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Answering your questions about TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and Clear

Nov. 19, 2021
5 min read
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Chances are you’re likely among the 53 million-plus Americans expected to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday this year.

Traveling this time of year is often a reminder of how stressful doing so can be. Fortunately, there are travel tips, tools and strategies that can serve you well at the holidays and beyond, especially when it comes to maximizing convenience at airports thanks to expedited security programs.

This week’s column answers your questions about Global Entry, TSA PreCheck and Clear – and explains why you should consider all three.

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Here are this week’s top five questions:

How does Global Entry work?

People who travel abroad frequently often depend on Global Entry to speed up the process of returning to the U.S.

(Photo by baona/Getty Images)

When it works properly, the U.S. government’s “trusted traveler” program helps U.S. passport holders and permanent residents pass through U.S. Customs and Border Protection in just a few minutes, without having to scan their passports.

Not unlike other expedited security programs, Global Entry verifies your identity using biometrics and then prints out a receipt to be verified by a CBP officer. When it works, it’s seamless and makes you wonder how you ever traveled without it.

If you travel internationally at least once a year, consider paying $100 for Global Entry.

Read more about Global Entry here.

Any tips on getting an appointment for Global Entry?

Under normal circumstances, Global Entry is the quickest way for Americans to get back into the country after arriving home from abroad, but pandemic-related staffing shortages not only resulted in a slow reentry process for one TPG staffer recently at New York-JFK but also have led to a lack of appointments for the required interview.

(Photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images)

For example, at my home airport, Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), the soonest available Global Entry appointment is Feb. 1, 2022. If you encounter delays when attempting to schedule an interview, know that Global Entry does offer enrollment on arrival at airports across 29 states and six countries, where you can complete your interview as part of the immigration and customs process when traveling abroad.

Alternatively, you can stop by an airport without an appointment and see if there are any spots available; check to see if any appointments are available first thing in the morning or check availability in cities nearby. Expect delays for both renewals and new applicants.

Does Global Entry mean I won’t have to remove my shoes and belt at security?

If you are concerned about the hassle of removing your shoes and belt, make sure you have TSA PreCheck, which is an expedited security program (detailed below) that helps you move through U.S. airports faster and easier. You typically don't need to remove your laptop, shoes, belt or toiletry bag.

TSA screening at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Although a Global Entry membership includes TSA PreCheck, Global Entry is an expedited border clearance program, and on its own will not help you speed through airport security on your way to your flight.

How does Global Entry differ from TSA PreCheck?

For $85, TSA PreCheck makes it possible to move through the Transportation and Security Administration security line faster at more than 200 participating U.S. airports. Typically, you won't have to remove your shoes, food, laptop, liquids, belt or light jacket.

Valid for five years, this expedited security program is included with Global Entry, which is the aforementioned expedited customs screening program you can use when you return to the U.S. from abroad.

Read more about Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck in our guide here.

TSA Pre-Check checkpoint entry sign at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Should you get Global Entry, TSA PreCheck and Clear?

Let’s start with Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.

“If you can’t decide between the two programs, my advice is to apply for Global Entry,” says TPG’s Katie Genter. “For an additional $15, you can get all the benefits of TSA PreCheck as well as expedited clearance when returning to the U.S.”

If you depart primarily from the U.S., I would highly recommend also getting Clear for $179 annually to maximize the chances of speeding through security at any entry point, as Clear enables you to skip the two-step security process biometrically by verifying your identity in a Clear-only line at 39 U.S. airports (and counting).

If you have Clear and also have TSA PreCheck, you are escorted to the front of the TSA PreCheck line for your final security screening.

In my experience, this combination of Clear and TSA PreCheck has helped me get through security thus far in less than five minutes each time.

Remember, many credit cards reimburse or provide credits for all three programs, so apply now since you’re likely going to have to wait for an appointment for Global Entry. For Clear, you can sign up on the spot in minutes at an airport.

Check out our TSA PreCheck vs. Clear guide for more reading.

TSA PreCheck security point at Miami International Airport. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Have a question for next week? Email me at caroline.tanner@thepointsguy.com or tips@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image by Getty Images
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.

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