Do I need a Real ID if I have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry?

Sep 19, 2019

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Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.

From carry-on liquids to problematic phones and laptops to photo ID requirements, it’s important to stay on top of the ever-changing laws surrounding commercial aviation to make sure you’re allowed to get on the plane. TPG reader David wants to know if he still needs a compliant Real ID to travel if he already has TSA PreCheck or Global Entry …

If I have Global Entry or TSA PreCheck do I still need a Real ID?


So what exactly is a Real ID? Unlike Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, it’s not a program that you can enroll in. Real ID refers to a law that was passed after 9/11 to address security concerns with photo IDs and establish uniform standards, but there’s been a fair amount of pushback from those who consider this government overreach. However, beginning on October 1, 2020, Americans will need to present a photo ID that meets the Real ID Act’s standards in order to be allowed through a security checkpoint. 

RELATED: Everything you need to know about getting a Real ID

As of now, all but four states issue driver’s licenses that are compliant with Real ID standards. Just because your state issues compliant IDs, doesn’t mean you’ll get one automatically. Some states charge extra or make you wait longer, so make sure to carefully review all the options next time you go in to renew your license. If you’re unsure as to whether your current driver’s license meets the Real ID standards, look for a star in the top right corner which means you’re good to go. If there’s no star, or your license says something like “federal limits apply” or “not for federal identification,” your ID is not compliant.

The four holdouts — Oregon, Oklahoma, New Jersey and Maine — have until the October 2020 deadline to meet the standards. After that point, driver’s licenses from those states will no longer be accepted at TSA checkpoints.

Now back to David’s question. TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are great programs that can save you time going through airport security and clearing customs when you return to the U.S. (if you don’t have them already, be sure to check out the list of cards that offer TSA Precheck and Global Entry application fee credits). But even if you’re registered in one of these expedited security programs, you’ll still need a compliant Real ID when you travel.

This doesn’t need to be a driver’s license though, and if you live in one of the states that is not currently compliant, the simple answer might be traveling with your passport at all times, even on domestic flights, to avoid any trouble. Another option would be to carry your Global Entry card with you, which is a Real ID-compliant form of identification (though your TSA PreCheck card is not). You can check out TSA’s list of acceptable identification here.

Bottom line

Unlike surprise award chart devaluations, TSA is giving passengers plenty of time to prepare for this change in policy. Even if you’ve never heard of the Real ID act before today, the good news is that many Americans already carry compliant IDs. If you’re in the group that doesn’t, you’ll need to provide an alternate form of compliant ID to travel beginning next October. Simply being enrolled in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry won’t change the rules for you, though carrying your Global Entry card will work.

Thanks for the question, David, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at

Featured photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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