TSA PreCheck®: Everything You Need to Know [2024]

For just $78, you can join TSA PreCheck and breeze through airport security.

Happy young woman who has TSA PreCheck
Updated July 17, 2024
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TSA PreCheck® is a program operated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that can provide you with a smoother and quicker screening process at participating airports in the United States.

With TSA PreCheck, you don’t need to remove shoes, belts, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, or light jackets during the security screening process. According to TSA, 99% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 10 minutes. To join the program, you need to apply through a qualified enrollment provider (Telos or Idemia) and get approved by the TSA. The application process starts with an online application, followed by an in-person appointment for a background check and fingerprinting. TSA PreCheck varies by the enrollment provider but usually costs between $70 – $78. 

If you fly often, signing up for TSA PreCheck can be an excellent investment. You can even use credit cards that offer complimentary TSA PreCheck to reduce its cost to you.

Here is everything you need to know about TSA PreCheck, including its benefits, how to sign up, and how you can score a free membership.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • TSA PreCheck is a program operated by TSA that offers a quicker and hassle-free airport security line experience at participating U.S. airports.
  • You can apply for TSA PreCheck membership by submitting an application and attending an in-person interview. The program has an application fee and a renewal fee, which can vary between $70 – $78.
  • If your TSA PreCheck application is approved, you can access designated TSA PreCheck lanes, which allows you to not remove your shoes, belts, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, or light jackets during the screening process.
  • Frequent flyers and business travelers can benefit from TSA PreCheck, as it saves time and reduces the hassle of airport security. Some travel rewards credit cards offer complimentary TSA PreCheck, further reducing the cost for eligible cardholders.
  • TSA PreCheck is available at more than 200 U.S. airports with over 85 participating airlines. It’s open to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and children 12 years old or younger traveling with an adult TSA PreCheck member.

What is TSA PreCheck?

In 2011, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched TSA PreCheck. It’s a program that pre-screens passengers and determines whether or not they’re a security risk. 

If you’ve traveled recently, you know what a headache airports can be. Going through airport security is one of the main reasons for this headache. There’s a reason even the best airports advise you to show up at least two hours before a domestic flight — it can sometimes take that long to make it through the security checkpoint and to your gate.

However, to avoid having to show up hours before your flight and stand in line, consider signing up for TSA PreCheck. If they are approved for the program, TSA PreCheck members can speed through security checkpoints at select airports.

According to the TSA, 99% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 10 minutes to get through security ias of April 2024. And thanks to special offers from some credit cards, you can take advantage of complimentary access to this program.

Credit cards that offer complimentary TSA PreCheck

While we find TSA PreCheck very useful, some travelers are put off by its fee. If that’s the case for you, there’s good news: you may be able to get complimentary TSA PreCheck membership by signing up for certain travel rewards cards.

A number of the best travel credit cards offer a statement credit for the TSA PreCheck membership fee, as well as other valuable travel perks.

To qualify for the credit card statement credit for your TSA PreCheck enrollment fee, use your card to pay for your TSA PreCheck application. Once your TSA PreCheck fee is charged to your account, the credit card company typically issues you a statement credit. It can take up to four weeks for the credit to be issued.

Card name TSA PreCheck benefit Other benefits

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Receive reimbursement of up to $100 for TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry fees every four years
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5 miles per dollar on Capital One Entertainment purchases through 12/31/25
  • Benefit from Trip Cancellation/Interruption Coverage, MasterRental Insurance, and Travel Assistance Service1

United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card

Receive reimbursement credit of up to $100 for TSA PreCheck®, Global Entry, or NEXUS fees every four years
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
  • Get a complimentary checked bag on United flights when you use your card to make a reservation

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Receive reimbursement of up to $100 for TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry fees every four years
  • Earn 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
  • Benefit from a $300 annual travel credit
  • Get complimentary airport lounge access, lost luggage reimbursement, and trip delay reimbursement

TSA PreCheck benefits

As a TSA PreCheck member, you still need to go through airport security. However, the process is typically much simpler and quicker.

The biggest perk of TSA PreCheck is access to a designated security lane so you can avoid long lines. This means:

  • Faster security screening: With TSA PreCheck, you can get through security screening faster at participating U.S. airports. In June 2023, 88% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes.
  • Less hassle: As a TSA PreCheck member, you don’t need to remove your shoes, belts, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, or light jackets during the security screening process. 
  • Increased convenience: TSA PreCheck is currently available at more than 200 airports with more than 85 participating airlines nationwide. This means that you can enjoy the benefits of TSA PreCheck at many airports across the country. 

How do you get TSA PreCheck?

You can apply for TSA PreCheck online. According to the TSA, the process only takes five minutes to complete. It costs $78 and is payable via credit card, money order, company check, certified check, or cashier’s check.

Does TSA PreCheck require an interview?

TSA PreCheck requires an in-person appointment. Once you complete the online application, you need to schedule this in-person appointment with TSA personnel.

The appointment will include a background check and fingerprinting at an enrollment center. There are over 500 TSA PreCheck application locations nationwide, so chances are there’s one conveniently nearby. You can find an enrollment center online by entering your zip code or airport code in the search field.

What documents do I need for the TSA PreCheck appointment?

When it’s time for your in-person appointment, you need to bring some documentation with you, such as:

  • Current U.S. passport
  • Current U.S. driver’s license
  • Permanent Resident card
  • Current U.S. military ID card
  • Birth certificate

You can find a complete list of necessary documents on the TSA website.

While at the enrollment center, the staff will take your picture. It’s used to verify your identity at TSA PreCheck checkpoints equipped with facial recognition technology.

How long does it take to get TSA PreCheck?

Many applicants receive their TSA PreCheck number, or Known Traveler Number, within three to five days. Make sure to check your application status online. You should also receive a written notification from the TSA that details whether or not you were approved within two to three weeks of your in-person appointment.

If approved, you can use your Known Traveler Number when you make flight reservations. Keep in mind that some applications may take up to 60 days to be processed.

How do you use TSA PreCheck once you have it?

When you’re approved for TSA PreCheck, you don’t receive a membership card. Instead, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number. To use TSA PreCheck, you must enter the traveler number onto your reservation when you book your flight. If you are part of an airline loyalty program, you can add your TSA PreCheck number to your account so it will be automatically entered whenever you book a flight.

When it’s time to head to the airport, your boarding pass will note your TSA PreCheck status. When TSA scans your pass at the security checkpoint, staff will direct you to the designated TSA PreCheck line.

In most cases, you can leave on your shoes and belt when you go through security. If you’re wearing a light jacket, there’s no need to take it off. And, if you have electronics or liquids, you can leave them in your carry-on.

Where can you use TSA PreCheck?

As of April 2024, TSA PreCheck is available at more than 200 airports with more than 90 participating airlines in the United States.

You should know that not all airlines participate in TSA PreCheck. TSA works with airlines to establish security checkpoints and operate TSA PreCheck. To take advantage of TSA PreCheck expedited screenings, you need to be traveling on an airline that has entered into a partnership with the TSA.

To find out if your local airport offers TSA PreCheck and to see if your favorite airline is a partner, visit the TSA PreCheck interactive website.

Who is eligible for TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck is available to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. There is no age restriction to join. However, children 12 years old or younger who are traveling with an adult who is a TSA PreCheck member can also participate in expedited screening, even if they aren’t TSA PreCheck members themselves.

What does TSA look for when considering your application?

When you apply for TSA PreCheck, the TSA will review your application and perform a background check. If you’ve been convicted or pled guilty to certain crimes, you can be temporarily or permanently banned from joining TSA PreCheck. For example, if you committed espionage, treason, or a federal act of terrorism, you will never be allowed to join TSA PreCheck.

If you were convicted, pled guilty, or found not guilty by reason of insanity within the past seven years of unlawful possession of a firearm, extortion, or assault, you are banned from the program as well.

TSA may also decide you’re ineligible for other reasons, including:

  • Interpol and other international information that deems you a threat
  • You’re on a terrorist watchlist or appear in a government database
  • You have been adjudicated as lacking mental capacity or have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility

If you have been subjected to repeated delays or extra security screenings at the airport, or have been told your name appears in a government database that causes your TSA PreCheck application to be denied, you may want to educate yourself about the DHS Travel Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP).  By learning what a Redress number is, you may be able to resolve why you're being held back at the airport.

How do you renew your TSA PreCheck?

When you sign up for TSA PreCheck, your membership is good for five years. After that, you’ll have to renew your membership to take advantage of its perks.

When your TSA PreCheck membership’s expiration date approaches, TSA will send you a renewal notification via email. You can also check your membership status and see your expiration date online.

You can renew your membership up to six months before the expiration date; the renewal process can be completed online and is usually cheaper than renewing in person ($70 vs. $78). To renew, you need to enter your name, date of birth, and Known Traveler Number. You’ll also need to pay the fee at time of renewal.

Some people will need to renew their membership by visiting an enrollment center in person. For example, if the fingerprints on file are low quality or if your name has changed, you may have to go to an enrollment center a second time.

This process can take up to three weeks to complete, so it’s a good idea to renew well in advance of any planned trips.

Is TSA PreCheck worth it for you?

TSA PreCheck is perfect for frequent travelers or business travelers. Parents of young children may find it invaluable, too. When you’re traveling with young children, you’re likely juggling several bags and holding hands. Not having to take out your liquids and take off your shoes can make travel less stressful. And, if your credit card will reimburse you for the enrollment fee, there’s literally no downside to joining TSA PreCheck.

The fee covers five years of membership, so if you take at least a couple of flights a year, joining TSA PreCheck can save you a great deal of time and frustration.

TSA PreCheck also works well in combination with other security expediting services such as CLEAR. A CLEAR Plus membership can help you speed up the document verification process, and CLEAR kiosks are often located close to TSA PreCheck lines. CLEAR is a private company and not a government program, yet it can be worth it to see how TSA PreCheck and CLEAR work together to get you through the airport lines more quickly and efficiently.

If you only fly very occasionally and travel light, you may find that TSA PreCheck isn’t necessary. But most people will enjoy the more streamlined experience that TSA PreCheck offers.

The right travel card for you is the one that matches your interests and spending habits, allowing you to earn valuable rewards and travel the way you like — for less. Learn more about these top cards and choose the one that's best for you:

TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry

TSA PreCheck is actually just one available program that expedites security checkpoints. Another option to consider is Global Entry, a program that many credit cards will also reimburse you for joining.

Global Entry gives you TSA PreCheck access through expedited screenings. But it also offers expedited U.S. customs screening for international air travelers entering the United States. Global Entry is more expensive than TSA PreCheck as it costs $100.

One thing to keep in mind is that Global Entry does not allow young children to accompany you as they can with TSA PreCheck. Instead, each person needs to have their own Global Entry membership to qualify for expedited screenings.

If you travel internationally, signing up for Global Entry makes more sense than TSA PreCheck.

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TSA PreCheck: bottom line

TSA PreCheck is one of the trusted traveler programs offered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the United States. Other programs include Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS.

To become a TSA PreCheck member, you need to apply by paying a $70 – $78 fee every five years. You’ll also need to attend an in-person interview for a background check and to collect your biometric data.

If you’re approved, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN), which allows you to enjoy several benefits, including designated security lanes and a streamlined screening process.

However, while TSA PreCheck caters to U.S. domestic travelers, international travelers may benefit more from the Global Entry program. Global Entry provides expedited customs screenings upon reentering the U.S., in addition to granting access to TSA PreCheck lines.

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Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a personal finance expert focusing on practical financial matters, including student loans, debt repayment, side hustles, insurance, and healthcare. Drawing from her personal experience, she aims to simplify complex financial topics and provide individuals with the information they need to make informed decisions.

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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.