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As a frequent international traveler, I appreciate anything that helps me save time in the immigration line. Today, TPG Contributor Richard Kerr explains how you can enjoy the benefits of Global Entry expedited security without having to pay extra.
A couple years ago, I arrived in Atlanta from Tokyo aboard a full Delta 747-400. As 375 of my fellow passengers and I approached immigration, we were disappointed to see just two officials on duty: one for Americans and one for foreigners. I glanced over at the unused Global Entry kiosks and told myself this would be the last time I stand in line entering my home country. In this post, I’ll cover the basics of Global Entry — the program that has since come to my rescue in such situations — and explain the different ways you can receive a credit for the $100 enrollment fee.
The Global Entry program is one of a few fast-track immigration programs offered around the world (several of which partner with Global Entry). Once you arrive at an airport after an international trip, you are “fast-tracked” to a Global Entry kiosk. You don’t have to fill out any customs forms on the plane or afterwards; you just insert your passport or US permanent resident card, place fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification and make a customs declaration. The kiosk issues you a transaction receipt, which you pass to a US Customs and Border Protection officer on your way to the baggage claim carousel.
How to Get Global Entry
1. Apply online and pay the $100 application fee. This fee is non-refundable, so if you think you might be denied and you don’t have one of the options discussed below for negating the application fee, don’t waste your money. The application process takes about 10 minutes, and you should receive email confirmation shortly after.
2. Schedule An Interview. Within about a week to 10 days (though it can be as little as 1-2 days) you should receive confirmation by email that you are conditionally approved. You must then log back into your Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account and select an appointment time at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers.
3. Complete Your Interview. At one of the enrollment centers, a US Customs Border Protection officer will ask you questions, take your photo and scan your fingerprints. Make sure to bring your passport and another valid form of ID like a drivers license. If you’re a lawful permanent resident, you must present your permanent resident card. This interview is usually quick, and serves mostly to teach you how to use the kiosk.
If approved, you’ll receive your Global Entry card with a trusted traveler number. Add this to your airline profile under the Known Traveler Number and you will also qualify for TSA PreCheck at participating airports. Your Global Entry approval is good for five years. As early as one year prior to expiration, you can log into your GOES account and select the blue Renew Application button.
How to Get the $100 Fee Credit
There are two ways to receive a credit for the non-refundable $100 Global Entry application fee: paying with a specific credit card, or holding certain airline elite status.
If you hold The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express or The Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, charge the $100 fee to your card and it will automatically be credited back only a few days after paying the fee. Platinum and Mercedes-Benz cardholders can add up to three additional cardholders for $175 (total), each of whom will also receive the $100 Global Entry fee credit. Business Platinum additional cardholders have a steeper annual fee of $300 (each), but also receive the Global Entry credit. American Express will credit you the fee once every five years.
If you were lucky enough to have your US Airways Dividend Miles credit card converted into an AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard, the Global Entry fee credit comes as a benefit of the $195 annual fee card. The card is not available to new applicants, but you may be offered the opportunity to upgrade your Aviator Red card (as I was) in order to get the higher earning rate of 3 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases, two $99 annual companion certificates, and the ability to earn 5,000 elite-qualifying miles after every $20,000 of spending on the card (up to 10,000 EQMs).
The Citi Prestige Card offers a $100 Global Entry fee credit, and the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard also added a Global Entry credit as a benefit this April. Use either card to pay the $100 fee and you will officially receive a statement credit 4-6 weeks after the charge posts. Most people report it takes about three weeks for the credit to automatically post to your statement.
The addition of the $100 credit certainly tightens the comparison between the AAdvantage Executive and Prestige cards. Generally, the Executive card is still best for American Airlines loyalists who value elite status, while Prestige offers a broader range of benefits as well as the ability to transfer ThankYou points to 12 different travel partners.
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card offers a liberal $300 annual travel credit to use on baggage fees, upgrades, seat selection, lounge access and Global Entry. In practice, I have been able to use this credit for just about anything travel-related, including infant ticketing fees for my son on a few intra-Asia flights, and a $50 Delta gift certificate. My wife and I got the card when it was offering a monster 140,000-point sign-up bonus at the end of last year. The ability for spouses to combine points free of charge means I have over 280,000 points to redeem with Ritz-Carlton or Marriott (since they share a rewards program); that’s enough for 7 nights in a category 7 Marriott property plus 77,000 United miles using Marriott’s Flight + Hotel awards.
Airline Elite Status
As part of Delta’s choice benefits, Delta Platinum Medallion members can receive a $100 voucher toward Global Entry enrollment. Delta Diamond Medallion members can receive two $100 vouchers and get to select another choice benefit. I do not believe these to be the most valuable choice benefit, but they’re available if you need them.
Unfortunately, in February of this year, United stopped offering Global Services, Premier 1K and Premier Platinum elite members a code that would credit the $100 Global Entry fee. If you were issued a code prior to February 1, 2015, it has now expired. However, I have usually had some luck getting those types of deadlines extended by reaching the right customer service agent.
It makes sense that the highest tier of airline elites would want Global Entry, and it’s nice that Delta still gives the option of awarding the $100 fee. All of the cards mentioned above offer additional perks that can help justify the annual fee.
Have you received a $100 Global Entry fee credit? With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.