.S..
The State Department compares the two programs in the chart below, explaining that both are five-year memberships requiring ID verification and finger printing for approval. Global Entry is more expensive, but PreCheck is not at all U.S. airports, meaning you aren’t able to utilize it everywhere. You can use Global Entry whenever you reenter the U.S..
PreCheck Privileges for Free?
While, I’ve never applied for nor enrolled in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, I recently noticed a TSA PreCheck badge near the top of my boarding pass at Boston Logan Airport. The TSA agent directed me to the PreCheck line where I wasn’t required to remove my shoes or jacket and skipped the body scanner. I thought they may have made a mistake and thought that I was enrolled, but I wasn’t going to complain.
Apparently, TSA randomly selects passengers for PreCheck as a way to increase awareness of the program and attract new customers. According to United, the airline I flew out of Logan, they do not select passengers for this but that linking your ticket to a frequent flyer number that grants access to your personal information can boost your chance of being selected. I was enrolled in a frequent flyer program when I was selected.
The issue I find with TSA’s random PreCheck selection is that not only is it a potential security issue, but members spent significant time and money to enroll in this program that is being offered to others for free.
The Verdict: Global Entry over TSA PreCheck
Overall, Global Entry seems like a smarter investment than TSA PreCheck. For just $15 extra, you receive more privileges and will save hours of security wait time over the five-year membership.
If you don’t have a passport, you should stick to TSA PreCheck as you need one to apply for Global Entry. Plus, chances are if you don’t already have one, you’re not planning on leaving the country in the near future and that is the only time Global Entry comes in handy.
Before enrolling in TSA PreCheck, consider how often you travel and at which airports, as some, such as Boston Logan, haven’t had issues with long security lines. In this case, PreCheck is more of a perk than a time saver and I’d suggest holding out until you need Global Entry.
More from SmarterTravel:
- The TSA Can Now Force You Through a Body Scanner
- Heads Roll, But No End in Sight to TSA Mess
- The TSA Has Caused How Many Missed Flights?
Shannon McMahon, SmarterTravel | June 14, 2016