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There are currently one million Americans enrolled in TSA Precheck, so the program is making some changes that affect frequent flyers. If you’re a loyal customer of a domestic frequent flyer program and have opted in for the TSA Precheck lane through your program, it’s possible that you’ve already been notified by email that you’ll see a decline in how often you actually receive expedited screening—and possibly, an eventual end to the perk all together.
The upshot is, if you want guaranteed access to expedited security, you’ll have to actually enroll in TSA Precheck, Global Entry or CLEAR.
Obviously, more people having access to expedited security screening means that the process will slow down and screening will no longer move as quickly, therefore defeating the purpose of having expedited security in the first place. This is most likely why elite flyers (and anyone else not enrolled without a Known Traveler number) will soon lose this benefit.
You won’t find much about these changes on the TSA website, but the TSA blog did cite the following:
As more and more travelers obtain KTNs, soon, travelers without a Known Traveler Number or KTN, including those who previously “opted-in” via a frequent flyer program, will notice a reduction in the frequency in which they are chosen for TSA Precheck. If you want to keep receiving TSA Precheck on a consistent/reliable basis for the next five years, you are encouraged to enroll in one of the trusted traveler programs offered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
So, if you really want to have expedited security, it’s time to join Precheck or Global Entry and then make sure your Known Traveler Number is entered into your frequent flyer account.
What Are Your Options?
If you’ve been depending on your elite status to get you through expedited security, here are your options once that benefit disappears (or is harder to obtain): TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or the CLEAR expedited security program.
TSA Precheck requires you to pay an $85 application fee and complete an in-person interview at one of more than 330 application centers around the United States (including locations at 31 airports and an array of IdentoGO Centers). During your interview, if you’re approved for TSA Precheck, you’ll be given a Known Traveler Number (KTN); within about a week, you’ll receive your official ID card by mail. TSA Precheck status is valid for five years and allows you to leave on your shoes, light outerwear and belt, and to keep your laptop in its case and your 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in your carry-on.
My personal recommendation is Global Entry (GOES), which entitles you to expedited security when returning from international trips and gives you access to TSA Precheck. The Global Entry application process is the same as for TSA Precheck, aside from a $100 application fee and upon approval, is also valid for five years. This option covers you for both international and domestic travel for just $15 more.
And bonus, you can receive reimbursement of the $100 GOES application fee if you’re:
- a cardholder (plus you can get three additional cardholder for $175 total and they’ll each get reimbursed) of the Platinum Card, Mercedes-Benz Platinum, The Enhanced Business Platinum or Centurion cards
- a cardholder of the Citi Thank You Prestige card
- an existing US Airways Barclaycard cardholder, as you’ll have the option to upgrade to the Aviator Silver product, which offer credit for the GOES fee
If you’re a frequent international traveler like me—or are inspired to become one— I’d highly recommend paying the extra $15 for Global Entry. And if you often travel with a partner (e.g., a spouse, friend, colleague, etc.), you might both want to apply for Global Entry, so neither of you has to wait for the other to clear security.
If you’ve opted for Global Entry status and want to ensure that you get TSA Precheck every time you travel through an eligible airport, be sure to see Updated TSA Travel Tips for TSA Precheck and Global Entry for all the tips, tricks and suggestions you need to know.
The CLEAR approved travelers have their own separate lane for the first step, where you can utilize biometric authentication (fingerprint or eye scan) at a kiosk rather than wait for a TSA agent to inspect your ID and scribble something on your boarding pass. To use CLEAR you must first enroll online, and then visit an airport location where your identity is verified and your biometrics are recorded. Thankfully, you can do this quickly at any CLEAR location with no appointment necessary, and your access card will then be shipped to you within five days. However, this program is available at only 10 airports in the United States (with two more coming soon).
The normal rate for CLEAR membership is $179 per year, with an additional $50 per family member (remember, children under 18 receive free access with members). TPG readers can use the promo code CLEARTPG15 to get a discounted membership of $149 for the first year. You can either enter the code manually or use this link to input the code automatically. In addition, the Visa Signature program offers six months of free CLEAR membership and $60 off the $179 annual rate when you renew your membership automatically.
Other options for expedited security are the Nexus and Sentri programs. You can also check out other posts on Global Entry and Precheck for more information and resources. Whatever you chose, I recommend you apply soon so you can be sure to move through security quickly and hassle-free.
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