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Back in July, I reported that the TSA planned to open up applications to its PreCheck security clearance program to the general public – until now, you had to be nominated by an airline or part of a trusted traveler program like Global Entry. While that might seem like great news for the flying public – giving anyone who passes a security check and is willing to pay the $85 fee to access to faster security lines (the fee is a non-refundable application fee that you have to pay whether you qualify or not), I lamented in a recent post that the TSA PreCheck ranks already seem to be bloated, making it the new slow line at security checkpoints. Well, application season is now open – and I predict things are only going to get worse in the PreCheck lanes.

TSA PreCheck application and enrollment is now open.
TSA PreCheck application and enrollment is now open.

Starting this week, U.S. citizens can apply online then visit an enrollment site and provide identification and fingerprints. TSA will start the program at two initial enrollment sites — Washington Dulles International Airport (not open yet) and Indianapolis International Airport (already open) — with plans to expand to additional enrollment sites nationwide.

Here are the rules:

  • Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) and cannot have been convicted of certain crimes. If an applicant has a record of any of the crimes identified in the eligibility requirements, they may choose not to apply, as the application fee is nonrefundable.
  • TSA Eligibility Requirements
  • Interested applicants must visit an application center to provide biographic information (name, date of birth, address, etc.), fingerprints and valid required identity and citizenship/immigration documentation. Applicants also have the option to pre-enroll online to provide basic information and make an appointment before visiting an enrollment center.
  • Nonrefundable application fee of $85.00.
  • After completing enrollment, successful applicants will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) via U.S. mail after approximately 2-3 weeks or may check online after five business days.

Initially, TSA is only accepting applications at the Indianapolis International Airport (IND) application center, beginning December 4, 2013.

TSA PreCheck isn
TSA PreCheck isn’t feeling so “expedited” lately – and that’s bound to get worse. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

What this means?

To date, more than 12 million travelers have already experienced TSA Pre-Check at 40 airports nationwide, and today’s announcement will expand the availability of this program to a larger portion of traveling U.S. citizens – which is both good news and bad news.

While I still think TSA PreCheck is a great initiative, in order to be effective and truly speed up the security process, the program definitely has to expand right now to accommodate the flood of flyers sure to stream in and take advantage of this offer. Bottom line: more airports need more security checkpoints with more PreCheck lanes.

I personally wouldn’t pay $85 for this since you could just apply for Global Entry for $100, which is only $15 more and not only will you qualify for PreCheck but you will be able to access expedited immigration lines as well. That is, if you have to pay at all. Many credit cards will refund the Global Entry fee, including the Amex Platinum, Mercedex-Benz Platinum and Business Platinum cards, as well as the Citi Prestige card. You can also get the fee refunded, and United Global Services, Premier 1K and Platinum members get reimbursed by United.

So while part of me is happy for the additional flyers who will have this access, another part of me is groaning at the longer lines this means for all of us – back to the elite lane for me!

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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.

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