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Results in 15 minutes: What to know about the at-home COVID-19 test approved for travel

May 25, 2021
5 min read
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While it has generally been getting easier to obtain a COVID-19 test for travel purposes, turnaround times can still vary depending on where you’re located.

But on your next drugstore store run, you can pick up allergy medicine, eggs, paper towels -- and now, a COVID-19 test. Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded the testing program for international travel to the United States, allowing airlines to accept at-home instant tests that include remote supervision.

TPG recently reviewed Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Home Test, which is now CDC-approved for travel to the U.S. And United Airlines announced that this particular test is compatible with the airline’s “Travel-Ready Center,” making it easy to link your results with your reservation. Each test comes with two tests per box, and the company says to swab yourself twice within three days, with at least 36 hours between. A second Abbott rapid test also offers quick results but can’t be used for travel.

To find out more about how Abbott’s rapid COVID-19 test works, TPG spoke with Dr. Mary Rodgers, the principal scientist at Abbott and an infectious disease research and diagnostics, through video chat.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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What is the Abbott rapid COVID-19 test?

Dr. Mary Rodgers: [The test] is a very simple to use tool that is allowing us to have more confidence as we come back to a new sense of normal in travel, especially in everyday life.

It's something that you can pick up at a store and do in the comfort of your home for yourself or even for your children. This is approved for use as young as 2 years old with adults.

Who will benefit most from Abbott’s at-home COVID-19 test?

Dr. Rodgers: This test is specifically going to work well for people who want to know if someone is contagious. It detects people who are at that level of their infection, where they could spread it to other people -- that's where it has the most utility.

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And so that can really be a number of scenarios, [like] someone who's going to get on an airplane to someone who's going to visit at a family gathering and not everyone's vaccinated. Even just wondering if someone has allergies or [COVID-19] -- sometimes it's hard to tell. So, having one of these in a medicine cabinet certainly allows you to answer that question whenever it does come up.

Does this test work if you’re fully vaccinated?

Dr. Rodgers: So far, any COVID-19 infection would present the same on a test, regardless of whether someone's vaccinated.

If you have the virus at a level that could be contagious to other people, you would come up as positive on this test. There's still ongoing work to understand how common that may be when people are vaccinated, especially with different versions of vaccines. All of those different scenarios are still kind of being evaluated in real-time to determine how likely someone would get COVID-19 and be contagious. But the test works whether someone's been vaccinated or not.

Is this a good test for travelers?

Dr. Rodgers: It's the most affordable and the fastest turnaround, [and] the simplest test to do. The fact that it's widely available also makes it particularly useful for people who are traveling because you could pick it up anywhere in the U.S., regardless of whether you're coming or going from a particular area because [chains nationwide] carry the test.

Where can you buy a test, and how much does it cost?

Dr. Rodgers: Walmart, CVS and Walgreens, and it’s available over the counter. It's [a] self-reported [test] so [it’s not being] added into the system.

The home test, which was [in] the United announcement, is where someone's walking [you through the test], and you're getting digital verified results. And someone watched you take the test and [digitally sends the test results.] That's the proctored digital verified results, which is $25 per test because you're getting all of those things as part of it. And the over-the-counter [non-proctored test] is $23.99.

Even with vaccines, why is rapid testing still necessary?

Dr. Rodgers: Rapid testing is still important, even with vaccines, because until the whole world is vaccinated, we're going to continue to be at risk and need to know whether someone has been infected.

As long as that need is there, we'll need to have rapid tests available to have as much testing as possible. The testing needs have evolved, and advocates [are] trying to fill those needs to have as many options available as possible. Because the more people that can get tested, the closer we can get to reducing cases and hopefully seeing a new phase where we're getting into recovery [as positive cases decrease].

How accurate is the test?

Dr. Rodgers: For people who are within seven days of when they start to feel sick or when they got infected, there's over 95% accuracy of detecting an infection. And that's people who are most contagious because they have a level of virus that's high enough to easily be detected by an antigen test.

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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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
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

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • 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.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees