The Getaway
TSA Pre-Check: Why This is a Must-Do for Flyers

Whether you're traveling for business or leisure, air travel gets you there fast and safely, but that convenience comes at a price — long security lines and cumbersome procedures. Fortunately, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck comes to the rescue of frequent flyers who don't want the hassle.

This innovative program enhances your overall travel experience by streamlining the security and screening process for low-risk travelers. Using this program reduces wait times and the stress associated with airport security since it lets you bypass standard procedures found in regular security lines.

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01 What is TSA PreCheck?

Chicago, Illinois, USA - Jun 28 2023: TSA Pre advertisement in Chicago O'Hare International Airport Bo Shen/Shutterstock

The TSA PreCheck program streamlines the travel process by making airport check-ins fast and convenient for frequent flyers. Enrolling in this program lets you skip long lines and eliminates the need to take off your shoes, belts and light jackets. Also, you don't have to remove laptops or compliant liquids from bags.

Available at numerous airports across the United States, TSA PreCheck lets pre-approved low-risk travelers go through quicker security screenings. This speedier process tamps down travel stress and changes the way you interact with airport security for a more relaxing start or finish to your journey.

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02 How to apply for TSA PreCheck

Lake Oswego, OR, USA - Nov 2, 2021: A sign that advertises the TSA PreCheck enrollment service is seen outside an IdentoGO office. IdentoGO by IDEMIA provides identity-related services. Tada Images/Shutterstock

Applying for TSA PreCheck verifies that you meet the necessary criteria to expedite your security clearance. This process includes the following steps:

  • Apply Online: Start the TSA PreCheck process by completing an online application at the official TSA.gov website. This form requests basic personal information, including your previous travel history.
  • Schedule an Appointment: When you submit your application, schedule an in-person appointment at one of the TSA PreCheck enrollment centers. These centers are usually at airports themselves for easy access.
  • Meet with the TSA in Person: Appointments for TSA PreCheck usually last 10 minutes or so. During the appointment, you provide your fingerprints and undergo a background check. Be sure to bring documents that verify your identity and citizenship, such as your passport, driver's license and birth certificate.
  • Pay the Fee: Applying for TSA PreCheck incurs a nonrefundable fee, which covers application processing and the background check. As of April 2024, applicants pay $78 for the membership, with renewals costing $70.
  • Get Your KTN: Once approved for TSA PreCheck, you will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that you can use to make flight reservations. This number allows you to use TSA PreCheck lanes.

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03 Benefits of TSA PreCheck

CHICAGO, IL -5 JAN 2017- Sign encouraging passengers to register for the time-saving TSA Prec Check program in the United Airlines (UA) terminal at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD).

TSA PreCheck offers numerous benefits that improve the travel experience. For instance, if you have a KTN, you typically have shorter wait times at security checkpoints and a less intrusive screening process. Using TSA PreCheck means you don't have to remove shoes, belts or light jackets, nor do you have to remove laptops or liquids that comply with TSA rules.

Wide acceptance at over 200 airports around the U.S. and numerous airlines makes TSA PreCheck highly accessible for regular travelers. Reducing the time spent in line and simplifying the screening process minimizes stress during domestic trips and makes your travel experience more pleasant overall.

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04 Where is TSA PreCheck available?

Travelers can use TSA PreCheck at over 200 airports in the United States, and the program partners with major airlines for even more accessibility. For example, airlines like American, Delta, United and Southwest participate in the program, as do many international airlines that fly within the U.S.

Check the airport's official website or the TSA's website to see if your preferred airport participates in the TSA PreCheck program. Lane availability may vary by terminal and the time of day you're flying, so find out all you can about the airport and airline policies before you make reservations.

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05 Cost of TSA PreCheck

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 1: Signs warn travelers to prepare their belongings for screening as they arrive at Los Angeles International Airport May 1, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. Tom Blank, assistant administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), announced that 3,000 full-time baggage and passenger screener jobs would be cut by the end of May. The federal government seeks to cut a total of 6,000 positions across the country by the end of September. David McNew / Getty Images

As of April 2024, TSA PreCheck charges $78 for new enrollment and $70 for online membership renewals. This fee covers the costs of processing your application and performing a background check to ensure you're a low-risk traveler. Once approved, the membership remains valid for five years and allows online membership renewals.

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06 Time savings

Passengers standing by security scanner at airport AzmanL / Getty Images

Saving time is what TSA PreCheck does best — members usually spend five minutes or less going through airport security. While regular security procedures typically involve long waits and frustrated travelers, the TSA PreCheck lanes move quickly both because they're less crowded and involved. For instance, in these faster lanes, you don't have to take off your shoes, belts or light jackets.

It also means you don't get bottlenecked by travelers who have to take out their laptops or remove compliant liquids from their baggage. Because traffic through TSA PreCheck lanes flows smoothly, you have more time to spend finding your gate and grabbing a snack before boarding your flight. This expedited process lowers stress and makes things more convenient for savvy travelers.

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07 TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry

Minneapolis, Minnesota - April 19, 2023: Hand holds up a brochere after being approved for TSA Global Entry program melissamn/Shutterstock

Another U.S. government program to speed up airport security, Global Entry, caters to international travelers. TSA PreCheck helps domestic travelers pass through security faster and with less hassle, whereas Global Entry provides expedited entry into the U.S. for international travelers.

Global Entry offers all the benefits of TSA PreCheck, plus faster U.S. customs screening at some airports. This process uses automated kiosks, letting frequent international travelers bypass the usual passport control lines when returning to the U.S. Due to the extra benefits, Global Entry costs $100 for a 5-year membership.

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08 Family and TSA PreCheck

Cute little tired kid boy at the airport, traveling

TSA PreCheck speeds up security lines for families, but it also offers other benefits. Kids ages 12 and younger can accompany parents with memberships, and teens from 13 to 17 who are on the same reservation as parents with memberships can also use these lanes. This means families experience less stress during travel because they get to stay together during screening.

Reduced stress also proves a major benefit of families using TSA PreCheck. Eliminating the time and physical checks required in regular security lines keeps everyone more relaxed and helps parents better manage their kids. It also makes things more convenient for both parents and children because there's more time at the gate to get a meal, explore airport shops or get some rest before boarding your airplane.

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09 TSA PreCheck for business travelers

luggage

Decreasing downtime makes TSA PreCheck a must for business travelers. An expedited security screening usually gets you through your lane in under five minutes, helping you meet tight schedules and get to your gate quickly. Likewise, less invasive security checks mean you don't have to take off your shoes, belts or light jackets. Your laptop also gets to stay in the bag when you enroll in this program.

The reduced stress of the security process lets you better focus on your business trip. The time you save gives you more time to decompress, charge your phone or check your messages while you wait to board your flight. The 5-year membership also covers any business trips you go on in the near future, so you experience less frustration as you travel.

TSA PreCheck for business travelers also pairs well with other trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry when you also travel internationally and want expedited reentry into the U.S.

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10 TSA PreCheck and airline loyalty programs

A tired male passenger sleeps on the seats waiting for boarding in the departure area of the airport terminal

TSA PreCheck complements many airline loyalty programs via seamless integration with booking systems. When making reservations, simply add your KTN number to ensure your boarding pass indicates your eligibility. Some airlines even offer TSA PreCheck enrollment as a perk for frequent flyers, with the airline covering costs for application fees via a voucher. Other perks may include promotional offers that give members extra loyalty points for enrolling.

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11 Frequent flyer testimonials

Family taking a break at the airport FG Trade / Getty Images

Frequent flyers who use TSA PreCheck compliment the program for the speed of its application and approval process, with some receiving KTN numbers within five days of their visit to an enrollment center. Some reviewers marvel at how quickly they get through security, with some noting times of less than three minutes, while others like how they can just drop their things on the belt, walk through the metal detector, and then continue to their gate after grabbing their things.

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12 TSA PreCheck and Security

airport security check using a metal detector on a passenger. baona / Getty Images

TSA PreCheck helps security by letting known travelers pass through quickly, giving personnel more time to focus on those in regular security lines. Since you go through a screening process when you apply, you're already known and considered safe, as have others in these lanes. Also, the reduced congestion gives the TSA more space to conduct inspections and means less physical contact with travelers due to the decreased risks posed by enrolled travelers.

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13 Accessibility of TSA PreCheck

Back view of an airport male employee transporting a disabled female traveler to a plane

TSA PreCheck works especially well for those with disabilities or physical challenges. Shorter wait times mean lines move faster, and fewer physical screening requirements make trips more comfortable. Lowered stress and less physical exertion to rush to your gate makes this program great for the elderly and those with limited mobility, and you can still use these lanes if you require mobility aids like walkers or wheelchairs. The expedited service also means those with challenges may get more help from TSA officers, ensuring a consistent, predictable experience.

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14 Future of TSA PreCheck

Facial Recognition System concept.

Changes in technology may also change the way TSA PreCheck does things. For instance, biometrics systems that recognize faces may replace traditional scans in the future, while better integration may also let travelers use a kiosk-style method rather than the current one. Likewise, as the success of this program grows, it should continue to expand to airports around the country for improved accessibility.

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15 TSA PreCheck recap: Is it worth it?

Denver, CO July 7, 2018: Large line of travelers backed up at security checkpoint at Denver International Airport

If you travel a lot, TSA PreCheck makes sense due to its low cost and high amount of benefits. This program not only saves you time and frustration going through long, involved security screenings, but it also eliminates some of the major hassles of airline travel, such as taking off your shoes and opening up your bags. As the program continues to leverage new technology, such as mobile integration and expands to other airports, its benefits to travelers grow along with it, ensuring improved travel experiences for members and their families.

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