Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck: Which One Should You Choose?
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. 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 your travels when you eventually return to the skies. 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. 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 includes TSA PreCheck for free. TSA PreCheck itself costs $85 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 $15 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 the benefits of 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 70 airlines currently participate in TSA PreCheck.

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, make sure you add your 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 #2: 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!

 

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.

Aside from the extra $15 it’ll cost you once 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.

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

global entry vs tsa precheck 

But in practice, it can sometimes take many months (or a year or more) to finalize Global Entry enrollment. 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. It can often take weeks – if not months – to land a spot. Those interviews resumed this summer after a months-long pause due to COVID-19. 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 $15 more, 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, 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 costs $179 each year, so it’s not exactly cheap. Luckily, there are some easy ways to cut down that price tag considerably.

While they may seem duplicative, CLEAR actually works in conjunction with TSA PreCheck. Once you have CLEAR, you can simply cut to the front of the PreCheck line and go right through security. Without PreCheck, CLEAR 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 a handful of professional sports stadiums. However, Delta and United both have ownership stakes in CLEAR, so watch for it to continue expanding.

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.

There’s no cost to download it and no ongoing fee – as long as you don’t want to store your passport and inf0rmation in the app. You just input 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.
 

Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck 

Some travelers say Mobile Passport can get you through immigration faster than Global Entry. In my experience, it’s not quite that fast. But it certainly beats the normal, paper-in-hand lines that get backed up easily.

Mobile Passport is a must-have app if you can’t afford Global Entry. More than two dozen airports, including most major international gateways, allow Mobile Passport at their immigration checkpoints.

 

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 the Platinum Card from American Express, which also carry a host of other travel benefits.

But even mid-tier cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which carries an annual fee of just $95 a year, has a credit that will cover your application. So does the United Explorer Card, which has an annual fee of $95 that is waived in the first year.

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 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 $85 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 12 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 even to older children and other adults booked on the same reservation as an adult with TSA PreCheck.

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.

 

What do TSA PreCheck and Global Entry cost?

TSA PreCheck currently costs $85 for a five-year membership.

Global Entry currently costs $100 for a five-year membership. But federal officials are pushing to increase that fee 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. And as you eye your return to travel, 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 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.

14 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?

  • 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.

    • Global Entry is available to citizens of the US, Argentina, India, Colombia, UK, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and Taiwan.

  • 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?

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