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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.

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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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    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

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    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.

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Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees