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Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck

Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck: Which is Better for You?

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Dreading long lines at the airport? You’re not alone – especially these days with travel ramping up for spring break and summer after that. Luckily, there's a pair of government programs you can enroll in to help skip the lines and long wait times: TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.

These time-saving programs are a key way to improve – and drastically speed up – your travels. They're fairly cheap for five-year memberships, with a handful of ways to cover the entire cost and make them free. But they have very different purposes. And as you’ll see, one of these security programs has a significant edge over the other.

So we'll walk through the basics of both programs and give you the pros and cons of each. It should help you decide which is better for you: Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck?



The Basics Between PreCheck and Global Entry

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are your ticket to get through the airport faster. But just which area of the airport each program covers is where they're different.

TSA PreCheck gets you through that airport security line and to your flight quicker. Global Entry is a must for international travelers, helping you speed through immigration when you return to the United States.

Both programs have separate application processes that require a background check, and can take a few weeks (and in some cases, months) to get approved. After all, each program is distinct, and we’ll break down the ins and outs of each below.

Here’s the thing: A Global Entry membership also includes TSA PreCheck benefits for free. TSA PreCheck itself costs $78 for a five-year membership, while Global Entry is $100 for the same period. And you don’t get a discount on Global Entry if you’re already enrolled in TSA PreCheck.

The $22 premium for a quick trip through immigration makes Global Entry the no-brainer choice in almost every case. However, there’s still plenty to understand before you move ahead.


A Primer on TSA PreCheck

It’s not just the shorter line that makes TSA PreCheck so valuable for travelers.

You also get to leave your shoes, a belt and a light jacket on. Your laptop and the carry-on approved liquids in your bag can also stay put as you put them through the baggage screeners. Your first time using TSA PreCheck, you’ll wonder why you didn’t join the program sooner.

Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck 

One catch is that TSA PreCheck only partners with specific airlines, so you may not always get that quick pass through security. However, all of the major domestic airlines and even many small U.S. carriers are included. More international airlines are joining the program each year.

All told, more than 90 airlines currently participate in TSA PreCheck. A few notable exceptions include Aer Lingus, Iberia, Air Tahiti Nui, and Air New Zealand.

Signing up for TSA PreCheck is pretty straightforward. You’ll fill out a quick application and pay the fee. From there, you will head to a certified enrollment center for a short interview (bring your passport!), fingerprinting, and a photo. If everything checks out, you should get the OK within a week or two.

After you’ve been approved, you have one critical step: Make sure you add your new Known Traveler Number (KTN) to your airline profile, and make sure TSA PreCheck is on your boarding pass. That’s the key to getting through the TSA PreCheck.

Thrifty Tip: Don't see the PreCheck logo on your boarding pass when it should be? DM your airline and see if they can sort it out for you!

Read up on other reasons why you might not get TSA PreCheck!


Getting Global Entry

Global Entry is a two-for-one: a fast-pass through immigration when you re-enter the United States and membership in the TSA PreCheck program, too.

Aside from the extra $20 or so it’ll cost you every five years, getting Global Entry isn’t much different than TSA PreCheck. Applying is straightforward, and the interview is a breeze as long as you don’t have a criminal record … at least on paper. But in practice, it can take much longer to get Global Entry.

For years, travelers have complained about drawn-out application processes that take months or more, with a long delay to get conditional approval and tough luck securing a final interview to finish up enrollment. More recently, though, things seem to have sped up, with some travelers finalizing Global Entry from start to finish in two weeks – or less.

Read our full guide on getting signed up for Global Entry, from start to finish.

global entry vs tsa precheck 

Still, there's no question that getting Global Entry can take much longer than PreCheck. First, you need to get conditionally approved after submitting your application. While some travelers get the go-ahead within days, others can get stuck in limbo for months.

And the last step, an in-person interview, can be a bit of a headache to actually schedule. Depending on where you live, it can take weeks – if not months – to land a spot at a nearby airport.

Read our guide with tips to schedule your Global Entry interview faster.

Luckily, there's an easy workaround for that long interview delay. It's called Enrollment on Arrival, and it allows you to finalize your Global Entry registration while clearing immigration at select U.S. airports when returning to the country. Still, for now, it may take a long time to finalize your Global Entry enrollment.

But seeing as Global Entry is just $22 more every five years, it’s an easy choice over TSA PreCheck alone if you're hoping to do any international travel. Just make sure you plan ahead, as you may miss out if you try to get signed up right before a big international trip. Once you have it, you'll get through immigration in minutes.


What About CLEAR? And Mobile Passport?

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are the two best-known airport programs, but there are some other options.

Among them is CLEAR® Plus, an independent trusted traveler program involving both fingerprints and a retinal scan. You can enroll online and finalize your membership at the airport.

Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck 

Unlike the five-year memberships for the government-run programs, CLEAR® Plus costs $189 each year, so it's not exactly cheap. Luckily, there are some easy ways to cut down that price tag considerably – including a way to cover that entire cost with annual credits on *amex platinum*, among other cards.

Read more: Want CLEAR? These 3 Cards Will Cover the Cost

While they may seem duplicative, CLEAR® Plus actually works in conjunction with TSA PreCheck. Once you have CLEAR® Plus, you can simply cut to the front of the PreCheck line and go right through security. Without PreCheck, CLEAR® Plus gets you to the front of the standard line.

The big downside with CLEAR is that it's currently available at just a few dozen airports and counting, as well as many major professional sports stadiums. However, Delta and United both have ownership stakes in CLEAR®, so watch for it to continue expanding – especially to smaller airports.

Read our review of CLEAR and whether it's worth it!

There’s also a free smartphone app that, like Global Entry, can help you get through immigration faster: Mobile Passport Control.

There’s no cost to download it and no ongoing fee. You just enter your passport information, snap a selfie and then enter your trip details when you’re ready to re-enter the country. This replaces that standard paper declarations form and gets you in a dedicated lane to get through immigration.

It's available on both the Apple Store and via Google Play for Android users, too.

mobile passport app 

Some travelers swear Mobile Passport Control get you through immigration faster than Global Entry. In my experience, it’s not quite that fast. But it certainly beats the normal lines that get backed up.

While it's not available at every U.S. airport, you can use it at most of the major international hubs.


How to Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Free

Now more than ever, getting through airport lines as fast as possible is worth its weight in gold. And there's an easy way to get either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck for free.

growing number of credit cards offer a credit that will cover the cost of your application for either program. There are top-dollar premium travel cards like the *chase sapphire reserve* and *amex platinum*, which also carry a host of other travel benefits. The newer *venture x* has the same credit, too.

But even some cheaper cards like the *capital one venture card*, which carries an annual fee of just $95 a year, has a credit that will cover your application. So does the *united explorer*, which has an annual fee of $95 that is waived in the first year.
While it costs much more with a $350 annual fee, the *delta skymiles platinum card* has the credit, too.

Using these credits to zero out the cost of your application in either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry is simple: Just charge the application fee to your card. Within a few days, the credit will kick in, wiping the charge from your statement.

These credits are typically available to use once every four (or four-and-a-half) years. Considering membership in either program lasts for five years, you're set.

Thrifty Tip: Already have PreCheck or Global Entry? Use your credit to cover a friend or relative's application – just pay with your card!


FAQs About Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck

Which is better: Global Entry or TSA PreCheck?

It depends. If you travel internationally at all, Global Entry is definitely the winner as it will allow you to speed through immigration on your return to the U.S. Plus Global Entry also includes a TSA PreCheck membership.

But Global Entry is slightly more expensive, at $100 for a five-year membership as compared to $78 for TSA PreCheck. And the enrollment process for Global Entry can take much longer than TSA PreCheck.


How long does it take to get Global Entry?

Again, it depends. Some lucky travelers can finalize their enrollment in a matter of just a week or two. But others get caught up in a backlog of applications or struggle to schedule an in-person interview.

Getting Global Entry can take anywhere from just a week or two to more than a year, if you're unlucky.


Can family members come with me for free if I have PreCheck or Global Entry?

Not always.

With PreCheck, it's spotty at best. Children 17 and younger traveling with an adult who has TSA PreCheck should almost always be allowed to accompany their parents through the PreCheck lane. And in some cases, an airline may pass down PreCheck benefits to other adults booked on the same reservation as an adult with TSA PreCheck, but that is hit or miss.

With Global Entry, it's clear: Everyone needs their own Global Entry membership. Even newborn babies will not get Global Entry benefits from their parents. Federal officials have suggested changing this by allowing children under 18 to register and get Global Entry for free if their parents have a membership, but that change has not been made yet.


What do TSA PreCheck and Global Entry cost?

TSA PreCheck currently costs $78 for a five-year membership after a recent price drop.

Global Entry currently costs $100 for a five-year membership. But federal officials are planning to push that fee up to $120 as part of a broader overhaul of the program.


Bottom Line

There’s no better way to speed up your trip through the airport than getting Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. It's a great time to enroll in one of these programs to improve your future travels. 

Unless you’re strapped for time or cash before your next trip or won’t travel out of the country anytime soon, Global Entry and its two-for-one with TSA PreCheck benefits is the obvious choice.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

22 Responses

  • As I’ve mentioned on other sites unless you have absolutely nothing ever on your criminal background you won’t get approved for global entry. Trespassing twenty years ago? You’ll get denied. I’ve literally read of air marshalls not getting approved and they can carry on planes.

  • Also, if you end up getting denied because of an unknowing trespassing offense 20 years ago, $100 app fee lost and gone forever, correct?

    • I just applied to global entry piece of your recommendation, but I’m wondering if I can use the pre-check benefits before I get my interview? Hoping to take advantage of pre-check for summer travels, but looks like the delays might make the finalization for global entry in September or later… Only traveling domestically this summer, so I was hoping to have the pre-check portion of the benefits if possible! Thanks

      • Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any way to do this. Your best bet is just to be vigilant in looking for an in-person interview in hopes you can finalize enrollment sooner.

  • If you have precheck, and get global entry, will it extend your precheck? I got precheck 2 years ago, now looking to add entry via a cc benefit but was wondering if it’s worth it.

    • Yes – as long as you have global entry, then you also have pre-check. If you travel int’l frequently then it’s a no brainer.

  • Is this only for American citizens? I spent three hours getting into California from Sweden the first of June.

  • I think you need to make it clear that TSA and Global Entry are two different things. TSA helps you in US Airports to not stand in long security lines for gates, Global Entry helps you do a kiosk upon arrival from your international flights and let’s you breeze (cough) through and not stand in re-entry line. We have both but back when we did you paid separately.

  • This is an interesting article and thanks for running it again…but I think it would be nice to point out that no one is getting Global Entry anytime soon.

    Not sure about TSA pre-check processing times but even before the COVID 19 crisis, processing was taking forever and the appointments for interviews were booked up like 4-6 months into the future. At this point is could be years before the CBP catches up and there doesn’t really seem to be much emphasis clearing the backlog.

    • Good point Dave — we tried to include all that information about the delays in getting Global Entry but I added a clearer warning just to make that clear.

  • My husband and I applied for Global on the same day in February. I got my approval the next day, he’s still waiting!

  • Thanks for the breakdown!

    I’ve had Precheck now for 5 years-just got an email that it’s expiring in August. I added Global Entry about 6 months ago. Can I just let me current Precheck lapse and carry on using Global Entry # and Precheck is automatic with that?

  • I have Global for 3 years. Just renewed my passport but when I tried to edit and update my Global Traveler profile it will not accept new passport info. Is that going to be an issue at the airport? Two secure messages to them and no response.

  • If you can not update your Trusted Traveler profile will that cause an airport problem for Global Entry & fast TSA? The site will not let me enter # on renewed passport and secure messages to them are not answered. Help?

    • Yes it would likely cause a problem. I would try calling Global Entry at (877) 227-5511 but otherwise you may need to visit a local enrollment center to get your new passport information updated.

  • My husband and I both have pre-check and need to apply for Global Entry. Do we need to start all over again? Is there a conversion form? Do we need to schedule another in person interview?

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