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Friends or Family Don’t Have TSA PreCheck? Here’s What to Do

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It's a moral dilemma many travelers have faced at the airport: If you have TSA PreCheck and your traveling companion doesn't, should you ditch them for the PreCheck lane – or wait with them in the general security screening line?

TSA PreCheck is the government-run trusted traveler program that helps you breeze through airport security with your shoes and belt on and your liquids and laptop still in your bag. Leaving your friends who don't have PreCheck for the faster lane might not be a cardinal sin, but your spouse or children? That's a different story.

One of the most common questions when it comes to having TSA PreCheck is whether or not you can bring guests with you through the PreCheck lane. While in most cases, the answer is no, that doesn't mean you all have to resign yourself to waiting in the long, general security line. From using your credit card's benefits to reserving a time in advance, several options will help your whole traveling party get through security faster on your next trip.

Read on for some guidance on what to do if your friends or family don't have TSA PreCheck so you never have to weigh the risk of looking like a bad person for ditching your loved ones.


Who Can Use Your TSA PreCheck Benefit?

The answer is simple: You're the only one who's able to use your TSA PreCheck benefit. You can't bring a friend, family member, or even spouse through the TSA PreCheck lane with you if they aren't already enrolled in the Trusted Traveler Program and have PreCheck on their boarding pass.

There's one notable exception, though: Kids. Children under the age of 12 can accompany their parents into the PreCheck lane.

Teenagers ages 13 to 17 can also accompany a parent or guardian who has PreCheck through the expedited security lane so long as they're traveling on the same reservation as their parent or guardian and their boarding pass has a TSA PreCheck indicator. There are no such restrictions for children under 12.


mobile boarding pass with precheck


It's a relatively recent change by the TSA. Previously, only children 12 and under were allowed to tag along with TSA PreCheck-enrolled parents or guardians in the PreCheck lanes – teenagers needed their own TSA PreCheck account to use the expedited security lane.

But this change means that an adult's TSA PreCheck benefits should pass down to any and all minors on their reservation, potentially allowing the whole family into the faster PreCheck line – keeping belts, light jackets and shoes on and liquids and electronics in bags. Children traveling alone who don't have PreCheck will have to go through the standard security process.

But what about spouses, other family members, or friends? In theory, your PreCheck benefits won't pass down. In practice, though, if you booked flights for your entire traveling party, airlines will occasionally pass it on to an entire reservation. 

Airlines just have some discretion in deciding whether or not to pass on these benefits to everyone. Anecdotally, it seems as though airlines and the TSA have gotten stingier with sharing the benefits with traveling families.

In short: Airlines will sometimes give the rest of your traveling party your TSA PreCheck benefits. But you can't always count on it. If you're like me, you might still feel like a child but TSA will likely disagree.


Cover the Cost of TSA PreCheck for Your Traveling Companions

Instead of bargaining with TSA agents to allow all of your family members through the PreCheck lane with you, your best route might be helping them sign up for PreCheck themselves.

Most travel credit cards offer a statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry that will reimburse you for one enrollment fee every four to five years – whether you use it for yourself or someone else. So if you don't need the credit for yourself, consider paying the enrollment fee for a friend or family member so they can join you in the PreCheck lane on your next trip. The credit should still kick in.

Read more: Cheap Credit Cards That Get You Free TSA PreCheck & Global Entry


It's better if you hold *amex platinum*. For one, albeit hefty, annual fee of $695 (see rates & fees) you can cover the cost of TSA PreCheck (or Global Entry) for not only yourself but your whole family, too. The key is to add authorized users with a free Companion Platinum card to your account.

Read our full guide to getting TSA PreCheck for the whole family with one credit card

Adding an authorized user to your Amex Platinum Card means that person will get their own physical card, which they can use to make purchases through your account. You can choose whether those authorized users get a full-fledged Platinum Card or a dumbed-down Companion Platinum card – just be aware that after a recent change, adding an additional Platinum Card costs $195 each year per card, while there's no extra cost to add authorized users with a Companion Platinum card.


Add amex authorized user


The paid authorized user Platinum Cards get similar benefits as the main cardholder, but critically, the free authorized user Companion Platinum cards also come with their own credit to apply for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

This little-known trick is buried in the fine print of the benefit terms of the Amex Platinum Card: “To receive the TSA PreCheck statement credit of up to $85, a card member must pay for the TSA PreCheck application fee through any authorized enrollment provider with their eligible card. Additional cards on eligible consumer and business card accounts are also eligible for the statement credit of up to $85.

Simply add a Companion Platinum card to your account for family members, your partner, or a friend in need of TSA PreCheck. After completing the online applications, they'll go to the enrollment center to finish the process and pay the application fee with their authorized user Companion Platinum cards.


tsa precheck reimbursement


While this isn't reason enough to keep the Amex Platinum on its own, it certainly helps justify the annual fee and adds to the already impressive list of perks and benefits that the card offers – and now everyone in your party can get through the airport faster on your next trip. 


Reserve Your Spot in the Security Line … For Free!

Before you abandon your traveling companion for the TSA PreCheck lane, check to see if your airport will let you reserve your spot in the general security line.

Select airports across the country, including some in Canada and Europe, allow U.S. travelers to reserve their space in line to go through TSA security screening at a specific time. The best part? It's 100 percent free.

Your window to make a reservation is between seven days and 60 minutes before your scheduled flight boarding time. You simply arrive at the airport with the QR code you receive after making a reservation and enter a special lane that takes you and your traveling party (up to 10 passengers total) to the front of the general security line.

If getting TSA PreCheck isn't an option, this is a budget-friendly alternative. As someone who has PreCheck, I always make an effort to use this benefit if I'm traveling with someone who doesn't – like my partner. We have a trip coming up, and I know I'm not going to ditch her for the PreCheck line if I still want to have a girlfriend by the end of our trip. The ability to reserve a security screening time in advance is a time and relationship-saver.


MSP Reserve line at MSP Airport Terminal 2
The special security lane for passengers with an MSP Reserve reservation, photo courtesy of MSP


Today, the reservation system is available at eight U.S. airports – though not at every terminal.

  • Denver (DEN)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)
  • New York City (JFK)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • Phoenix (PHX) 
  • Seattle (SEA)

More airports across the country are expected to adopt a similar program soon.


Bottom Line

If you have TSA PreCheck, it can be tempting to ditch your friends or family members who don't so you can get through security faster. But before you do so, there are some alternatives you can explore to ensure your traveling party sticks together.

From travel credit card statement credits to free airport reservation systems, making your experience going through airport security more pleasant has never been easier.


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.

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