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Is TSA PreCheck worth it?

Jan. 10, 2023
7 min read
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By this point, you've likely at least heard about the expedited airport security program TSA PreCheck. Perhaps you've tried it out yourself, or maybe you've seen the TSA PreCheck line at the airport and wondered what it was.

Well, I am here to tell you that TSA PreCheck is one of the most valuable investments you can make as a traveler, thanks to the amount of time it saves and the peace of mind it provides.

Here's your ultimate guide to TSA PreCheck, including how the program works, how much it costs and why it's worth every penny.

What is TSA PreCheck?


TSA PreCheck is a "trusted traveler" program administered by the U.S. government. It allows pre-screened, low-risk travelers to use a PreCheck-designated security line rather than pass through the normal U.S. Transportation Security Administration line at the airport.

PreCheck users generally pass through security faster than they would otherwise since they pass through without taking off their shoes, belts or light jackets, or removing their quart-size liquids bag or electronics from their carry-on luggage.

Also, these travelers are generally screened via walk-through security machines versus full-body scanners.

Currently, travelers can use TSA PreCheck lanes at more than 200 U.S. airports when flying on 85 participating domestic and foreign airlines.

How much does TSA PreCheck cost?

A five-year TSA PreCheck membership costs $78. You can renew your application, online or in person, up to six months before its expiration date for $70.

To pay for application fees, be sure to use one of the roughly 50 cobranded airline, hotel and other credit cards that offer up to $100 in statement credit reimbursement for the fees associated with trusted traveler programs, including TSA PreCheck.

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A full list of credit cards with this feature is available here.

Additionally, some loyalty programs allow you to use points or miles to cover the membership fees. However, the return per point is usually less than current TPG points valuations, so we would suggest using a credit card to get a statement credit instead.

Does TSA PreCheck save you time at the airport?

TSA PreCheck can save you an enormous amount of time you would otherwise spend waiting in line for security.

Not only can I attest to this personally, but 91% of PreCheck passengers reported waiting less than five minutes at airport security checkpoints nationwide in October alone, based on TSA data.

There may be rare occasions when there is a wait at the PreCheck line. However, I have not encountered this in my experience as a PreCheck user for almost a decade.

On average, I pass through PreCheck security in three minutes or less at the airports I frequently fly from, including O'Hare International Airport (ORD), Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA).

Is TSA PreCheck worth it?


I could sing the praises of TSA PreCheck all day long, but don't just take my word for it. I'm not alone in my enthusiasm for TSA PreCheck; TPG managing editor Clint Henderson said it saved him "hours of waiting time over the years," including on a recent trip to Hawaii.

"I absolutely love TSA PreCheck. I was taking my two nieces and nephew to Hawaii, along with my brother, who didn’t have PreCheck. I took all three kids in the PreCheck lanes while my brother had to wait in the regular line in San Jose, California," Clint told me. "We beat him through security by about 20 minutes, and it was a similar story on the way back. We killed 20 minutes waiting for my brother by shopping for souvenirs in the airport."

As a reminder, travelers age 12 and younger may use TSA PreCheck lanes when traveling with a parent or guardian who has it on their boarding pass.

The benefits of TSA PreCheck are particularly clear when traveling with people who don't have it.

"A friend and I flew from Houston to Miami earlier this year and didn't really think through how busy the airport would be on the first Monday of spring break. I had PreCheck; my friend didn't," said TPG senior credit cards editor Matt Moffit. "I got to the gate with about five minutes to spare before boarding ended. My friend was 20 minutes behind me. Luckily, our flight was delayed by 40 minutes, so we both made it, but it was a good lesson in how valuable the perk is."

Even if you are traveling with someone who doesn't have TSA PreCheck, your having it could help them in ways you might not expect, says TPG credit cards writer Ryan Smith.

"My wife lost her ID in the airport when we went to Alaska earlier this year. On our return flight, I went through PreCheck while she had to do extra screening, but I ran to our gate and told them she was coming," he said. "She entered the plane as they were closing the door. This wouldn't have been an issue if she'd been able to go through the PreCheck line, so it really drove home to us how great the benefit is."

If you know you're going to pass through a particularly busy airport or are just traveling at a busy time of year, such as during the holidays, TSA PreCheck is a must-have.


"Every time I go through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), especially during the holidays, I'm very happy I have TSA PreCheck. I take one look at the normal line — which is often looping back on itself many times — and am happy I don't have to wait in it," said TPG senior writer Katie Genter. "It's not just Atlanta — I have similar experiences in many U.S. airports and am always annoyed when I'm flying an airline that doesn't participate in PreCheck."

Like more than 90% of TSA PreCheck users, TPG editor Christine Gallipeau is grateful for TSA PreCheck since she usually waits no more than five minutes in line.

"Every time I fly home to Orlando for the holidays, I'm always grateful to have TSA PreCheck. Typically, my wait in the PreCheck line is no more than five minutes, whereas the regular security lines with lots of families with young kids and tons of equipment are often substantially longer," said Christine. "In the days before PreCheck, when I was a solo traveler stuck waiting behind all the families, my wait was often close to an hour (if not longer), so I'm very relieved to be able to get to the gate faster so I can try to grab a hard-to-find seat as I wait to board."

Beyond the time saved, passing through a PreCheck lane is just easier logistically, since you don't have to remove any of your belongings from your suitcase, or your body.

"Is it wrong that I only have PreCheck because I hate taking my shoes off?" joked TPG senior vice president of content Jamie Page Deaton. "It's like my socks know when I have to go through standard screening and start disintegrating as I walk over there. But seriously, PreCheck has saved me from waiting in long lines with cranky kids."

Bottom line

TSA PreCheck is just one tool that truly makes navigating air travel and airports much easier, quicker and overall more efficient than it would be without it.

For more information on using TSA PreCheck, read on:

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.