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Why you may not need your boarding pass to get through airport security

March 02, 2020
4 min read
Why you may not need your boarding pass to get through airport security
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Getting through airport security is 0% fun said absolutely everyone everywhere.

However, there are ways to make the process easier. Yes, having TSA PreCheck absolutely helps, but it's not the only way to make the security process a little bit better. Simply reducing the number of things you must dig out of your purse, wallet or backpack to display to TSA (while dragging your bags, holding onto your kids and trying to not slow up the line behind you), helps, too.

While those who use Clear are already used to the streamlined process of just showing your boarding pass to get through the security process, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been doing some different streamlining of its own.

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Select airports and security checkpoints around the country now have TSA credential authentication technology (CAT). The portable CAT machines help speed travelers through security a bit faster since TSA officials will simply scan your photo ID and send you on your way. No need to show your boarding pass.

I've been encountering this technology at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) since 2019, and while it was a shock at first to keep my boarding pass packed away, it's very handy to have one less thing to manage in your hands. As a TSA agent told me at CLT when I was visibly surprised to not display my boarding pass, "We have all the info we need to know about you right here."

Related: The most stressful parts of travel -- and how to fix them

Why don't you have to show a boarding pass at some airport?

The TSA is using portable scanners that are programmed to recognize and process 2,500 different types of identification — from U.S. passports and U.S. passport cards to driver's licenses to Real ID to Federal personal identity and more. For TSA officers, the machine helps them quickly recognize valid, expired or fraudulent IDs.

The CAT verified that this license has expired. (Photo courtesy of the TSA)
The CAT verified that this license has expired. (Photo courtesy of the TSA)

The unit also seamlessly connects to the Secure Flight database, which confirms information like an individual's travel date, airline and flight number, making a boarding pass simply not necessary.

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Finally, the scanner can identify other screening benefits you're eligible for, such as TSA PreCheck. Note that you'll still need to check in to your flight and show your boarding pass or mobile board app to your airline's gate agent prior to boarding your aircraft. Also note that this is different than those airports, such as Tampa (TPA) and Seattle (SEA), that don't require travelers to have a boarding pass to enter the airport.

What airports have CAT units?

If you travel through major airports like Boston Logan International, Miami International and Phoenix Sky Harbor, you may have seen this new scanner in action before.

Here are a few of the U.S. airports that have confirmed their implementation of credential authentication technology for at least some of the security checkpoints:

  • Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
  • Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Miami International Airport (MIA)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
  • Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
  • Portland International Airport (PDX)
  • Sacramento International Airport (SMF)
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

According to the TSA, it plans to mobilize 500 CAT units at more than 40 American airports by the end of February 2020. Each CAT scanner costs $27,000 so this is a significant investment aimed at more effectively verifying the identity of individuals and at the same time making the security screening process faster, which is a goal we very much support.

Related: Best credit cards for getting TSA PreCheck

Additional reporting by Andrea Rotondo

Featured image by Getty Images

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
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  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023