Known traveler number: What it is, what it does and why you should have one

Nov 13, 2021

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Traveling with ease is important and can give peace of mind to any traveler. Having a Known Traveler Number (KTN), knowing what it is and understanding how to use it can be a powerful tool when flying.

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What is a Known Traveler Number?

Depending on which Trusted Traveler Program you join through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security site, your KTN is your membership number and main link to access lanes for programs such as TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. The number is issued when you have been approved for one of these programs.

Related: Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck

Why do you want a Known Traveler Number?

When you enroll in a Trusted Traveler Program and add your KTN to an airline reservation, you’ll receive access to TSA’s PreCheck security screening lanes. If you only have TSA PreCheck, that KTN does not give you access to Global Entry. Having a KTN helps create a better travel experience, as it typically results in less intrusive screenings and less time waiting in lines.

Passengers proceed through the TSA security checkpoint at Denver International Airport
Passengers proceed through the TSA security checkpoint at Denver International Airport in August, 2019. Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

How to get a Known Traveler Number

There are several ways to get a KTN through different Trusted Traveler programs, each of which requires submitting an application. For all programs, you must also set up an in-person interview at an enrollment center or a participating airport. Each program has a fee and is valid for five years. Many credit cards also offer credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fees.

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows travelers who are designated by the U.S. government as low risk to use faster customs lines when returning to the U.S. from abroad. The fee for an application to this program is $100 which is valid for five years.

Related: Things you should know about Global Entry

NEXUS allows pre-screened travelers to use expedited processing when entering Canada or the United States. There are NEXUS kiosks for air entry to Canada, and members can receive faster processing when arriving by sea at some locations as well. Canadian citizens and residents are eligible for Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program. The fee for this program’s application is $50.

SENTRI is a program for travelers entering the United States from Mexico through a screening process for pre-approved members. Travelers who have SENTRI can enter the United States via dedicated primary lanes for expedited border crossing. Additionally, SENTRI members are allowed to use the NEXUS lanes when they enter the U.S. from Canada by land. The application fee for this program is $122.25.

Related: Denied for Global Entry or PreCheck? Here’s how to appeal

TSA PreCheck offers fast-tracked security screenings at hundreds of airports across the U.S. Through this program, flyers usually don’t need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts or light jackets. Certain other programs, such as Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI, provide TSA PreCheck as an added benefit. While many people opt to enroll in Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI to also take advantage of TSA PreCheck, those who rarely travel outside the U.S., don’t have a passport, want to spend less on a Trusted Traveler Program may find more value in joining TSA PreCheck. The application fee for this program is $85 and is valid for five years.

Related: The definitive guide to all airlines offering TSA PreCheck

Global Entry can save you time and energy when you're flying back into the U.S. from abroad.
Global Entry can save you time and energy when you’re flying back into the U.S. from abroad. (Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Which credit cards cover fees for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry?

Several credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card and the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, provide statement credits for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fees every four to five years. Some hotel rewards credit cards, such as the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, also offer this benefit.

Related: The Top 8 Cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

Once you have a Known Traveler Number, how and why should you add it to airline profiles and bookings?

Congratulations, you’ve successfully been approved for one of the programs above. Now what?

When you’re given a KTN, you need to add it to your frequent flyer account profiles or when entering your personal information while purchasing tickets. This is so the number is attached to your airline reservations.

You will need to fly via airlines that participate in TSA PreCheck and other programs in order to reap the benefits of having a KTN.

When traveling, you will know if you are able to use the Global Entry, NEXUS, TSA PreCheck and SENTRI lanes when you see it noted on your boarding pass. If you do not see it noted, you can ask whether your KTN is attached to your reservation. You might be able to add it at the airport so you can access the expedited lines.

Where can you find your Known Traveler Number if you forget it?

If you are a member of the TSA PreCheck program, you can look up your KTN online. For another program mentioned above, you can log on to the Trusted Traveler Program website to find your KTN. Global Entry members will also find their KTN (also known as a CBP PASSID) on the back of their Global Entry card issued by the CBP, in the upper left corner. The number is nine digits long and typically starts with 15, 98 or 99.

Bottom line

Your KTN is your key to TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI. It can make the airport and overall travel experience quicker and easier for those who have chosen to participate. Attaching your KTN to your flight reservations is worth it to skip the ever-growing lines at security checkpoints in airports in and out of the US.

Featured image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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