One of the benefits touted by many premium credit cards is the ability to be reimbursed for either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fees. Both of these trusted traveler programs are definitely worth having if you travel more than just a few times per year. I’ve really enjoyed the benefits of TSA PreCheck after finally getting Global Entry (which also gives you PreCheck) in mid-2018.
TSA PreCheck gets me through security extremely quickly. My favorite spot to use this benefit is at Sacramento International Airport, where I can make it from car to gate in 10-12 minutes.
But I’d not experienced how amazing the benefits of Global Entry can be. Until now.
My Experience at LAX: Gate to Gone in 7 Minutes
I arrived at Tom Bradley International Terminal from a recent quick trip to Helsinki, flying Alitalia 777-200 business class. I’ve only passed through immigration one other time at LAX, and while it seemed faster than my experiences at both Houston and Atlanta, it still wasn’t especially quick. Plus, the one time I entered the U.S. at LAX, we ended up completing the Global Entry interview for one of my sons, which obviously takes some time.
So, this was actually the first time I’d really get to put Global Entry to the test. A true test. With just a carry-on, I was hoping I could breeze through the entire immigration and customs process in mere minutes.
This was exactly how things unfolded. Traveling in business class meant I was one of the first several people off the plane. I figured that even if I hadn’t been, most of the passengers likely don’t have Global Entry anyway. I ended up being one of the first down to the immigration hall in TBIT.
There wasn’t any wait for the Global Entry kiosks. With several kiosks available and only one other passenger present when I arrived, there was literally no wait.
Scanning my passport and fingerprints and answering all the questions took under a minute. The machine printed off my slip and I headed toward the exit. The officer quickly waived me through.
Not having a checked bag meant that I didn’t need to wait for any luggage prior to customs. Instead, I just entered the Global Entry line for customs as well. This has exactly zero people in it. The CBP agent collected my printed slip, and off I went. I was not aware they had a separate line for customs, but this is what saved me the bulk of the time, as the “normal” customs line was quite long.
Stepping off the plane to exiting the terminal took approximately 7 minutes. I knew Global Entry makes entry quick, but I didn’t expect it to be this quick, especially at LAX. All our recent entries into the U.S. have included Global Entry interviews. But this experience cemented the fact that even with $100 cost, Global Entry is worth it. More than worth it.
Is Global Entry Worth It For You?
If you rarely travel internationally (maybe 1 or 2 times every few years), I would argue that the cost and hassle of Global Entry isn’t worth it. You must apply, complete and interview, both of which are a bit of a hassle. The one saving grace for us is being able to complete interviews on arrival at some airports.
However, if you’re headed abroad even a couple times per year, the $100 (or $0, if you use a credit from various credit cards) will save you many hours of time. In this case I’d argue that Global Entry is worth it. Erasing the hours-long wait at customs and immigration is an extremely nice perk.
Global Entry can get a bit expensive for a family (and yes, all family members need Global Entry), but there are more and more cards that offer a complimentary Global Entry or PreCheck credit.
No matter what, if you travel abroad even semi-regularly, the cost of Global Entry is worth it. I will happily pay to transit immigration and customs is 7 minutes every time.