I was lead astray by the Today Show.
I’ve been debating signing up for the TSA Pre-Check but didn’t act until the Today Show aired a segment on long security lines at many airports. In some cases the average delay is routinely longer than 90 minutes.
One of the proposed workarounds was going through the TSA Pre-Check line. It’s usually shorter than the regular line and should move faster since people don’t have to remove shoes and belt, etc. It’s $85 / 5 years but that’s less than $20/year. If you travel more than a few times per year it’s just a few dollars, at most, per flight in order to get time you can use for something, anything, other than waiting in security lines.
I knew I would be traveling a lot more this year so this was a no-brainer.
Skip forward to yesterday. I had just had my appointment to be fingerprinted and pay the $85 fee when someone asked me a question that made me realize I had made a… suboptimal… choice.
I knew about Global Entry from my last job. It lets you go through US Customs faster. It’s another no-brainer if you travel internationally more than a few times per year. However I thought it only applied to clearing US Customs.
I was wrong – TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry share the “Known Traveler Number” and all airlines care about is that number. They don’t care if you have it from the Pre-Check program, the Global Entry program, or anything else. (E.g., active duty military personnel probably have KTNs).
Global Entry costs $100 / 5 years, require a brief in-person interview, and have a more extensive background check. It usually takes longer to get an appointment. All of this makes it a little less convenient to get but once you have it you’ve gotten a significant additional benefit for just an additional $3 / year. What’s more some people report that they can usually get into the TSA Pre-Check line even if their airline doesn’t participate (e.g., if you fly Frontier since you’re based in Denver) if you show your GE card.
Bottom line: if you’re thinking about getting a TSA Pre-Check account you should ask yourself if a Global Entry card makes more sense. I would have definitely gone with GE if I had realized it also provides Pre-Check benefits. Your mileage may vary.