How to Choose Between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry

Both programs let you zip through airport security, but choosing the right one depends on your travel habits.

Man with blue backpack waiting at airport
Updated July 2, 2024
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TSA PreCheck® and Global Entry are two Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) programs offered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to make traveling easier and more convenient for eligible travelers.

With TSA PreCheck, you don’t need to remove your shoes, belts, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, or light jackets during the security screening process. On the other hand, Global Entry allows you to benefit from expedited clearance upon arrival in the United States.

Both programs require an application process and a fee but can save travelers time and hassle when going through airport security or customs. If you’re debating between TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, here’s what you need to know before enrolling.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • TSA PreCheck is ideal for frequent domestic travel since it allows for expedited screening and eliminates the need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, or light jackets.
  • Global Entry is better for international and frequent travelers. It comes with TSA PreCheck benefits but also offers expedited customs and immigration processing at airports and land borders.
  • Both programs require you to submit an online application and schedule an in-person interview.
  • Some of the best travel credit cards offer complimentary credit toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

5 cards that offer complimentary TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

Some premium travel credit cards offer complimentary credit toward these core Trusted Traveler Programs. Here are just a few of the best travel credit cards with complimentary TSA PreCheck or Global Entry benefits. For more information, check out our full list of cards that offer this perk.

Card name TSA PreCheck or Global Entry benefit details Annual fee
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Up to $100 toward TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry every four years $95 
United℠ Explorer Card Up to $100 toward TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry every four years $95 (waived first year) 
The Platinum Card® from American Express Up to $85 every four and a half years for TSA PreCheck® (five-year plan only) or up to $100 every four years for Global Entry $695 (Terms apply)
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Up to $100 toward TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry every four years $550
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® Up to $100 toward TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry every four years $595

Taking advantage of free travel perks like this can help relieve the anxiety around planning your next trip. And considering both programs offer a five-year membership, this peace of mind can be priceless.

How does TSA PreCheck work?

With TSA PreCheck from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), you can become eligible to use specially designated airport security lanes for expedited screening. It costs $78 to apply, and if approved, your eligibility is good for five years. TSA PreCheck is best if domestic air travel is the transportation method you primarily use.

As a member of the program, you’re not required to remove shoes, laptops from your baggage, liquids, belts, or light jackets when you go through airport security, which helps make the TSA PreCheck screening move faster than standard lanes. TSA PreCheck lanes are so effective that 93% of program passengers wait less than five minutes, according to the latest TSA figures.

Where it works

This expedited access is available when flying out of U.S. airports. Keep in mind that while you might have provided your TSA PreCheck Known Traveler Number (KTN) when booking your ticket, not all airports or airlines participate in this program.

To avoid boarding delays, always check the TSA map of participating airlines and airports before your departure date.

Who qualifies

Travelers who are U.S. citizens or foreign citizens who meet specific citizen or residency requirements are eligible to participate in TSA PreCheck.

If you’ve submitted incomplete or false application information, have past transportation security violations, or have been flagged for “disqualifying criminal offenses,” you will not be eligible for TSA PreCheck.

How to apply for TSA PreCheck

To apply for TSA PreCheck, you’ll need a valid photo ID and proof of citizenship, such as a U.S. Passport or a driver’s license and birth certificate. Non-U.S. citizens should bring additional documentation related to their lawful residence in the United States. The TSA website can help you determine exactly what documents you must provide.

Initiating the process through the TSA takes a few simple steps:

1. Submit an online application. The four-step application takes about five minutes to complete. The legal name used on your application must match the verifying documents you provide during your in-person interview.

2. Find a nearby enrollment center. Use the TSA’s Enrollment Center Locator to find a convenient processing center near you.

3. Schedule and attend your interview. Bring your verifying documents to your in-person interview. You’ll be asked basic questions about your traveling habits, employment, and reason for your interest in the program. You’ll then have your photo taken and fingerprints scanned. Overall, the interview takes about 10 minutes.

Afterward, you’ll receive a written letter about the status of your application within two to three weeks. You can also check your application status online.

To use TSA PreCheck on your next trip, provide your KTN to your participating airline when booking your flight. Your boarding pass and barcode will have a TSA PreCheck indicator, giving you access to the expedited security lane.

If you’re traveling with children 12 years old or younger, they can accompany you in PreCheck lanes. Otherwise, they must be registered with the program separately.

How does Global Entry entry work?

Global Entry is a broader program offered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that’s applicable for air, land, and sea travel. It costs $100 to apply, and if approved, eligibility lasts for five years.

In addition to TSA PreCheck benefits when traveling domestically, Global Entry allows registered travelers to use its kiosks for customs and immigration screening purposes when entering the U.S. from abroad. You can avoid customs declaration paperwork and get the privilege of expedited entry when driving or walking through the border with Canada or Mexico.

Similarly, other countries participate in the Global Entry program. At these international destinations, your Global Entry membership provides you with expedited processing when entering the country.

Where it works

Global Entry customs and declaration benefits are available at airports offering Global Entry screening kiosks. View the full list of airports with Global Entry kiosks before planning your trip.

Who qualifies

If you’re a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, you are eligible for Global Entry. Citizens of the following countries may also be eligible, with additional requirements:

  • Argentina
  • Colombia
  • Germany
  • India
  • Mexican nationals
  • Panama
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

Also, Canadian citizens can receive Global Entry benefits by applying for the NEXUS program.

You’re ineligible for Global Entry if you provide incomplete or false application information; have a past or pending conviction or outstanding warrants; have a record of customs, immigration, or agricultural violations (in any country); have an active investigation against you by a law enforcement agency; are not allowed in the U.S.; or have otherwise not met the CBP’s requirements as a low-risk traveler. 

There is potential for error with this last category in terms of who is considered a "low-risk traveler". If you have been repeatedly delayed or subjected to extra security screenings, it might be a good idea to educate yourself about the DHS Travel Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP). By understanding what a redress number is, you may be able to resolve the issue underlying your repeated delays at the airport.

How to apply for Global Entry

To initiate an application for Global Entry, follow these steps:

1. Create an online account. To create your TTP account, start by choosing Global Entry on the official application page.

2. Submit an online application. After creating an account, complete and submit an online application for Global Entry. During this step, you’ll also pay the $100 fee per applicant. You’ll need to wait until you get a TTP account notification that your application status is conditionally approved before going to the next step.

4. Schedule and attend your interview. Search the CBP’s Enrollment Center directory for a processing center near you. You’ll need to supply an active U.S. passport or I-551 Lawful Permanent Resident Card and an additional form of ID, such as a driver’s license.

The interview takes 10 to 15 minutes, and you’ll answer questions about past and future travel, employment, and other basic questions. A background check is run and your biometric information, such as your photo and fingerprints, is also collected.

When booking your travel, make sure to include your Global Entry membership ID number, also known as your PASSID. Keep in mind that each member of your traveling party is required to have their own membership to use the kiosks for expedited customs screening, regardless of age.

How to choose between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry?

When deciding between TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, consider how much you travel, where you travel, and who you regularly travel with.

If you anticipate traveling internationally at least once in the upcoming five years of your TTP membership, Global Entry might be worthwhile for the extra $15. The Department of Homeland Security offers a Trusted Traveler Tool to compare the different programs and help you decide which one might be best for you.

TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry: bottom line

Choosing between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry ultimately comes down to whether you travel abroad.

If you primarily travel within the United States and want faster domestic airport security screening, TSA PreCheck can help you with this. However, if you anticipate international travel, Global Entry offers the added benefit of expedited customs and immigration processing.

These Trusted Traveler Programs offer a five-year membership, and some premium travel credit cards offer complimentary credit toward their application fees, making joining them even more appealing.

Premium Travel Benefits

5.0

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Current Offer

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$550

Rewards Rate

5X points on flights and 10X points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually; 3X points on other travel and dining & 1X points per dollar on all other purchases

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Card Details

Author Details

Jennifer Calonia

Jennifer Calonia is a native Los Angeles-based writer and editor with eight years of experience in personal finance. She's passionate about helping others pay off debt, navigate family finance, and use rewards credit cards, responsibly. She's been featured on Forbes, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Credit Karma, Nerdwallet, and more. To find more information about her work, visit JenniferCalonia.com.

Author Details

Yahia Barakah, CEPF

Yahia Barakah, CEPF, is a Senior Editor at FinanceBuzz and has created finance-focused content since 2011. As a Certified Educator of Personal Finance, he has a background in institutional investment and asset management, as well as a deep passion for financial literacy.