Top credit cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new card details and information.
If you travel even a few times a year, you know how frustrating it can be dealing with airport security. And if you’ve ever flown internationally, the lines at U.S. Customs to re-enter the country can be even worse, even if you’re traveling on a U.S. passport.
Fortunately, there are ways to minimize your wait times at both of these stations. My personal favorites are Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck. Even though these programs carry fees, they can easily be avoided — if you have the right credit card(s) in your wallet.
Many travelers might be scoping out the best way to apply for or renew Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck now that application offices are open again. There are plenty of tricks out there for scoring an appointment upon arrival, using services to book the best interview slot and more. But the easiest way to avoid the out-of-pocket cost associated with applying for Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck is to have a card in your wallet that offers a credit for such expenses (worth up to $100).
Today I want to highlight the best ones to do just that.
The best credit cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- United℠ Explorer Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
- IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
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Comparing the best credit cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
|CREDIT Card||sign-up Bonus/welcome offer||Annual Fee|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||$550|
|The Platinum Card from American Express||75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership; 10x points at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, up to $15,000 in combined eligible purchases for the first 6 months. Terms apply.||$550 (see rates & fees)|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||60,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.||$95|
|United Explorer Card||40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months.||$95, waived the first year|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card||75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||$450 (see rates & fees)|
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card||50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.||$95|
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®||50,000 American Airlines miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||$450|
|IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card||140,000 IHG points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||$89|
For starters, it’s important to note the differences between the two programs. Global Entry has a $100 fee for a five-year membership that covers expedited entry back into the U.S., plus TSA PreCheck. If you only want PreCheck, you’ll pay $85 for a five-year membership, but this won’t help with clearing passport control after an international trip. Since it’s just a $15 premium for Global Entry and you get automatic PreCheck, I always recommend going that route, although you may find that PreCheck in conjunction with the Mobile Passport app will be sufficient if you don’t travel out of the U.S. regularly.
With any of the cards below, you’re eligible for a fee credit every four or five years for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck when you pay for the membership with the card. Note that you don’t need to be paying for your own membership: as long as the application fee is charged to the card and you haven’t already utilized the perk, the credit should automatically be applied to your next statement.
Best credit cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck benefit: Application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years.
Annual fee: $550
Our take: If you don’t mind shelling out a high annual fee for a premium travel rewards credit card that includes a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck waiver, consider going for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. As with the others, you’re eligible for this perk once every four years, although it’s a single credit per account; authorized users do not get their own credit despite an annual fee of $75 apiece. The statement credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve should post within 24 hours of being charged to the card.
The card also offers a host of other valuable perks, including a large sign-up bonus (50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening), 3x points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining purchases, a $300 annual travel credit and Priority Pass Select membership.
And through March 2022, you’ll earn 10x points on Lyft rides and can register for a free year of Lyft Pink (15% off Lyft rides and more). The Reserve also comes with $60 in DoorDash credit in 2020 and another $60 in credit for 2021 and you can get at least a complimentary year of DashPass (normally $9.99/month), which gets you waived delivery fees on orders of $12 or more at participating restaurants. You need to register for the DashPass perk by Dec. 31, 2021.
Finally, the card also has a number of temporary perks available right now added to help cardholders better use the card while travel is on hold. They include: using the $300 travel credit on grocery stories (ends Dec. 31, 2020); earning 3x on up to $1,000 in monthly grocery store purchases through April 30, 2021; a new $120 annual Peloton credit through Dec. 31, 2021, to cover monthly Peloton Digital ($13) and All-Access ($39) memberships; and the Pay Yourself Back feature, which allows you to redeem each point worth 1.5 cents toward a statement credit to offset purchases at grocery stores, home improvement stores and dining establishments through April 30, 2021.
The Ultimate Rewards points you earn can be redeemed directly for travel at the rate of one and a half cents per point, but you can get even more value by transferring them to partners such as British Airways and Hyatt. Even though the card carries a $550 annual fee, you can easily get a ton of value from it, especially in the first year.
APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck benefit: Application fee credit for Global Entry every four years or TSA PreCheck every four and a half years
Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)
Our take: This valuable card with a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck waiver offers the benefit once every four to four and half years. The statement credit may take up to eight weeks to post to your card, although in reality it is often much quicker. One notable difference with this card is that it doesn’t only apply to primary cardholders; authorized users are each eligible for their own statement credits when they pay the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee with their own Amex Platinum cards.
Authorized users on this card aren’t free, but it only costs $175 annually to add up to three of them (that’s $175 total, not per authorized user (see rates and fees). So if you have two or three family members who can each use the $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck waivers, you’ll immediately come out ahead, and those authorized users will also get many of the same benefits from the card as you do. Just make sure that they charge the Global Entry application fee to their own Amex Platinum.
Speaking of perks, this card is loaded with them, including an up to $200 annual airline fee credit, Centurion Lounge access and Delta Sky Club access when flying Delta, Gold status with Marriott and Hilton, 5x points on airfare booked directly with airlines or via American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, starting Jan. 1, 2021).
New cardmembers can also earn a welcome offer of 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first six months of card membership (but be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re targeted for a 125,000-point bonus; offer subject to change at any time). Plus, you’ll get 10x on U.S. gas station and U.S. supermarket purchases in the first six months up to $15,000 in combined eligible purchases. Of course, Amex also added a number of temporary benefits to the Amex Platinum to help cardholders maximize rewards during COVID-19 while other benefits have become less valuable.
Given these array of valuable benefits, the card carries a significant annual fee of $550. However, when you consider the value you’re getting from the card, that annual fee can be well worth it.
APPLY HERE: The Platinum Card from American Express
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck benefit: Application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years (up to $100)
Annual fee: $95
Our take: Capital One Venture Card holders are eligible for one statement credit every four years when you charge either the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee to your Venture card. The credit will appear within two billing cycles, so you may need to wait a bit for it to post.
If you’re a new cardholder, you’re eligible for a sign-up bonus of 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. You’ll earn 2x miles per dollar on purchases.
APPLY HERE: Capital One Venture Rewards Card
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck benefit: Application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years
Annual fee: $0 the first year, then $95
Our take: This card was launched in June 2018 as a replacement for the now-defunct United MileagePlus Explorer Card. The United Explorer Card offers cardholders a statement credit to cover the application fee for either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) every four years. There are two main reasons why this card earns a high spot on this list. For starters, the card carries just a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year, so you can snag this credit for no upfront cost. In addition, according to the offer details page, the credit will actually post to your account within 24 hours of the charge, an incredibly fast turnaround that few other cards have.
The card is currently offering 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months. In addition to earning 2x miles on United purchases, you’ll also enjoy 2x miles at restaurants and on hotel accommodations booked directly with the hotel. The card also provides a ton of perks on United, including a free checked bag for you and a companion, priority boarding, 25% back on inflight purchases, two, one-time United Club airport lounge passes a year and expanded award availability. Even if you only fly United a handful of times per year, the value adds up very quickly.
APPLY HERE: United Explorer Card
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck benefit: Application fee credit for either Global Entry (every four years) or TSA PreCheck (every four and a half years) worth up to $100.
Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)
Our take: This card is offering 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex card also earns 6x points at participating Marriott hotels, 3x points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2x points everywhere else.
This card is loaded with enough top-tier perks (beyond the Global Entry/PreCheck credit) to make it worth the annual fee. For starters, you’ll get Gold Marriott Bonvoy elite status, 15 elite night credits annually and a free night award (for properties costing up to 50,000 points) every card anniversary. This card also comes with a Priority Pass Select Membership, which gets you and up to two guests unlimited Priority Pass lounge visits. All of that is on top of an annual up to $300 credit for Marriott purchases, including room rates.
APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck benefit: Application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years (up to $100).
Annual fee: $95
Our take: This is another card with a low annual fee level and a Global Entry/PreCheck credit. As with the prior entries, you’re eligible for a statement credit to cover either program’s application fee every four years when you charge it to the card. Allow seven days for the credit to post to your account after making the purchase.
In addition to the Global Entry/PreCheck perk, the Premium Rewards card is loaded with additional value, especially for loyal Bank of America customers. New applicants will receive 50,000 bonus points after they make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1.5 points per dollar spent on everything else, though these are elevated by 25%-75% if you’re a Preferred Rewards member of the bank.
These points can then be used at a rate of one cent per point toward a variety of redemptions, including statement credits, cash back, travel or gift cards. You’re also eligible for an additional up to $100 in credits every year to cover incidental airline fees, though the card’s $95 annual fee is not waived for the first year.
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck benefit: Application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every five years.
Annual fee: $450
Our take: If you’re a loyal American Airlines flyer (or reside in one of the carrier’s hubs), consider opening the AAdvantage Executive Card to help you speed through passport control and security. This card also provides an application fee credit for either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), although unlike others on the list, it only applies once every five years. As a result, you’ll need to wait to apply until your current membership is just about expired if you want to receive the credit. Bear in mind, too, that it may take one-two billing cycles for the credit to appear.
Even though the card carries a $450 annual fee, you can still get a ton of value from the card beyond this Global Entry/PreCheck perk. The card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.
It also comes with a full Admirals Club membership, giving you access to lounges in nearly 90 countries (with same-day boarding pass for eligible flight). You can also add authorized users for free and give them access to Admirals Clubs, although this is only valid at the Admirals Clubs (a same-day boarding pass for an eligible American Airlines or partner flight required) and not partner lounges. Since it costs $550 to buy a new Admirals Club membership outright (or $500 to renew an existing one), the $450 annual fee on this card is a steal either way.
You’ll also enjoy a number of perks to make your American flying experience easier and less expensive. You (and up to eight traveling companions on the same reservation) can check your first bag for free, a savings of $50 per person on a round-trip itinerary. You’ll also earn 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, plus enjoy priority check-in, security and boarding along with 25% off eligible inflight purchases. Finally, if you need a few extra Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) to earn status on American this year, note that you’ll get 10,000 EQMs after spending $40,000 in a calendar year on this card, though remember you’ll still be subject to revenue requirements for reaching AA elite status as well.
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck benefit: Application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years.
Annual fee: $89
Our take: The card currently has a sign-up bonus of 140,000 IHG points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. This bonus is worth $700, according to TPG’s valuations and makes the card a great deal when you consider that it has one of the smallest annual fees of any card on this list.
Related reading: Maximizing IHG Rewards Club for family travel
Cardholders will also automatically get IHG Platinum status, an annual reward night every account anniversary (valid at IHG hotels that cost up to 40,000 points per night) and access to a fourth reward night on points stays of four or more nights. You’ll earn 10x IHG points at IHG hotels, 2x points at restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores and one IHG point per dollar everywhere else. Plus, any account year that you spend $20,000 or more you’ll earn 10,000 bonus points. And if you make points purchases with your card you’ll receive a 20% discount, but this benefit doesn’t stack with IHG-point sales.
APPLY HERE: IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
How we chose the best cards for Global Entry and TSA/PreCheck
The most obvious requirement for being chosen for this list is that each card has a statement credit benefit for your Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee. But this isn’t an exhaustive list of cards that offer these credits. Instead, it represents the cards that provide the perk and offer the most valuable additional benefits to card holders, such as airport lounge access or travel credits. While travel perks such as lounge access may not be something on everyone’s top benefits list right now with travel still limited, these remain the cards that will provide frequent travelers the most value long-term.
We also considered whether authorized users also receive the benefit, the card’s sign-up bonus and other factors when narrowing down the list to our favorite cards.
Should I get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry?
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are both trusted traveler programs. TSA PreCheck gets you expedited security screening when you’re flying with a participating airline and 73 airlines (and counting) that are part of the program. If the TSA PreCheck security lane is available (and operating) at the airport, you’ll not only have access to a much shorter line, but you won’t need to remove your shoes or belt and you can leave your laptop or liquids in your bag. This can be a lifesaver if you’re running late for a flight. The TSA PreCheck application fee is $85 and after submitting your application you’ll need to complete a background check and in-person interview. A TSA PreCheck membership is valid for five years.
The process for applying for Global Entry is similar to TSA PreCheck, but the application fee is $100 and there are almost always much longer wait times to schedule an interview. You can get around this by getting an interview on arrival at some locations. Once you’re approved for Global Entry you’ll have access to TSA PreCheck security lanes and you’ll also get expedited customs when returning to the U.S. through any of these airports. Global Entry is also valid for five years, so for only $15 more you’re getting TSA PreCheck expedited security plus you can speed through U.S. Customs.
Related: 12 things to know about TSA PreCheck
Unless you aren’t in a position to wait the extra time it takes to be approved for Global Entry that’s the one you’ll want to apply for. Otherwise, get TSA PreCheck and just use Mobile Passport when returning to the U.S. Just keep in mind that you can’t use Mobile Passport and Global Entry at the same time.
Security checkpoints and passport control desks can make or break your travel day, adding unnecessary delays and hassles to an already stressful transit experience. Wouldn’t it be nice to not only speed through these lines but also do so for free? As you can see, there are many valuable travel rewards credit cards that provide application fee waivers for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. If you’re still planning your next trip and want to save some time, consider adding one of the best travel credit cards to your wallet now. Then try not to laugh at the poor souls in the “regular” traveler lines as you breeze your way through the airport.
Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson.
Featured photo by Arne Beruldsen/Shutterstock
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