Global Entry tips: How to avoid waiting for an interview and get TSA PreCheck on your boarding passes

Apr 8, 2022

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As we wrote about earlier this week, travelers should expect to continue to see airports booked and busy as we head into the start of the summer travel season.

This is an inevitable conundrum for travelers, which is why I am dedicating this week to answering your questions about the practical ways we can ease the pain points you experience at airports.

One option is to consider using TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, two expedited security programs administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ie the government.

If you’ve been reading this column since its origin last year, you know that I’ve covered this subject before and if you are new here, start by reading my previous columns on these and the other Trusted Traveler Programs:

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In This Post

Known Traveler Number

KTNs are used for TSA PreCheck only

When booking an online airline reservation, you’ll see a field asking for your Known Traveler Number.

This number is provided to all individuals who have been approved to use TSA PreCheck, which is an expedited screening lane available at 200-plus U.S. airports for so-called “low-risk” travelers.

The only way to get access to the TSA Pre lane is by providing your KTN to your airline at the time of booking.

How to enter your KTN

“The KTN must be added in the KTN field when booking airline travel reservations to have the TSA PreCheck® indicator appear on your boarding pass,” per DHS.

It seems simple enough but some airlines, such as Southwest, hide the request for your KTN under “Secure traveler information,” as indicated below.

(Screenshot courtesy of Southwest Airlines)

Other carriers, such as American, ask for it in plain sight.

(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

To make sure you are entering the correct KTN when requested, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) says to verify it has the following:

  • 9 digits.
  • A combination of numbers and letters.
  • Begins with TT.

Look for the green checkmark

Once you check in for your flight, don’t assume you automatically have TSA Pre just because you are a member. You need to make sure the green TSA Pre checkmark is displayed on your boarding pass, like I’ve shown below.

(Screenshot courtesy of Caroline Tanner/The Points Guy)

Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck

Applying for Global Entry automatically extends PreCheck membership

Many travelers, such as myself, heard about TSA PreCheck for the first time long before learning about Global Entry, which means I was unaware that a Global Entry membership includes access to TSA PreCheck.

As a result, current TSA Pre holders who apply for Global Entry can assume that their TSA Pre membership will be extended for another five years from the date they obtain Global Entry.

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck sign is displayed as travelers carry baggage through a security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Backlog of Global Entry applicants

Consider Enrollment on Arrival

If you have been conditionally approved for Global Entry but still need to complete the interview portion of the application/renewal process, you, unfortunately, cannot use the Global Entry kiosk at the airport until doing so.

Delays in processing for TTPs across the board have resulted from the TTP enrollment centers being closed at various times throughout the past two years, including for Global Entry renewals and new applicants.

There is good news though for GE applicants specifically, as this group may complete the interview portion via something called Enrollment on Arrival, which allows you to interview when you come back to the U.S. from abroad. This service is available at 66 airports and is done as part of the immigration and customs process.

Scheduling an appointment this way will yield the fastest results for conditionally approved travelers hoping to complete the GE application process.

Unlike passport services, there is no extra fee you can pay to expedite your application.

(Screenshot courtesy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

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

Featured photo of a traveler placing his shoes in a bin before passing through the Transportation Security Administration security check at Los Angeles International Airport by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images.

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