TSA PreCheck versus Global Entry

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We’re always on the look-out for ways to make going through the airport a little less stressful, and in theory two of the best ways to do that is by enrolling in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. But which one is right for you? And what are the differences between the two programs?

The main difference between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry is that TSA PreCheck can help you move through airport security faster when you first arrive to a domestic U.S. airport, while Global Entry helps expedite your process through customs when you arrive back in the U.S. after an international flight. But both programs offer different experiences as well.

TSA PreCheck

For TSA PreCheck, qualified flyers go through an expedited TSA security line, where they don’t have to remove their shoes, belts, coats, and laptops. Initially you had to have frequent flyer status or be a member of a Trusted Traveler program (if you have Global Entry you have PreCheck) to qualify for the program. To sign up, you can apply online and pay $85.

In theory, and for regular air travelers, it’s a great idea. But PreCheck has been heavily criticized since its inception in 2013. Flyers complained that the “expedited PreCheck” lanes were often closed during peak travel times, or worse, being used to funnel non-PreCheck passengers.

The TSA claims they have since opened up more lanes, and hired more agents. But many airports still don’t have PreCheck available during all of the operational hours, and the TSA is still moving non-PreCheck passengers into the PreCheck lines.

Global Entry

Global Entry is also designed for low-risk travelers who, if approved, can receive expedited clearance upon arriving arrival into the United States. Once you go through the application process, Global Entry members can then skip the lines at Customs and Border Protection entirely. Instead they now use touch-screen kiosks in the arrivals area of airports‹, no more filling out that customs form on the plane before arrival.

Global Entry members are also automatically eligible to join the TSA PreCheck program at no additional fee. Global Entry application costs $100, which is non-refundable. But some credit cards such as the Platinum American Express and Citi Prestige will refund your fee with a statement credit.

Application Process Differences:

Global Entry starts with an online application, which if approved, results in an in-person interview, where a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer asks questions, takes a photo and scans fingerprints. But a caution here: the time to process your application and the availability for an interview vary.