TSA PreCheck VS Global Entry: What You Need To Know

You’ve booked your vacation and packed your bags.  You and your family are filled with excitement as you arrive at the airport.  You check in your luggage and double-check to make sure that your boarding passes and IDs are in hand and ready to be looked over at security.  But as you get closer to the security area, there are lines upon lines upon lines.  Your anxiety hits the roof thinking of how long you’ll be standing in those lines while having to remove your shoes, belts, jacket, laptops, and liquids.  While impatiently waiting, you’re wishing that there was a way to get those lines moving and get through security faster.  Well, there are options for you!

The TSA PreCheck might just be the answer to your airport security line prayers.  TSA PreCheck is a Trusted Traveler Program that offers dedicated security lines with quicker screening processing for passengers deemed as low-risk per TSA.  According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), 99% of TSA PreCheck passengers wait less than 10 minutes.  The membership comes in at a cost of $78 and is good for five years.  Think about all of the time that you’ll save going through airport security with TSA PreCheck.  

Tip: Some credit cards may offer a statement credit for the application fee.  

Do the math!  If you take the $78 for the membership and divide that by the 5 years that it’s good for, it comes out to $15 each year.  I can’t speak for you, but that $15 a year is well worth my sanity of not having to wait in long lines and remove my shoes, belt, laptop, and liquids every time I want to hop on a U.S. flight.  

There are more than 200 U.S. airports and over 90 airlines that provide TSA PreCheck, which adds to the benefit of applying for membership.  In order to apply, you must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or U.S. lawful permanent resident.  There are two steps to the application process.  First, complete the online application by visiting the TSA PreCheck Website.  Once your online application is completed, the second step is to schedule an in-person appointment at one of over 500 TSA PreCheck Enrollment Centers.  You will need to bring a valid photo identification and a birth certificate to your appointment.  During the appointment, your fingerprints will be taken and a background check will be done.  

The processing time can be as quick as 3 to 5 days or as long as 60 days.  Once approved, you will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN).  Even though you are accepted/approved for TSA PreCheck and received your KTN, it is not automatically applied to your air reservations.  You’ll want to add your KTN to your frequent flier accounts or be sure to include your KTN on your flight reservation to enjoy the expedited security screening.  You will know if you are able to use the TSA PreCheck lanes when it’s indicated on your boarding pass with a green check mark. 

Tip: Children under 12 may accompany an eligible parent/guardian without restrictions.  Children 13-17 may join an eligible parent/guardian if they are on the same reservation and their boarding pass shows the green TSA PreCheck mark.  

Tip: Active members of the U.S. Armed Forces can use their Department of Defense identification number in place of a KTN to access TSA PreCheck benefits.

As stated, the TSA PreCheck membership is valid for five years meaning that you need to reapply and pay a renewal fee of $70 prior to the membership expiration date.  You can renew your membership up to six months before the expiration date to ensure that your membership does not lapse.  Most people can renew online without having to visit an enrollment center.

If you are an international traveler, you’re probably thinking that TSA PreCheck is pointless for you.  You’d be half right.  While waiting in those immigration lines, you probably wish there was a way to avoid them or at least speed the process along.  Plus, going through customs and/or border patrol and ensuring that you have the proper customs paperwork can be stressful.  Well, Global Entry might be your answer.

Global Entry is a Trusted Traveler Program operated by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that allows for expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival to the U.S. by air, land, and sea.  With Global Entry membership, there are no processing lines, reduced wait times, and no paperwork.

The cost for Global Entry is $100 and it is valid for five years.  A huge benefit to Global Entry is that TSA PreCheck is included.  Yes, you read that right!  Therefore, if you travel internationally AND domestically, Global Entry may just be the best option for you.  Let’s do the math again.  Take the $100 membership cost and divide it by the five years of validity, and you get $20 a year.  That is a huge deal!!  Who wouldn’t spend $20 a year to save time and stress at immigration lines?  Count me in!  

Tip: Just like with TSA PreCheck, some credit cards may issue a credit for the cost.

There are over 60 U.S. airports and 17 pre-clearance international airports that participate in the Global Entry Program.  What does pre-clearance international airport mean? CBP has worked with local (international) authorities to allow U.S. travelers to complete immigration formalities at the departure airport before their flight back to the U.S.  Therefore, once the flight lands in the U.S., the traveler departs the plane and does not have to undergo any arrival inspection or paperwork because it was done at the departure airport.  Keep in mind that if you opt for pre-clearance, you need to give yourself enough time to go through the immigration process at the departure airport.  

The application process is a bit more comprehensive than the TSA PreCheck process.  First and foremost, there is no minimum age requirement for Global Entry.  This means that ALL travelers, including infants/babies/children, must have their own Global Entry application.   Individuals eligible to apply for Global Entry include U.S. Citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and select foreign nationals.  In addition, all individuals applying for Global Entry must have a valid passport, including children.

There are four steps to apply for Global Entry.  First, each applicant must create a Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) account, including minors.  Next, each applicant will need to log into their own TTP account to complete the online application and pay the non-refundable $100 fee.  This step must be followed for each minor as well.  Third, schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center for each applicant.  An interview must be scheduled for each minor as well.  Lastly, show up prepared for the interview by bringing your passport, photo identification, and proof of address (utility bill).  For minors, bring their birth certificate and passport.  Like the TSA PreCheck interview, fingerprinting and a background check will be conducted.  According to CBP, if you are having issues obtaining an appointment slot for your interview, you can opt to complete the interview when returning from international travel.  This is called Enrollment on Arrival (EoA).  Upon arrival from international travel, follow the signage to Customs and inform the CBP officer that you need to complete your Global Entry interview.  Keep in mind that processing time is currently taking four to six months and at times up to 11 months.  Give yourself time and start the application process early.

If approved for Global Entry, you will receive your Global Entry card with a PASSID (member) number.  The PASSID will be used as your Known Traveler Number (KTN) for TSA PreCheck.  To activate your Global Entry card, log into your TTP account and click on “Activate Membership Card”.  Global Entry cards have radio frequency identification chips that enable their use at SENTRI (from Mexico) and NEXUS (from Canada) travel lanes when entering the U.S. at land borders.  Only your passport or lawful permanent resident card is accepted at Global Entry kiosks at select airports. 

A Global Entry membership is valid for five years.  You are eligible to renew your membership one year prior to your membership expiration.  Log into your TTP account to submit a renewal application and pay the $100 renewal fee.  If you submit a renewal application before your membership expires, you will be able to continue to use the benefits up to 24 months after your membership expiration date.  An interview may be required to renew.  

After reviewing the info on TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, which do you think is best for you?  Be sure to check out the TSA and CBP websites for up-to-date info.

-Happy Travels!


Program TSA PreCheck Global Entry
Website https://www.tsa.gov/precheck https://www.cbp.gov/globalentry
What it does Expedited security screening at participating airports w/ participating airlines Expedited customs and border protection processing at airports and/or land borders entering the U.S.

**Includes TSA PreCheck

Covered Travel Travel by domestic air Travel by international air, land, and sea
Eligibility U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or U.S. lawful permanent residents U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and select foreign nationals 

**Requires a passport

Cost and Expiration $78 / for 5 years $100 / for 5 years
Processing Time 3 – 5 days, up to 60 days 4 – 6 months, up to 11 months
Requirements Valid photo I.D., birth certificate, or passport

Verify identity

Fingerprints / Background check



Verify identity & proof of address

Fingerprints / Background check

Additional Info Known Traveler Number (KTN) is given upon approval

Approval covers children under 12 with eligible parent/guardian

Every party, including infants/children, must apply