If you are on the fence about whether to join a trusted traveler program, these are some interesting numbers from the TSA PreCheck website.
Are Trusted Traveler Programs Worth the Money?
The TSA PreCheck is $85 for 5 years, or an average of $17 per year. Global Entry costs $100 for 5 years. Personally, I considered Global Entry “TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry: Which is Better?” to be the better program since TSA PreCheck is included. I tend to break down the cost-benefit this way:
TSA Entry or Global Entry?
If you don’t plan or expect to travel internationally within a 5-year span, save yourself $15 and get TSA PreCheck. If you have plans to travel internationally, Global Entry is the way to go.
Do you need expedited security screening?
No, no one needs TSA PreCheck. The regular screening lines work fine, and it won’t cost you a cent more. If you fly infrequently, the membership won’t do you too much good. If you fly on a semi-regular basis, you’ll want the expedited screening.
What about actual experience?
Can you actually get through the screening in 5 minutes, given the TSA PreCheck’s November wait time stats for 93% of passengers?
I had been jetting around during these busy holiday months, and I certainly expected longer lines and longer waits. To my surprise, I was still able to breeze through most of the TSA PreCheck lines in just under than 5 minutes (while those in my party without expedited screening took about 15 minutes). There was a lone exception with one airport (LAS) where the TSA PreCheck line was about 10-15 minutes. The regular security line was even longer.
I know TSA PreCheck helped me on a close call on at least one occasion.
Generally speaking, the benefits are worth it to me. Aside from the time-saving, I like not having to go through the full-body scan every single time, or needing to take out my laptop. Or shoes. (Though I had to take them off since my boots contain metal)
Keep in mind that you can still be subject to random searches.
Of course, it won’t go as smoothly if When TSA PreCheck isn’t Printed on Your Boarding Pass.
I didn’t think the expedited screening was something I’d care for, but I can’t imagine not using it now. When it all works the way it should, the trusted traveler program is quite a good value proposition for my traveling needs.
Who knows. It might just be worth it, for you too.
Are you thinking about signing up for a trusted traveler program? If you have TSA PreCheck, what has been your experience? Have you been able to breeze through the airport in less than 5 minutes?
Global Entry is definitely worth it. I’ve used the TSA Pre-check benefit all the time. I was recently based in a city that had a smaller airport (ABE), so most of the airlines had early morning departures. The Pre-check line allowed me to breeze through security. I am now based near a large airport (IAH), and the benefits are even better due to the large number of flights going in/out of there. I have used the Global Entry benefit once, and it was well worth it when I flew to/from ZRH from PHL. Also, when travelling with my family, if… Read more »
Another down side of Global Entry is the relatively small number of interview sites, and what can be relatively long wait times for appointments. The nearest GE site to my home is 4+ hours away by car and only had limited weekday opening hours. Last time I checked, the soonest appointment was 4+ months out. (And while you can in theory arrange an interview upon arrival at an air point of entry coming back from an international trip, there’s no guarantee you can get on the GE schedule that day) In contrast, there are many, many more places where you… Read more »
There is a cheaper way! It’s called NEXUS. It’s only $50 for 5 years. The catch is that you have to go to an interview at a NEXUS office, which is located only in major Canadian cities/airports and a few US cities near border, like Detroit. You can even get cheaper. If you apply just after your birthday, you can get NEXUS for around 5 years and 10-11 months. Still cheaper is to make a paper application, which is processed in Canada (online applications are processed by the US), which can lower the cost to about $48 due to exchange… Read more »
If you aren’t planning on leaving the US for the next five years make better plans.