Should I Use Global Entry or the Mobile Passport App?

Nov 20, 2016

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TPG reader Troy sent me a message on Facebook to ask about expedited security programs:

“Do I need Global Entry if I have Mobile Passport?”

If you’re looking for ways to get through airport checkpoints more quickly, you have some options. Global Entry is a great service for frequent flyers, and my membership has saved me from long lines during both international and domestic travel. Mobile Passport can also come in handy and has the advantage of being free, but the program is relatively new and limited. I think of it as a backup plan rather than a first choice for getting through immigration quickly.

Mobile Passport is available at 20 airports, but the current roster has some noteworthy exclusions (such as Los Angeles, Charlotte and Detroit). In comparison, Global Entry is available at 43 domestic airports (including all but one of the Mobile Passport locations) and 15 international destinations. If your home airport (or preferred international gateway) doesn’t support Mobile Passport, then it won’t do you much good. In that case, I think getting Global Entry is a no-brainer.

If both programs are available, then there’s little reason not to get Mobile Passport. It’s easy to use, and the line may actually be shorter than the one for Global Entry, so you can just pick one upon arrival. Mobile Passport also lets you create separate profiles for members of your family, so it’s convenient when you travel together. Of course, the program requires that you have a compatible device with a data plan or Wi-Fi access — that’s probably not an issue for most people, but not everyone has a smartphone or tablet.

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Mobile Passport is currently unavailable at several major US airports, including LAX. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

There are two obstacles to getting Global Entry (assuming you’re eligible). One is that it costs $100 to apply or renew your membership, but there are several travel rewards cards that offer a statement credit to cover the fee. Even if you don’t have one of those cards, I think the price is justified considering you also get the benefits of TSA PreCheck. The other is that scheduling an interview can be tricky, but there are strategies for working around the backlog at enrollment centers.

Ultimately, I recommend signing up for both programs unless you have no use for TSA PreCheck and you don’t have a card that offers a statement credit for Global Entry. In that case, Mobile Passport may be good enough.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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