Credit cards: A focal part of my Global Entry interview

Nov 23, 2019

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I’ve enjoyed having Global Entry for the last five years, since it allows me to reenter the U.S. quickly and also provides TSA PreCheck benefits. So, as my membership expiration date approached, I reapplied for Global Entry on July 15.

I used my Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to pay the application fee, since it is one of many credit cards that will reimburse that cost (up to $100). I saw the credit for the fee post to my statement on July 18.

Related: 13 key things to know about Global Entry

But then I waited. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been processing most applications and renewals slowly, so my application stayed in the pending state for months. Luckily, CBP had announced that travelers who applied to renew their membership before it expired would continue to have access to Global Entry and TSA PreCheck for up to an additional year after expiration, so I continued using these programs as usual.

Related: Still waiting for your Global Entry renewal? You’re not alone, and here’s why

(Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Being able to use Global Entry kiosks when returning to the U.S. can save a lot of time. (Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

I was thrilled when I finally received an “application status change” email on Nov. 17. I logged in to my account, and saw I’d been conditionally approved but still needed to complete an interview. Luckily, I didn’t need to schedule an interview since I happened to be in Abu Dhabi with a flight to New York JFK the next day. You can do Global Entry interviews on arrival at some airports, and the U.S. pre-clearance facility in Abu Dhabi happens to be one of these locations.

Related: How to enroll in Global Entry on arrival

When I reached the U.S. pre-clearance facility before my flight, I didn’t see any signs noting where to go for a Global Entry interview. I asked a ground agent who was directing passengers and he said I should wait in the normal U.S. citizens line to speak to an agent.

The wait was about five minutes, but then my interview took about 20 minutes. The agent contacted a supervisor to get approval to do my interview, inserted my current Global Entry card into his computer and then asked me initial questions about:

  • My employer
  • What my job entails
  • Why I was in Abu Dhabi
  • What I saw in Abu Dhabi
  • Where I was before Abu Dhabi
  • Why I had a second U.S. passport
  • My home address
  • All the countries I’ve visited since I applied for Global Entry five years ago

Answers to most of these questions were quick and straightforward. But, just as my original Global Entry five years earlier in McAllen, Texas, had focused on one topic in detail (the robot soccer competitions that I’d travel abroad for each year) and my U.S. pre-clearance immigration screening during the electronics ban had focused on another topic in detail (Texas geography), this time my interviewer went deep on a different topic: credit cards.

After all, writing about credit cards and their benefits is my job. It’s unclear whether the agent’s system was prompting him with topics and questions or whether he just wanted to talk about credit cards, but he vaguely described two cards he said he had that I identified as the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard and the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.   

I didn’t expect to discuss credit card benefits during my Global Entry interview. (Photo by TPG staff)

He said he was struggling to see the value in his American Airlines card after moving from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi. In hindsight, I realize he left the floor open here for me discuss the card. I was easily up for the task, as I talked about how he wouldn’t be benefiting from many of the card’s benefits, like a free checked bag on domestic American Airlines flights, now that he wasn’t traveling within the U.S. frequently. I also talked about the Sapphire Reserve, but this discussion was shorter and mainly focused on the card’s travel and dining bonus categories.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which card is right for you?

After all the questions were complete, the agent took new fingerprints and photos before notifying me that I was approved. I checked my phone as I left the immigration area and noticed that I’d just received an “application status change” email. When I logged in to my account later, I confirmed that I was approved.

So, what’s the takeaway if you’ve been conditionally approved for Global Entry and have an upcoming interview or international flight for which you can do an interview on arrival? Here are my tips:

  • If you have a second passport, from the U.S. or another country, bring it and declare it during your interview
  • Prepare a list of all countries you’ve visited, both since your last Global Entry application and in your lifetime
  • Bring documents providing evidence of residency, like a driver’s license or mortgage statement — I didn’t need to show this, but the CBP website says to bring this documentation
  • Bring your Global Entry card — the CBP website doesn’t say this is required, but the agent I spoke with wanted my card
  • Bring your permanent resident card, if you have one
  • Allow extra time to clear immigration, since you may need to wait to speak with an agent and the interview may take some time

And, if you haven’t applied for Global Entry yet, be sure to pay for the application fee using one of the many cards that provides a statement credit for a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee every four or five years (up to $100).

Here are some additional resources on Global Entry:

Featured photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images.

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