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Weekly column: Answering your questions about expedited airport security programs

Dec. 31, 2021
6 min read
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For the past six weeks, I've devoted this column to answering your questions about TSA Precheck, Global Entry, Clear, Nexus and Sentri. These are programs that ease the experience of travel, from airport security to customs and border patrol, both within the United States and trips originating abroad.

Even so, I've still got many unanswered questions in my inbox that I will use this week to answer your remaining Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) questions.

If you need to get caught up to speed on how TTPs and Clear work, here's where to begin:

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Here are this week’s top five questions:

1. DO TTPs automatically reenroll you?

No, travelers are responsible for re-enrolling in any Trusted Traveler Program they wish to continue using and can do so up to one year prior to a program's expiration date.

"If you submit a renewal application before your membership expires, you will be able to continue to use benefits up to 24 months after your membership expiration date," says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which provides the below instructions on how to renew your membership for Global Entry, Nexus or Sentri.

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

2. How will we be notified that we need to renew our TTP membership?

All TTPs administered by the Department of Homeland Security are valid for five years.

Log into your TTP account (the one you created when you first applied for a specific program) and search for a field indicating the program's expiration date.

For TSA PreCheck specifically, members should receive an email reminder of an upcoming expiration at six months, three months, one month and two weeks prior to expiration, via a "Universal Enroll" account.

TSA screening passengers at O'Hare International Airport on Nov. 8. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

3. I have Global Entry but don't always get TSA PreCheck. What gives?

Although in theory a membership to Global Entry also guarantees a green checkmark on your boarding pass denoting access to TSA PreCheck, that does not always happen, as evidenced by the numerous emails lamenting this issue.

Sometimes it's due to the airline making a mistake or sometimes it's a result of traveler error. You may have failed to attach your Known Traveler Number to your airline reservation; the name on your government-issued ID might not match your boarding pass; or your TSA PreCheck could be expired (see question 1 and 2).

The worst-case scenario is that you've been selected for an extra security search (you'll know when you see SSSS on your boarding pass), which means you won't be able to go through the normal TSA security line like everyone else.

If you've double-checked the above scenarios and are still without the green checkmark, contact TSA directly.

A TSA officer watches people go through the security checkpoint at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Nov. 24. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

4. I've been conditionally approved for Global Entry and have been trying for months to secure an appointment to no avail. What should I do?

All TTP applications must complete enrollment for a specific program within 730 days of receiving conditional approval and "not scheduling and completing the interview will result in cancelation of the application and no refunds will be granted," warns DHS.

While two years may seem like more than enough time to schedule and complete the TTP application process, it can literally take months to secure an interview slot, as this person noted, due to a high application volume and enormous backlog with TTPs, as we've seen with U.S. passport applications as well.

If you try and consistently are unable to find an appointment at the closest or most convenient Global Entry enrollment center, remember that you can enroll upon arrival back to the U.S. from an international trip.

"Proceed to an Enrollment on Arrival (EoA) lane and the CBP Officer will conduct your interview as part of your entry back into the United States," says DHS.

This service is offered 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. See here for a list of EoA locations.

A passenger walks through a TSA security checkpoint at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Nov. 24. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

5. How do I choose the right program for me?

As with anything in life, with choice there comes freedom, and sometimes a lack of confidence in one's own decision-making. DHS actually provides a handy tool online to help potential members determine the program that best suits their travel needs.

Remember TSA PreCheck helps with departures from U.S. airports; Global Entry aids with entry into the U.S. from abroad; Nexus eases entry by land/air/sea into the U.S. from Canada; and Sentri is for travelers coming to the U.S. from Mexico via air/land and Global Entry includes access to TSA PreCheck lanes.

And don't forget about Clear, which further expedites TSA security by enabling users to skip the two-step security process biometrically by verifying your identity in a Clear-only line at 39 U.S. airports. 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.

Finally, many credit cards reimburse or provide credits for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and Clear.

(Screenshot from 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 image by Bloomberg via 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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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases