7 reasons to get TSA PreCheck now — even during a pandemic

Jan 30, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current information. It was originally published in December 2019.


You’ve probably seen TSA PreCheck lanes at most US airports. If you don’t already have PreCheck but keep seeing the phrase pop up everywhere, you may be wondering what all the hype is about — and if it’s worth the $85 fee.

If you travel by air at all, you know that long security lines at the airport can be a huge hassle — and are definitely something we’re all trying to avoid during the pandemic when social distance is a virtue. TSA PreCheck gives you fast-pass access to airport security, making the stressful trek from airport curb to your gate quicker and easier than ever.

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Here are our favorite reasons for why TSA PreCheck will change your travel game for the better — especially during a pandemic.

PreCheck makes life easier

With TSA PreCheck, security is much less of a hassle. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
With TSA PreCheck, security is much less of a hassle. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

No matter how often you travel, the ability to access a dedicated security line at the airport is a very welcome benefit. With PreCheck, you don’t have to remove your laptop from your bag, and you can keep your shoes on as well. And you get to walk through a regular metal detector rather than standing still with your hands up as you pose for the body scanner.

PreCheck is an absolute no-brainer for convenience and speed when you’re traveling with children, a group of people or anyone with special needs — especially in wintertime when coats, bulky layers and other cold-weather gear add another level of complexity to the process.

Maintain [a little bit more] social distance from other travelers

woman airport face mask social distance
Photo by People Image Studio/Shutterstock

The pandemic has completely changed life as we know it. And while studies have shown that planes themselves carry a fairly minimal risk for coronavirus transmission, the same cannot always be said of airports, especially in high-traffic destinations where travelers may find themselves in close quarters at gates and in security lines.

Related: 8 ways travel has changed since the pandemic began

TSA PreCheck certainly won’t give you COVID immunity, but it can give you a little bit more distance from other travelers. You’ll usually move more quickly through a PreCheck security lane than you would in the regular line, and many PreCheck travelers are more experienced with passing through the screening itself, which means less time and less overlap between you and the people next to you.

Wanna learn more? These are the best credit cards for free airport lounge access

If you have access to a private airport lounge through airline status or holding a credit card, having PreCheck allows you to maximize time in a more comfortable waiting space rather than queueing up in the “regular” TSA line. And even if you don’t have lounge access, PreCheck means you can arrive a little later and spend just a little bit less time in the airport.

Skip the line — even outside of the airport

Back when concerts were a thing. Photo by Getty Images.

Of course, TSA PreCheck is most often associated with airport security. But did you know that the technology — and pre-screened approval — can carry over into other aspects of life?

Related: Clear’s expedited security program is now available in these stadiums and public venues

When life returns to normal after the pandemic ends, PreCheck holders can whisk through the security fast lane at select sporting events, concerts, music festivals and other shows with PreCheck clearance as well. You just need to have your Known Traveler Number handy.

It’s free with Global Entry

(Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

We often mention TSA PreCheck in the same breath as Global Entry, and that’s for a good reason. When you pay the $100 application fee and are accepted into the Global Entry program for expedited customs clearance, you’re also eligible for TSA PreCheck at no additional cost — so you save the $85 PreCheck application fee.

Related:

To make sure you’ll get PreCheck at participating airports, make sure you add your Known Traveler Number into your frequent flyer profile with each airline you fly.

Global Entry (and PreCheck) is included with select credit cards

(Photo by Eden Batki / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eden Batki / The Points Guy)

Even better than getting TSA PreCheck for free when you register for Global Entry, you can get the $100 Global Entry fee reimbursed with a variety of premium credit cards.

Related: Best credit cards for free Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

Some of the best cards that offer this perk include:

Each of the above-mentioned cards offers a reimbursement credit for the Global Entry fee in the form of an up to $100 statement credit. You’ll be able to utilize this perk once every five years when you need to renew your membership. And if you’re eligible for Global Entry with multiple cards, you can use the $100 credit toward a friend or family member’s application instead.

More than 200 airports participate

PreCheck and CLEAR saved tons of time when changing terminals (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
PreCheck can save you a ton of time when changing terminals. Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy

The great thing about TSA PreCheck is that you can use it throughout the U.S. You’ll find PreCheck lanes at more than 200 airports across the country, as well as in Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Related: Here are all the airlines that participate in TSA PreCheck

In contrast, the privately owned Clear expedited security program — also a very valuable designation to hold — is currently only available at 35 airports and 21 stadiums as of 2021.

You’ll have it for the next 5 years

Having this green checkmark can save you significant time at the airport.
Having this green checkmark can save you significant time at the airport.

Even if you don’t get PreCheck through Global Entry — and even if you don’t get the Global Entry fee waived with a credit card — paying $85 for expedited airport security could be worth it. It cuts down on wait times, and your membership is valid for five years, so you’re effectively paying less than $20 per year for the privilege. Remember, it doesn’t take many annual trips to the airport before this out-of-pocket expense pays for itself in convenience.

Related: Should you get TSA PreCheck or Clear? …Or both?

Original reporting by Sarah Silbert

Featured image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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