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Practical Pointers: Download this app before you head to the airport

Aug. 07, 2022
5 min read
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Surprises can be great, but outside of a surprise first-class upgrade, that’s rarely the case when it comes to travel. That’s especially true when talking about lines at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.

Some of the most stressful airport experiences I’ve ever had involved arriving late to the airport for one reason or another, then having to stand in a security line watching precious minutes tick away.

More recently, TSA PreCheck has saved me from missing multiple flights and kept me from my general angst of waiting in line on too many occasions to count. If you’re not (yet) one of the millions with the expedited security lane access, there’s still a step you can take to be as prepared as possible for the security screening wait ahead.

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That’s important during a summer in which we’ve seen multiple pandemic-era records for passenger traffic shattered.

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Summer travelers wait in line at a TSA checkpoint at Tampa International Airport (TPA) on July 12, 2022. (Photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy)

Try this: TSA's official app

The TSA has an app you can download: the MyTSA app.

Without a doubt, the app’s most useful function is that it shows current wait estimates at checkpoints.

You can hop on the app to see what the wait times are like in the terminal you’ll be visiting.

Have a flight the next morning and want to know whether you really need to follow the official guidance to arrive hours early? The app can give you a sense of what wait times are typically like on a particular day and time.

How it can make your travel smoother

When you log in, you’ll probably get a screen like the one below, which will display the airport you’re closest to and what current wait times are like.

You’ll also see any airports you’ve added as "favorites." In my case, that’s Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in North Carolina, where you can see that wait times as I write this story are less than 15 minutes and TSA PreCheck lanes are open.

(Screenshot from MyTSA)

From this screen, if you click on “Search Airports” you can pull up any airport you’re visiting for the return trip.

I searched for New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and found wait times a bit longer — an estimated 15 to 30 minutes at the time I checked.

(Screenshot from MyTSA)

This app also shows you whether there is an "FAA Delay" happening, which may not affect your security wait times, but can indicate if there are widespread flight delays as seen in the example above.

Even if you see this, you’ll still want to still get to the airport on time, but it at least gives you a heads-up on what might affect your travel day.

Let’s say you’re planning to fly out of LaGuardia on a Friday morning. As you might expect, Fridays and Sundays are often the busiest air travel days of the week. You could use the app to see what LaGuardia’s TSA checkpoints are typically like between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. on a Friday as in this example:

(Screenshot from MyTSA)

You'd see that waits are often 15 to 30 minutes during that time, with a longer wait time later in the afternoon.

(Screenshot from MyTSA)

Keep in mind that if you have TSA PreCheck, your wait is almost certainly going to be shorter. As the app points out, most TSA PreCheck passengers (nationwide) wait five minutes or less.

(Photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy)

Speed through airports even easier with this tip

If you’re a TSA PreCheck member, you might still want to use the app because it can help you see whether a certain terminal has open TSA PreCheck lanes.

Speaking from experience, enrolled members never like getting to the airport and finding out that only the standard lanes are open in a given terminal.

(Screenshot from MyTSA)

You can also use the app to double-check whether the items in your carry-on bag comply with the agency’s 3-1-1 rule for liquids, gels and other prohibited items.

(Screenshot from MyTSA)

After my electric razor recently died, I couldn't remember whether disposable razors are allowed in carry-on bags. I put it in the search bar on the app and saw that I was clear to bring one.

(Screenshot from MyTSA)

Bottom line

Planning ahead is more critical than ever when traveling this year. The MyTSA app can help you see what security screening waits may lie ahead — among other useful features.

Read more:

Featured image by (Photo by goldhafen/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
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • Intro Offer
    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 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • 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
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases