Who Should Get TSA PreCheck?

May 15, 2016

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If you haven’t yet seen the crazy TSA security lines that are happening around the country, you probably will. Not that TSA and security screenings have ever been the highlight of the flying process, but I’ve never seen so many consistent and widespread complains about insanely long security lines than I do now.

Avoid this line with TSA PreCheck
Avoid this line with TSA PreCheck

Heck, I saw a terrifyingly long security line at Las Vegas McCarran airport for myself just a couple of weeks ago, and I have never been so insanely grateful to have PreCheck as I have at that moment. In fact, I was grateful that my entire traveling party had PreCheck – including Grandma and Grandpa. PreCheck allowed us to not only go through a very short line, but also to keep on our shoes, our liquids in the bags, and more.


So, who should get TSA PreCheck? Well, given the current state of the security screenings in the United States, my own personal advice is darn near everyone who is eligible for PreCheck should get it. PreCheck lines are also a bit longer than they used to be, but 10 minutes in a PreCheck line is nothing compared to an hour or potentially even more in a standard security line, especially with your little kids. Also factor into the equation that TSA isn’t giving non-PreCheck approved travelers “random” PreCheck the way they used to.

10 minute PreCheck line
10 minute PreCheck line

Just last week there were reports of waits of one hour and forty five minutes at O’Hare – even getting to the airport two hours before your flight wouldn’t allow enough buffer time for that sort of security delay. You can check delays at your airport here. 

There are stories of airlines actually holding planes due to long security lines for delayed flyers and the airline group Airlines for America is encouraging those who are stuck in these crazy long lines to tweet pics with the hashtag #iHateTheWait.

In other words, it is really bad. Potentially worse than you have seen before, so you need to plan accordingly as the busiest travel months of the year begin. If you literally only fly once a year, it’s not the end of the world to get to the airport super early – like three hours early. However, if you fly with any regularity that is just not realistic or sustainable, especially if you have little kids.

My recommendations are that if you fly an average of at least twice two trips per year I would get PreCheck. Yes, it costs $85, or even better deal in my view at $100 if you also get Global Entry, but it lasts for five years. Even if you only fly two trips per year that is four times a year of hopefully only waiting 5-10 minutes instead of potentially an hour or more. This means you get 20 uses for $85 – $100, which seems like a solid deal to me. Children 12 and under can piggyback with their parents in the PreCheck line, but once they hit 13 they need PreCheck on their own to go through that line.

PreCheck does you very little good if everyone in your traveling party isn’t eligible, so traveling families absolutely should put “applying for PreCheck or Global Entry” near the top of their to-do list for everyone in their crew ages 12 and up. The very first time you get to avoid a winding and interminable regular TSA security line and instead get to speed through PreCheck you will know it was worth it. Some credit cards will cover your PreCheck or Global Entry application fee, but whether you pay out of pocket or not it is still worth it in my view – now more than ever.

What sort of security lines have you encountered recently? Has PreCheck been saving your family time at the airport?

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