TSA PreCheck: What It Is, How to Apply, and Benefits
TSA PreCheck is a government program that gives low-risk travelers access to expedited Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security lines at more than 200 airports in the United States. You’ll pay a nonrefundable $85 TSA Precheck application fee ($100 for foreign residents), which is due every five years for renewal of your membership.
TSA PreCheck can help frequent travelers save a ton of time at the airport. There are ways frequent travelers can receive these benefits for free. Some credit cards, such as Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business, offer application fee reimbursements every four years.
What Is TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck is a government program that gives people recognized as low risk by the TSA the opportunity to use faster security lines at specific airports around the US. The program allows low-risk travelers to save time in security lines by leaving their shoes on or keeping their laptops in bags, for instance.
It costs $85 to apply, which is nonrefundable if your application is rejected. You’ll be required to pay this fee if you want to renew your membership every five years. Additionally, after you apply, TSA requires an in-person interview and a background check at a nearby enrollment center. This interview takes about 10 minutes, and you’ll typically receive a decision within two to three weeks after your appointment.
How TSA PreCheck Works
This program was designed to speed up airport security checkpoints for verified, low-risk travelers. TSA PreCheck members will be able to access a designated expedited security line and have fewer requirements when passing through the security check. For example, passengers won’t be required to remove articles of clothing or personal items from themselves or their luggage.
With this program, you won’t be required to remove:
- Accessories, such as watches or jewelry
- Articles of clothing, such as your shoes, belt, or light jacket
- Laptop and other electronics in your luggage
- Personal items in your luggage, such as your toiletries or 3-1-1 liquids (three ounce containers or smaller, one quart-size bag, and one bag per traveler)
Over 200 airports offer this service, and you can apply directly through TSA’s website with a nonrefundable application fee of $85. Upon approval, you will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN). You can use your KTN anytime you book a flight, which is valid for five years. Your KTN will give you access to the expedited TSA security lines at more than 200 airports with 73 participating airlines in the US.
Who TSA PreCheck Is Right For
TSA PreCheck is intended to speed up airport security checkpoints for verified travelers. People who spend a lot of their time traveling may find this program beneficial. Additionally, some credit cards offer application reimbursements. This means there may be an opportunity to gain access to this government program at no cost, depending on the card you have open.
TSA PreCheck is right for:
- Frequent travelers: TSA PreCheck offers a designated line and an expedited security screening process. This can benefit those people who travel frequently and want to cut out waiting in long lines for standard airport security screening.
- People with credit cards that offer application reimbursements: Some personal credit cards offer application fee reimbursements. If you have a card that offers this benefit, it may be worth submitting the online application to receive a free membership. There are also business credit cards that offer this same perk if you own a business.
This program helps reduce the amount of time you have to spend waiting to get through airport security, which may vary depending on your flight time and airport. If you become a member, you can typically have access to a designated expedited TSA security line.
TSA PreCheck Costs
TSA PreCheck requires a nonrefundable $85 application fee ($100 for foreign residents). This means you won’t get your money back if your application is rejected. If you’re approved, your membership will last for five years. At the end of the five years, you’ll be required to renew TSA PreCheck for $85.
However, there are dozens of personal credit cards that may reimburse you for your membership application fee. Additionally, these credit cards often offer application fee reimbursements for Global Entry, another Trusted Traveler program. Trusted traveler programs are risk-based programs to facilitate the entry of pre-approved travelers.
If your card offers this perk, you’ll be able to choose which program you want to apply for. TSA PreCheck is ideal for domestic travel and Global Entry is ideal for international travel. You’ll also receive TSA PreCheck benefits through Global Entry.
TSA PreCheck Airport Locations
TSA PreCheck is at more than 200 US airports, including Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), two of the 15 busiest US airports. This is a US-only program, which means you won’t have access to expedited airport security lines if you’re at an airport outside the US. To see if your preferred airport offers this program, view the TSA PreCheck map.
Airlines That Offer TSA PreCheck
In addition to the airports that offer this Trusted Traveler program, there are 73 participating airlines. These include most major airlines, such as Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines.
TSA PreCheck Eligibility
US citizens are eligible for TSA PreCheck. Additionally, any foreign resident who has become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the US is also eligible for membership. Upon application, TSA requires you to visit an enrollment center for an in-person interview and background check where you’ll need to provide your fingerprints and Social Security number (SSN). You’re eligible to use this program for all participating airlines once you receive your Known Traveler Number (KTN) upon approval.
TSA PreCheck Disqualify Offense Factors
TSA also provides a list of disqualifying offenses and other factors, which permanently ban applicants from receiving a membership. These factors include espionage, sedition, treason, federal crimes of terrorism, improper transportation of hazardous material, and unlawful possession of explosives or explosive devices.
TSA also can disqualify applicants if they have been convicted, plead guilty to (including “no contest”), or found not guilty by reason of insanity to numerous types of felonies within seven years of the application date. Additionally, if the applicant was released from incarceration after conviction within five years of the application date they will be denied. These crimes include unlawful possession of firearms, extortion, fraud, money laundering, bribery, smuggling, arson, immigration violations, and rape.
How to Get TSA PreCheck
To apply for this program, you’ll be required to fill out an application through TSA’s website, which includes information like citizenship, address, and date of birth. You’ll have to make an appointment for an in-person interview where you’ll bring a valid photo ID, proof of citizenship, and immigration documentation (if applicable). You’ll receive a decision within two to three weeks of your in-person interview. You can check your application status online.
Follow these five steps to get TSA PreCheck:
1. Visit the TSA PreCheck Website
To begin your application process and apply online, visit the TSA PreCheck website. From the homepage, click the red “Apply Now” button. This will redirect you to the first page of the online application, which requires you to provide your biographical information like your name and date of birth.
2. Complete the Online TSA PreCheck Application
Begin to work your way through the four-step application process. Each step is simple, and the entire application typically takes no more than 15 minutes to complete, as long as you have all the necessary information ready. This includes information like citizenship, address, and date of birth. In the last step of the application process, you’ll be asked to choose an appointment for your in-person interview.
3. Schedule Your In-person Interview and Background Check
The final step of the online application requires you to find a nearby enrollment center and schedule an in-person interview. Enrollment centers are typically located at major US airports, AAA offices, or at other facilities in your city.
Once you’ve found your enrollment center, click on the address and then click the white “Next” button in the bottom right of your screen. This will redirect you to a new page where you can select your specific appointment date and time.
4. In-person Interview
Prepare for your in-person interview by gathering the required documents. During the application process, TSA asks you to choose two forms of identification that you can bring to your in-person interview. For example, you can bring a valid driver’s license and passport. If necessary, you’ll also need to bring immigration documents, too. Lastly, you will need to bring a personal or small business credit card to pay the $85 application fee.
5. Use the TSA PreCheck Benefits
Once approved, TSA will notify you and distribute your Known Traveler Number (KTN). You can use your KTN every time you book a flight. Additionally, you can add your KTN to your frequent flyer accounts so it automatically includes the global number in your flight itineraries. The next time you visit an airport, you’ll be able to take advantage of the program’s benefits.
How to Get TSA PreCheck for Free
Sometimes travelers will randomly receive TSA PreCheck access when they check-in for their flights and receive their boarding pass. However, this is not guaranteed and only gives you one-time access on the day of your specific flight. Additionally, some credit cards and loyalty programs may reimburse you for all or a portion of your $85 application fee. These cards also offer reimbursements for Global Entry application fees, which are $100. Global Entry also includes TSA PreCheck benefits.
Here’s a glance at the best credit cards that offer free TSA Precheck:
Best Credit Cards That Offer Free TSA PreCheck
Personal Credit Card
Luxury travel perks
Unlimited fixed-rate miles
Large sign-up bonus
Business Credit Cards That Offer Free TSA PreCheck
Business Credit Card
Top travel rewards and luxury travel perks
2x miles on all spending
Traveling with Southwest Airlines
TSA PreCheck vs Other Trusted Traveler Programs
In addition to this program, Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS make up the other Trusted Traveler programs. These Trusted Traveler programs may also give you access to TSA PreCheck in addition to the program’s specific benefits, as long as you use your membership number as your Known Traveler Number (KTN) when booking a flight. You can also apply for CLEAR—which isn’t a Trusted Traveler program—but does get you to the front of the general TSA line.
$100 / 5 years
Expedited US customs screening and TSA PreCheck
$122.25 / 5 years
Expedited security when entering the US from Canada and Mexico
$50 / 5 years
Expedited clearance when entering the US from Canada
$179 / 1 year
Expedited identity screening to skip the general security line
TSA PreCheck vs Global Entry
Global Entry is a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program. This program includes TSA PreCheck benefits plus expedited US customs screening for international travelers when entering the US. It costs $100 to apply—compared to TSA PreCheck’s $85 fee—and requires a similar in-person interview. Your membership is valid for five years.
If you frequently travel outside of the US, Global Entry may be the best bang for your buck. With an application fee of $100—only $15 more than TSA PreCheck—you’ll receive TSA PreCheck benefits and expedited US customs screening. You can apply for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck benefits through the Trusted Traveler programs’ website.
TSA PreCheck vs SENTRI
Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) is meant for people who frequently travel from Mexico into the US or Canada into the US via air and land. SENTRI gives travelers access to an expedited process with the CBP when entering the US and you may also receive TSA PreCheck benefits. It costs $122.50 to apply, and the membership is valid for five years. You can apply for SENTRI through the Trusted Traveler programs’ website.
TSA PreCheck vs NEXUS
NEXUS is another CBP program that is designed for people who frequently travel between Canada and the U.S. NEXUS offers expedited clearance upon arrival in the U.S. from Canada via land, air, and sea. It costs $50 to apply and an in-person interview is required. Upon approval, the NEXUS membership is valid for five years. You can apply for NEXUS through the Trusted Traveler programs’ website.
TSA PreCheck vs CLEAR
CLEAR is not a Trusted Traveler program, however, it’s designed to get travelers through general TSA security faster and easier. For $179 per year, CLEAR lets you skip the TSA line and uses biometric data (fingerprints and eye scans) to identify you. However, after it verifies your identity, a representative will take you to the front of the regular TSA security line.
If you want to receive an expedited security process in addition to skipping the general TSA line, you also need a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership. Unlike TSA PreCheck—which is available in more than 200 airports—CLEAR is only available at about 35 airport locations in the US. You can enroll on CLEAR’s website.
TSA PreCheck Benefits and Disadvantages
There are several TSA PreCheck advantages, but the most beneficial is access to designated expedited airport security lines. Additionally, you can receive these services at more than 200 U.S. airports for five years. However, it’s important to note that TSA PreCheck benefits don’t cover international travel. If you travel outside the US, consider applying for Global Entry.
TSA PreCheck Benefits
TSA PreCheck benefits are:
- Designated expedited airport security lines: It gives you access to designated expedited TSA security lines. Additionally, there are fewer requirements—you won’t have to remove your shoes or your laptop from your bag—when going through airport security because you’re pre-approved as a low-risk traveler.
- Available at more than 200 airports: This expedited security program is available at more than 200 airports in the US, including 15 of the busiest airports in the country. Visit the TSA website to see if your airport offers this program.
- Your membership lasts up to five years: It costs $85 to apply for this expedited security screening program. However, if you’re approved, your membership is valid for five years. A renewal fee of $85 will be due after your membership expires.
TSA PreCheck Disadvantages
TSA PreCheck disadvantages are:
- Nonrefundable application fee: There is an application fee of $85 and you won’t receive a refund if you’re rejected. If you want to avoid the application fee, some credit card companies may reimburse you for the application fee.
- Doesn’t cover international travel: This program does not include international travel. If you travel outside of the US, consider Global Entry. Global Entry gives travelers access to expedited customs and immigration lines plus all TSA PreCheck advantages. It costs $100 to apply for Global Entry, which some credit cards may also cover.
- Application requires an in-person interview: Although you can complete your application online, you will need to visit a nearby enrollment center for an in-person interview and background check.
TSA PreCheck Tips
Applying for this program is quick, however, it may take some time to schedule your in-person interview and receive a decision. It’s best to plan ahead, apply in advance, and choose an enrollment center near you. If you’re approved, your membership will be valid for five years. You can renew it every five years for $85 or get a credit card that offers application fee reimbursements.
The best TSA PreCheck tips are:
- Plan ahead and apply in advance: The online application is quick and easy—it should only take about 15 minutes to complete. However, it may take more time to find an in-person interview appointment and hear back on your application. Be sure to apply in advance to ensure you’ll receive the benefits for the next time you travel.
- Look for an enrollment center near you: In the past, you had to visit a participating airport for your in-person interview. However, you can now visit a variety of enrollment centers for your in-person interview. Check for the nearest enrollment center through TSA’s website.
- Renew every five years: Once you’re approved, you will receive TSA PreCheck benefits for five years. Once your membership expires, you can renew it for the same application fee of $85.
- Get a credit card that covers the application fee: If you want to avoid the application fee, open a credit card that offers to pay for the program’s application fee. Most credit cards that offer reimbursements, do so every 4.5 years, which aligns with the program’s five-year membership.
It’s crucial to follow the best program practices to ensure you can receive the benefits in time for your next travel dates. Additionally, if you spend some time looking for credit cards that offer reimbursements, you can receive a free membership.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About TSA PreCheck
We covered a lot of information on this expedited security screening program. Some questions are asked more often than others, and we address those here.
The most frequently asked questions about this TSA program are:
How long does it take to get TSA PreCheck?
Most often, it typically takes two to three weeks to receive a decision on your TSA PreCheck application. Although the online TSA PreCheck application is quick and simple, it takes time for TSA to process your background check and information. TSA will notify you whether you’ve been approved or rejected for the program.
What does TSA stand for?
TSA stands for Transportation Security Administration, which is a part of the US Department of Homeland Security. It serves to facilitate the security of public travel in the US and was formed in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City and Washington, D.C. TSA employs people to monitor safety at airports.
What is the difference between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry?
TSA Precheck is ideal for domestic travel and Global Entry is best for international travel. TSA PreCheck offers an expedited security screening process for flights leaving from US airports. Global Entry, on the other hand, offers TSA Precheck benefits in addition to expedited US customs screening for international travelers entering the US.
With TSA PreCheck, you’ll have the ability to arrive at the airport and access a designated TSA security screening line. With this program, you won’t have to remove your shoes, laptop, or personal items from your bag when you go through airport security. It costs $85 to apply and you can complete the application online in about 15 minutes.
Some travelers may have the opportunity to avoid the $85 application fee. For instance, some credit cards, like Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business, offer application fee reimbursements every four years. You can apply online in a matter of minutes.