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Global Entry vs. TSA Precheck

Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check

When I book flights for my clients I always ask, "Do you have a Global Entry # or TSA Precheck # that you would like me to add to your flight reservation?" Some know exactly what I'm talking about and others are not sure.

I personally went for Global Entry, since it was only $15 more than TSA Pre-check and includes TSA Pre-check with it. If you travel internationally quite a bit and need your passport, then I would suggest Global Entry. Your trips to the airport with either one with be a lot smoother. There are also other programs you can opt in for that work in conjunction to Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check. We'll discuss that later on in the blog post. For now, here's the "Need to Know" info, so you can make an informed decision.

If you travel frequently, streamlining the process is essential to getting in and out of airports (and to wherever you’re going) as quickly as possible. For domestic and international travelers, Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check have made clearing security and customs much easier, allowing you to skip the lines at both. Here’s what you need to know about the two programs and how to get them.

GLOBAL ENTRY VS. TSA PRECHECK: THE BASICS Global Entry is run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and allows “pre-approved, low risk” travelers an expedited means of clearing customs upon reentering the country. Travelers with Global Entry use kiosks that read their passports, fingerprints, and customs declarations, allowing them to bypass the customs official and the accompanying line. Though this is primarily to benefit travelers coming into the country, some international customs authorities recognize Global Entry in some capacity.

TSA Pre-Check

TSA PreCheck is another Trusted Traveler Program designed to make clearing security at airports much easier. Simply put, Global Entry is designed to expedite the customs process, while TSA PreCheck does the same for the security screening process.

Note: Global Entry travelers are automatically qualified for TSA PreCheck, but the reverse is not true.

ELIGIBILITY FOR GLOBAL ENTRY You must be a U.S. Citizen, lawful permanent resident, Dutch citizen, South Korean citizen, or Mexican national to be eligible for Global Entry. (Canadian citizens can access the same benefits through the NEXUS program). Applicants cannot have been convicted of a criminal offense or found in violation of any customs regulations in any country. A machine-readable passport or a U.S. permanent resident card is also required. Global Entry is valid for five years, after which you can renew it.

ELIGIBILITY FOR TSA PRECHECK You must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, and cannot be on any terrorist watchlists, have been convicted of a criminal offense, or currently be under indictment.

HOW TO APPLY FOR GLOBAL ENTRY Begin by filling out the online application (there is a $100 application fee). After you have undergone a thorough background check, assuming there are no problems, you will be issued a letter asking you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center, most of which are housed in airports around the country. During the interview, a U.S. Customs Border Protection officer will ask you questions, take your picture, and scan all 10 fingerprints. Be sure to bring two forms of ID to the interview. You will then be issued a Global Entry ID card.

HOW TO APPLY FOR TSA PRECHECK The process is basically identical to that of Global Entry. Fill out on online application (fee is $85) and once you have been notified that your application has been accepted, schedule an interview at a TSA PreCheck application center.

Global Entry Kiosk

USING GLOBAL ENTRY When clearing customs at a U.S. international airport and some Canadian airports, proceed to one of the Global Entry kiosks and skip the lines for the customs officials.

Note: Global Entry travelers cannot bring other passengers (children, spouses, etc.) through the fast-track line if they are not also Global Entry cardholders.

USING TSA PRECHECK First, ensure that your boarding pass has the green TSA PreCheck icon. Global Entry and TSA PreCheck participants will be issued a Trusted Traveler number, so be sure to enter this when booking your tickets to be sure your boarding pass lists you as pre-approved. Then, look for the designated line at the security checkpoint (see list of participating airports here). You’ll still have to show your boarding pass and ID, but you will be able to keep your shoes and belt on, and will not be required to remove your laptop or liquids from your carry-on (though you still must place your liquids in a 1-quart sized bag). Global Entry travelers can also use this option. Unlike Global Entry, TSA PreCheck permits travelers to bring non-TSA PreCheck passengers through the fast-track line.

The Consensus: Unless you never travel outside the U.S. and have no plans to do so in the next five years, opt for Global Entry. The additional $15 will be well worth it, though if you often travel with other people, you will want them to be Global Entry members as well.

A newer, lesser known program that people can also now choose is called, CLEAR.

CLEAR Airport Security Program

CLEAR is often the most misunderstood program for the three, which is unfortunate because its benefits are straightforward and worthwhile. The confusion arises because CLEAR does not work in parallel with PreCheck and Global Entry (remember these are not competing services). CLEAR works in partnership with the airport security authorities. For $179 per year, CLEAR escorts you to an alternate dedicated screening lane (which one might say is even hard to call a line, because there is virtually no wait time), skipping past both the regular TSA screening line and the TSA PreCheck line.

After the CLEAR lane you arrive at the TSA physical screening checkpoint. If you have PreCheck then you will go to the PreCheck screening section, if you do not then you'll go to the regular screening section. So you can see the benefit of having both PreCheck and CLEAR. Obviously CLEAR can not have its own physical screening section because that task must be completed by the airport authorities, not a 3rd party.

CLEAR users regularly praise the service for getting them from ticketing to post-security in around 5 to 10 mins max. For frequent travelers, especially routine business flights, that's a very attractive benefit.

Where You Can Use CLEAR CLEAR, at the time of this article (Fall 2017), is currently operating at about 20 US airports with more openings coming soon. Here's where you will find CLEAR security lanes today:

  • Austin (AUS)

  • Baltimore (BWI)

  • Dallas (DFW)

  • Denver (DEN)

  • Detroit (DTW)

  • Houston (IAH and HOU)

  • Las Vegas (LAS)

  • Miami (MIA)

  • New York (LGA and JFK)

  • Orlando (MCO)

  • San Antonio (SAT)

  • San Francisco (SFO)

  • San Jose (SJC)

  • Seattle (SEA)

  • Washington, D.C. (DCA and IAD)

Why Choose CLEAR? CLEAR is a popular choice for frequent flyers for these key reasons:

  1. It works in conjunction with TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, so members of those programs still utilize the benefits.

  2. It allows you to skip the manual boarding pass + ID check step via the use of the CLEAR kiosks.

  3. You're almost guaranteed to be past security in 5-10 mins. No more worries that you arrived at the airport a little late (however be aware of baggage check-in time cut-offs).

What's the Catch? With CLEAR the main issue for travelers is the cost. The $179 per year price tag could be unappealing to infrequent flyers. The signup and enrollment process is much faster and painless though when compared to PreCheck and Global Entry.

So, which will you chooose? With more people learning about Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check, they say that even those lines will begin to grow bigger and bigger and possibly be the same as not having it all. I think we're a ways away from that, though. Many people are not going to want to pay for any of the three, still reducing your time in security lines. All I can say, is that I love it! We zip right through and are never chosen for our bags to get checked. It's a beautiful thing.

Some information within this blog I used from articles by and Fodor's.

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