Are You A "Trusted Traveler"?
Do you find the airport security screening process your least favorite part about traveling? I think pretty much everyone does, so why not make your life easier and become a "trusted traveler"? By participating in the TSA Pre-check program, you proceed to your own security line, you don't need to remove your shoes or your jacket and you don't have to take your toiletries or your laptop out of your bag. The average wait time for the TSA PreCheck line is two minutes! I can hear all of you saying "sign me up", so I am here to tell you how it all works!
There are two primary ways to achieve "trusted traveler" status - by signing up for TSA PreCheck, or by participating in Global Entry, a program offered through US Customs and Border Patrol, which offers expedited passage through immigration when re-entering the United States, as well as automatically enrolling you in TSA Precheck.
TSA PreCheck costs $85 for five years. You initially fill out an online application, followed by an appointment at an enrollment center where you will be fingerprinted and provide the necessary documentation (valid ID and proof of citizenship).
Global Entry costs $100 for five years. The process is similar to TSA Precheck, but following your initial application, you schedule an interview with a customs agent, where they will also fingerprint you and verify your documentation. If you anticipate traveling internationally at all, it is worth the extra $15 to do Global Entry to receive expedited passage through customs upon re-entering the United States. Also, if you have an American Express Platinum card, they will credit back the $100 fee to join Global Entry, if you charge it on your Amex card.
Following the successful completion of the above steps you will be provided with a "known traveler" number. When you book your plane ticket there is a place to enter this number and when your boarding pass is issued, it will be marked TSA Pre-Check and you will receive all of the benefits mentioned above.
I recently went through the process of joining Global Entry and I can tell you the process was incredibly easy. We scheduled our interview at JFK airport for a day when we were flying, so we simply arrived at the airport a bit early. The interview took about 10 minutes and we were on our way.
It is well worth the time involved in filling out the application and going for the interview to not have to deal with long security lines. I haven't tested to the Customs aspect of the Global Entry program, but judging from the long lines at JFK whenever I come back from an international trip, I can imagine it will be a pleasure to simply scan my fingerprints at a kiosk rather than waiting in those lines!
So, what are you waiting in that security line for??