We love having TSA PreCheck because it makes it so much easier and faster going through airport security.  We have found that TSA Precheck is worth the time and expense of the application process and would recommend it to anyone flying from US airports more than once a year.  If you are thinking of applying for TSA Precheck, it is important to know that there four (4) different ways to get TSA Precheck (each with different fees and eligibility requirements). To help you decide what is the best way to get TSA Precheck for you, below is a comparison of all four (4) trusted traveler programs.

What is TSA Precheck?

For those unfamiliar with TSA Pre-Check, qualifying for TSA Pre-Check on a flight allows you to go through security without removing your shoes, belt, light outerwear, laptop and bag with liquids. There is often a separate line, which is usually shorter and faster. We’ve read a few complaints about TSA PreCheck lines sometimes being longer than regular lines but that’s never been the case for us. Please note: TSA Pre✓ is only available when flying on certain airlines – the current list of airlines can be found on the TSA’s website at https://www.tsa.gov/precheck.

How to Get TSA Precheck

If you would like to sign up for TSA PreCheck, you can apply for TSA PreCheck directly OR you can apply for one of the other 3 trusted traveler programs that also include TSA PreCheck benefits.

There are 4 ways to sign up for TSA Precheck – each program has different application methods and different fees:

•   Global Entry
•   TSA Precheck only
•   NEXUS
•   SENTRI

How to Get TSA PreCheck: A Guide on How Best to Apply Tsa Precheck vs. Global Entry vs. Nexus vs. Sentri Application Process

1) Global Entry

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry

Cost: $100 application fee.

Best for:

•  US citizens and lawful permanent residents who fly within the United States and travel internationally;
•  Citizens of Argentina, Colombia, UK, Germany, India, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and Mexican nationals.

For anyone who travels internationally, it makes sense to apply for Global Entry rather than TSA Precheck. The application fee for Global Entry is $100 (only $15 more than the fee for TSA Precheck alone). In addition to having TSA Precheck, Global Entry allows expedited processing through CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) at airports and land borders upon arrival to the U.S. Global Entry is usually the best choice for most people looking to get TSA Pre benefits. (See also related post TSA Precheck vs. Global Entry: Which Is Best For You?)

A few years ago, we were approved for Global Entry, which also includes TSA PreCheck.  For more information on how to apply for Global Entry see Guide to Global Entry: Application and Interview Process.

2) TSA Precheck only

https://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck

Cost: $85 application fee.

Best for:
•  US citizens and lawful permanent residents who primarily fly within the US but do not travel internationally;
•  US citizens who do not have a passport (which is required for Global Entry).

3) NEXUS

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/nexus

Cost: $50 US or $50 Canadian application fee.

Best for:

•  Canadian citizens and lawful permanent residents of Canada (Canadians cannot apply for TSA Precheck or Global Entry);
•  U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who frequently travel to Canada;
•  U.S. citizens without a passport who want to travel to Canada;
•  U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who do not have a credit card that offers reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA Precheck and are looking for the lowest cost method to obtain Global Entry and TSA Precheck.

NEXUS is the Canadian version of Global Entry. NEXUS includes TSA Precheck benefits and Global Entry, in addition to expedited processing upon entry to Canada.

Unlike the TSA Precheck and Global Entry programs which have enrollment centers throughout the US, NEXUS enrollment centers are located only in Canada or certain cities in the Northern US near the Canadian border such as Detroit, Buffalo, Niagara Falls or Seattle. Here’s the full list of NEXUS enrollment centers.

It is important to note though that anyone applying for NEXUS for expedited entry into Canadian airports, must travel to an enrollment center in Canada to have their iris captured (NEXUS enrollment centers located in the United States do not offer the eye scan).

The application fee for NEXUS ($50) is lower than the application fee for TSA Pre-Check ($85) or Global Entry ($100). However, NEXUS might still not be the lowest cost method for obtaining TSA Precheck and Global Entry – some credit and charge cards reimburse for TSA Pre or Global Entry application fees but not for the NEXUS application fee.

4) SENTRI

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/sentri

Cost: $122.25 per person (includes $25 application fee).

Best for:
•  US citizens who frequently travel by land into the US from Mexico;
•  US citizens with easy access to an enrollment center near the US-Mexico border.

SENTRI users have access to specific, dedicated primary lanes into the United States at Southern land borders and may use NEXUS lanes when entering the U.S. from Canada by land. SENTRI also includes TSA Precheck and Global Entry benefits.

Unlike the TSA Precheck and Global Entry programs which have enrollment centers throughout the US, SENTRI has fewer enrollment centers and they are located only in Arizona, California and Texas.

SENTRI is the most expensive way to get TSA Precheck and Global Entry benefits. SENTRI could be an option for anyone who frequently drives between the US and Mexico or who finds it more convenient to visit a SENTRI enrollment center near the border.

How to Apply for TSA Precheck Tips

For anyone thinking of signing up for one of these Trusted Traveler programs, here are some tips:

•  The Department of Homeland Security website has a helpful page comparing the Trusted Traveler programs with links to their respective websites and application pages.

•  Carefully read the eligibility requirements of each Trusted Traveler program before you apply. Application fees are non refundable even if you are not approved.

•  Some credit cards and charge cards reimburse cardholders for the $100 Global Entry fee or $85 TSA Precheck fee (but not the fee for NEXUS or SENTRI).

•  Membership in all four Trusted Traveler programs is valid for 5 years only. After 5 years, you must renew and pay another application fee.

•  You will need to visit an enrollment center to provide fingerprints and verify your ID. The list of enrollment centers is different for each trusted traveler program. We recommend consulting the list of enrollment centers for the specific program you are interested in before applying to ensure an enrollment center is easily accessible to you. (Here are links to the TSA Precheck, Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI enrollment centers.)  You can also check interview availability from this page before you apply.

•  To start receiving TSA Precheck benefits after approval, log into your frequent flyer accounts and enter your known traveler number (KTN).

•  TSA always incorporates random security measures so TSA Precheck is not guaranteed on every flight.  Your boarding pass will indicate whether you have TSA Precheck benefits on a specific flight.
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