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Global Entry vs. TSA Precheck: Which Is Better

Global Entry vs. TSA Precheck: Which Is Better

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Global Entry and TSA Precheck are the two most popular Trusted Traveler Programs (TTPs) of the five offered by the Department of Homeland Security. Both allow you to use dedicated security screening lanes at U.S. airports, making your travel experience faster and more hassle-free. Both programs charge an application fee and have an approval process that requires some time investment.

While a more rigorous process, Global Entry is the better option if you travel internationally. On the other hand, if you have children under 12 and won't travel internationally, TSA Precheck is an easier and much more affordable option.

In this guide, we’ll dig into the details of Global Entry versus TSA Precheck and highlight the program similarities and differences.

Global Entry vs. TSA Precheck

Global Entry
TSA Precheck
How much does it cost?$100$85
How long does it take to enroll?10 minutes online plus 20 minutes in personFive minutes online plus 10 minutes in person
How long does it last?Five yearsFive years
Cost to renew$100$85 if in person, $70 online
Who can qualify?U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and citizens of 12 other countries.U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and lawful permanent residents
Where does it apply?Upon entry into 59 U.S. airports and at preclearance at 16 international airportsAt 200 select airports in the U.S. with 81 participating airlines
How do you apply?Create a TTP account and apply online. You will need to complete an in-person interview.Apply online at the TSA.gov website. You will need to complete an in-person appointment as well.
Enrollment center locationsLocations in 52 U.S. states and territories, plus locations in Canada and QatarOver 400 locations, including major airports, IdentGO locations, and select Staples stores all process TSA Precheck enrollment.
Passport required?YesNo
Separate membership required for children?YesNo, as long as children under 12
Benefits
  • Reduced wait times with self-service kiosks or E-Gates using facial comparison technologies at major U.S. airports
  • No paperwork to be filled out by passengers upon entry
  • Includes TSA Precheck
  • Wait five minutes or less in security screening lines
  • No need to remove belt, shoes or jacket
  • No need to remove liquids and electronics from your luggage for screening

What are trusted traveler programs?

Trusted traveler programs are any of five different programs that facilitate expedited screening, land border crossing, and/or entry into the U.S. for frequent travelers. The five programs are: TSA Precheck, Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST.

Eligibility varies depending on the program, but all require a background check and the collection of one or more types of biometrics. Applicants are vetted and must be pre-approved. Acceptance into a TTP is not guaranteed, as approvals are discretionary and based on a risk assessment performed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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Cost

The cost of both TSA Precheck and Global Entry is similar. Global Entry has a nonrefundable $100 application fee while it costs $85 to apply for TSA Precheck. TSA Precheck renewal is only $70 if done online. Both programs are good for five years, so this is an annual cost of $20, at most.

One important thing to note is that while Global Entry requires everyone to have their own membership, TSA Precheck benefits are automatically extended to children under 12. This means that for a family of four with young kids, Global Entry would cost $400 versus $170 for TSA Precheck.

Many credit cards offer statement credits that cover the application fee for either TSA Precheck of Global Entry. We highlight some card options that could help you reduce the cost of TTP membership at the end of this article.

Who qualifies?

Unlike TSA Precheck, Global Entry membership is open to citizens of other countries. U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and lawful permanent residents are eligible for both TSA Precheck and Global Entry. Additionally, citizens of the following 12 countries are eligible for Global Entry membership, but not TSA Precheck membership:

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Germany
  • India
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

Additional requirements may apply, depending on your country of citizenship.

However, being eligible to apply does not necessarily mean your application will be approved.

Your application for Global Entry may be denied for the following reasons:

  • Falsifying information on your application
  • Having been convicted of a criminal offense or have pending criminal charges
  • Previously violating any customs, immigration or agricultural regulations
  • Being subject to ongoing investigation by a law enforcement agency
  • Anything else that does not satisfy the CBP that you are sufficiently low-risk

Your application for TSA Precheck may be denied, or your membership suspended, for the following reasons:

  • Violating any federal security regulations
  • Refusing to wear a mask in U.S. transportation systems covered by the Jan. 31, 2021 Security Directive
  • Assaulting, threatening, intimidating or interfering with flight crew
  • Assaulting or threatening to assault any individual on an aircraft
  • Having a disqualifying offense in your criminal history

Program benefits

Global Entry and TSA Precheck offer many of the same benefits — in fact, Global Entry includes TSA Precheck benefits. The main difference between the programs is that Global Entry offers faster processing through both international security as well as domestic security, while TSA Precheck is limited to domestic travel.

Global Entry Benefits

  • Reduced wait times through use of self-service kiosks using facial comparison technologies at major U.S. airports
  • No need to fill out paperwork upon entry
  • Access to expedited entry benefits in other countries
  • Includes TSA Precheck benefits

TSA Precheck Benefits

  • Wait five minutes or less in security screening lines
  • No need to remove belt, shoes, or jacket
  • No need to remove liquids and electronics from your luggage for screening

TSA Precheck benefits include expedited security screening at U.S. airports. Not all airports offer a dedicated TSA Precheck line, but most larger airports will have a dedicated lane that is often faster.

Standard TSA screening requires you to remove your shoes, belt, and jacket. TSA Precheck members may keep all of these on. Liquids and electronics may also remain in your carry-on luggage if you are a TSA Precheck member. Finally, you also use the metal detector rather than the millimeter wave machine. You may still be randomly selected for additional screening.

Global Entry benefits include a much shorter immigration wait time and no need to fill out CBP paperwork. Instead of waiting in the immigration processing line, you use a self-service kiosk and your biometrics to pass through immigration. Global Entry membership also provides TSA Precheck benefits.

Where do benefits apply?

One of the primary reasons that Global Entry can be the better choice between the two TTPs, is that Global Entry membership includes TSA Precheck benefits. This means that its benefits apply at a larger number of airports. You get both expedited entry into the U.S. from international destinations and expedited security screening benefits from U.S. airports in one membership.

TSA Precheck benefits apply at over 200 airports when flying any of 81 participating airlines. To take advantage of your TSA Precheck benefits, you must add your Known Traveler Number (KTN) to your reservation.

Global Entry benefits apply upon international arrival into 59 U.S. airports and at U.S. CBP preclearance facilities at 16 international airports in six countries.

At only $15 more than TSA Precheck, the cost difference is minimal. Even if you rarely travel internationally, it could be worth applying for Global Entry instead of TSA Precheck.

Savvy traveler tip: You'll see a TSA Precheck symbol or label on your boarding pass, which will provide you access to the dedicated security screening lane. In cases where there is no dedicated lane, the TSA agent may hand you a slip or paper to indicate that you are a Precheck member.

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How to apply

Applying for either Global Entry or TSA Precheck begins online. Both programs also require an in-person appointment, but that's where the similarities end. In general, Global Entry has the more rigorous and time-consuming application process.

Enrollment requirements for Global Entry vs. TSA Precheck

Global Entry Enrollment

  • Complete an online application
  • Pay the $100 non-refundable application fee
  • Wait for conditional approval
  • Schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center
  • Bring your passport and other documentation to the interview
  • Complete the interview with a CBP officer, including fingerprinting and photo

TSA Precheck Enrollment

  • Complete an online application
  • Schedule an in-person appointment
  • Provide required identification documents and be fingerprinted at the in-person enrollment appointment within 120 days of application
  • Pay an $85 application fee at the in-person appointment
  • Receive your Known Traveler Number (KTN) from the TSA

Applying for Global Entry

The process for Global Entry is more rigorous:

  1. You must create a login.gov account and complete the online Global Entry application.
  2. You'll have to provide personal information and list all the countries you've visited during the past five years.
  3. Unlike TSA Precheck, the $100 non-refundable application fee is due when you submit your online application.
  4. The CBP reviews all Global Entry applications and will either issue you a conditional approval or deny the application. You'll receive an update by email.
  5. Once your application is conditionally approved, you'll need to schedule an interview appointment at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. The interview requires you to bring your passport and another form of identification, and you'll have to be electronically fingerprinted and have your photo taken, in addition to answering the CBP officer's questions.

There have often been delays for scheduling Global Entry interviews, with the backlog lasting weeks to months.

Applying for TSA Precheck

Applying for TSA Precheck is easier than the Global Entry application process:

  1. It starts by heading to tsa.gov/Precheck, clicking Apply Now, and then completing the application.
  2. You'll have to provide your full legal name, gender, birthday, address, height, weight, country of citizenship and birthplace information. Contact information such as email and phone must also be provided.
  3. You'll also have to fill out some eligibility questions and indicate what identification document(s) you will be providing at your in-person appointment.
  4. The final step is to select an in-person appointment location and time. Note that you do not need to pay the application fee online. You'll pay for TSA Precheck at your in-person appointment.

What is a known traveler number?

You will be issued a Known Traveler Number (KTN) when you are approved for a Trusted Traveler Program. Both TSA Precheck and Global Entry issue a KTN. KTNs are nine digits in length. You will receive an email with instructions for how to obtain your KTN if approved for TSA Precheck. It typically takes three to five days to receive your KTN after completing TSA Precheck enrollment. However, it may take up to 60 days. For Global Entry, your KTN is the CBP PASSID on your membership card. You can also look up your KTN for either TTP online.

You must add your KTN to flight reservations in order to enjoy TSA Precheck benefits. You'll see the Precheck icon or "TSA Pre" displayed on your boarding pass, whether paper or electronic. When arriving into the U.S. on an international flight, you don't need to provide your Global Entry number to use the kiosks. You actually don't need your Global Entry card at all. It is only necessary when crossing a land border and using NEXUS or SENTRI lanes.

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Enrollment center locations

One of the big differences between applying for TSA Precheck versus Global Entry is the number of enrollment centers available. There are far more enrollment locations for TSA Precheck than Global Entry. TSA Precheck partners with IdentGO, which operates their own identity-verification centers plus numerous locations within Staples stores across the country. Originally, 50 Staples locations started providing Precheck enrollment back in 2018, but more have since been added to the list. There are over 1,200 TSA Precheck enrollment locations available throughout the country.

Enrollment centers

Global Entry
TSA Precheck
Number of locationsFewer than 120 enrollment locations worldwideOver 1,200 enrollment locations nationwide
Availability41 U.S. states and seven Canadian provincesAll 50 states
Location typesTypically major airports or land border crossing facilities, with some exceptionsInclude IdentGO centers and select Staples stores

Contrast this with Global Entry, which offers approximately 115 enrollment locations worldwide. The vast majority are in the United States, but there are also locations spread among seven Canadian provinces. You can also enroll at the U.S. Embassy in Singapore or at Doha International Airport in Qatar.

You can find links to the search for both TSA Precheck or Global Entry enrollment centers here.

Depending on where you live, enrolling in TSA Precheck could be far easier. If you live in a metropolitan area, you should be able to find a Global Entry enrollment location nearby. However, you may be several hours by car or a short flight away if you live in a more rural area.

How to get Global Entry and TSA Precheck for free

If you're not sold on the cost of either Global Entry or TSA Precheck (or NEXUS, for Chase Sapphire Reserve®), don't worry. There are many credit cards that will reimburse your application fee in the form of a statement credit when you charge it to your card. This is a benefit of many premium travel credit cards, but there are even cards with a limited-time no annual fee that offer this benefit!

Card
Welcome offer
Annual fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply. On American Express' Secure Website
Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.$695
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
On Chase's Secure Website
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.$550
United℠ Explorer Card
On Chase's Secure Website
Earn up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
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For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here

For rates and fees of Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, please click here

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