Recently I went through the process of applying for TSA PreCheck, so I thought I’d share a little info with you about why you should and how to get TSA PreCheck. I hesitated to even write this because honestly, it’s got to be one of the best kept traveling secrets!
Why Should you get TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck is a program that allows you to skip the traditional security lines at the airports and instead enter a TSA PreCheck lane that is typically shorter. In addition to the shorter lines, the way PreCheck passengers are screened is faster and more convenient than traditional TSA security lines. It’s an expedited process because you don’t have to remove your shoes, laptops, allowed 3-1-1 liquids, belts, and light jackets. Not having to lug out my macbook and avoiding putting my feet on the disgusting floor is a huge plus for me. TSA PreCheck is at about 150 airports, and currently the participating airlines are: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, OneJet, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country, US Airways, United Airlines, Virgin America.
How to get TSA PreCheck?
The whole reason TSA PreCheck is faster and has less requirements is because you have to apply and go through a pre-screening process to show you’re a low-risk passenger. There are eligibility requirements, so make sure you qualify. You can then fill out the application online or choose to go into an application center. You’ll have to provide personal information as well as answer yes/no criminal history questions. Even if you fill out the application online, you will need to go in to a center to complete your application, show your required documents, pay the $85 fee, and have your fingerprints recorded. I filled out the online application and was able to choose an appointment time slot at my local center directly online. My nearest office only had a 4 day wait, but some offices didn’t have availability for weeks out.
What Happens After You Apply?
Once you’ve filled out your application, made an appointment at a local center, and competed the final processing, you wait. Online they’ll tell you it could take 4-6 weeks, but in reality I was able to check my status online and had my approval in a week. What you’re waiting for is a KTN, Known Traveler Number. This number can be inputed on your airline bookings which links to your boarding pass to show you as a TSA PreCheck. Checking your status online is the quickest way to find out if you’ve been approved, but you will also receive your confirmation via first class mail (letter).
“But I Got It for Free”
This is one of the most common things I’ve heard from people when I mention getting TSA PreCheck. While that’s awesome, it was a fluke and is now at an end. TSA has confirmed that it’s “managed inclusion program” allowing low-risk passengers entry into PreCheck lanes has come to an end. This is good news for those of us who are paying to use the lanes, and brings the program back to it’s original point, targeting and expediting low-risk passengers. So, congrats on getting a recent bonus, but don’t expect it in the future.
Can My Kids Join Me in TSA PreCheck Lanes?
If you are traveling with kids ages 12 and under, yes they can join you. Your spouse and 13+ yr old children cannot and will need their own TSA PreCheck KTN.
How Much Is It?
$85 and valid for 5 years, making it $17 a year.
What’s The Difference Between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry?
TSA PreCheck allows expedited processing at participating airports for TSA security screening. Global Entry is a program which allows expedited processing through CUSTOMS at airports. So think international travel and required passports.
I originally read recommendations that Global Entry, which costs $100, includes TSA PreCheck, but I’ve since learned that it’s not guaranteed. It appears to be around a 50-90% chance that if you have Global Entry you’ll get TSA PreCheck. However, I also have my wonderings whether this will be adjusted with the ending of the managed inclusions program. The latest information from the Department of Homeland Security shows that Global Entry now includes PreCheck. So, if you think you might take even one international in five years, get Global Entry. I’ve heard that Global Entry is a more intensive application and takes longer for qualification, so be aware of that.