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The Top Cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck in 2016

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card

Waiting in long lines for security and immigration can take the joy out of travel, which is where TSA PreCheck and Global Entry come in. These two programs grant you access to fast-track screening when you fly and when you return from abroad, respectively, and luckily their application fees are covered by several top credit cards. TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen has the full scoop below.

I have a confession to make. Despite traveling internationally for years (often courtesy of points and miles), I didn’t sign up for Global Entry until this past summer. Clearly I didn’t think about all of the reasons why Global Entry rocks, nor did I consider the fact that membership automatically includes TSA PreCheck. Fortunately, there are several premium travel rewards credit cards that include fee credits for Global Entry membership (typically $100 for five years), and today, I want to highlight the top five of these cards to consider in 2016.

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve

sapphire-reserve-review-feat
A Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee waiver is just one of many outstanding perks on the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.

Chase recently introduced this Ulimate Rewards-earning premium card, and it doesn’t disappoint. It earns 3x points on all travel and dining purchases — equal to a 6.3% return, vs. 4.2% for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It also offers an application fee waiver for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and it resets every four years even though your membership in each program is good for five (meaning it could be a great opportunity to gift entry into one of these programs to someone else).

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first four months, worth $2,100 based on TPG’s valuations. It comes with a $450 annual fee, but it justifies the cost with some outstanding perks, including:

  • A $300 annual travel credit
  • Redeem Ultimate Rewards points for 1.5 cents apiece through the Chase travel portal
  • Priority Pass Select lounge membership
  • No foreign transaction fees

2. Citi Prestige

Citi Prestige Featured
The Citi Prestige is one of my top picks for Global Entry membership given the array of valuable benefits on the card.

One of the things that finally prompted me to apply for Global Entry was the fact that I opened the Citi Prestige in August (despite some initial application issues). The card includes a $100 fee credit for Global Entry every five years, and the credit posted to my account in the same billing cycle as the charge:Global Entry credit

This card earns a spot on my list for more reasons than this fee credit, however. For starters, the Citi Prestige is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 40,000 ThankYou points after spending $4,000 within the first three months, worth $640 based on TPG’s most recent valuations. The card also includes a wealth of additional benefits, including:

The card does come with a $450 annual fee, though the benefits above can may make it very worthwhile.

2. The Platinum Card from American Express

The Amex Platinum Card has lost some benefits, but new amenities like a growing list of Centurion Lounges keep it on my list of top cards.
You can have more time to relax in the Centurion Lounge after utilizing your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck benefit from the Platinum Card.

Another card that provides a fee credit for Global Entry is the Platinum Card from American Express. Just like the Prestige, this is a benefit you can use once every five years, but unlike the Prestige, it can also be used to cover the $85 fee for TSA PreCheck. This may seem like a great option, especially since the TSA ended its managed inclusion program earlier in the year. However, remember that when you apply for Global Entry, it automatically includes access to TSA PreCheck. Even if you don’t have any immediate plans for international travel, it makes sense to go for Global Entry, since the Amex Platinum will cover your $100 membership fee (and will typically post within a few days).

Of course, the Platinum Card carries a number of additional intriguing benefits. The current sign-up bonus on the card is 40,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases in your first three months (though be sure to check the CardMatch tool to make sure you aren’t targeted for a bonus of up to 100,000 points). Like the Prestige, it also includes a wealth of additional perks:

The card does come with a $450 annual fee.

3. The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card

A room in the Ritz-Carlton Santiago.
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card provides access to valuable redemptions and includes a $300 annual travel credit that can cover Global Entry membership fees.

The third card on my list is one that tends to fly under the radar a bit: the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card. While this doesn’t offer a specific Global Entry or PreCheck credit, it does give you an annual $300 travel credit, and this can be used for these membership fees. In fact, Global Entry is listed as an eligible charge on the card’s application page:

Ritz travel credit

One of the nice things about this benefit is that you aren’t restricted to a single membership fee. I was only able to get $100 credited back on my Citi Prestige, even though I pay a total of $300 for Global Entry memberships for my wife, daughter and me. If I had the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card, I could’ve received credits for all three fees. Unfortunately, you do need to call to request these statements credits, so it isn’t automatically applied (unlike with the Prestige and Amex Platinum). Still, this can be a nice way to cover the fees for multiple memberships.

The card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of two complimentary nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. It also includes several additional benefits, including (but not limited to):

  • 5 points per dollar spent at Ritz-Carlton and Marriott hotels
  • 3 upgrades to the Ritz-Carlton Club Level each year (valid on paid stays)
  • $100 hotel credit on paid stays of two nights or longer
  • Automatic Gold Elite status in the first year (maintained with $10,000 in yearly spending or upgraded to Platinum with $75,000 in yearly spending)
  • No foreign transaction fees

The card does come with a $395 annual fee.

4. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

$450 is a hefty annual fee, but the card comes with a lot of benefits
For a $450 annual fee, you’ll get Admirals Club membership and a $100 Global Entry credit (among other benefits).

A final credit card to consider for getting free Global Entry is the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard. The benefit was just added last April and gives you a statement credit of up to $100 for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every five years. This card compared quite favorably with the Citi Prestige prior to this benefit being announced, so this relatively new benefit only tightened the comparison.

The card is also currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Other benefits include (but are not limited to):

The card does come with a $450 annual fee.

Bottom Line

There’s no denying that Global Entry and TSA PreCheck make travel more pleasant by expediting your journey through the airport. Even though I’ve only had one international trip since signing up for Global Entry, I have enjoyed utilizing PreCheck on every domestic flight since being approved (including flights on JetBlue, Southwest, American and Delta). Remember that these fee credits don’t have to be used on you as the primary cardholder; any Global Entry fee should eligible. If you aren’t currently a member, now’s a great time to join to make the most of your 2016 travels!

Which credit card do you plan to use for your Global Entry membership?

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

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  • New! Earn 100K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,500 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels charged to your card
  • 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, no foreign transaction fees
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,500 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 900+ airport lounges worldwide with complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre√®
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable $450 0% Excellent Credit