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Global Entry Vs. TSA PreCheck: Which is Best For You

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry allow you to move more quickly through the airport but in different ways. These programs offer expedited security and customs processing at U.S. airports. If you’ve spotted a Global Entry kiosk at a customs checkpoint or noticed the notably shorter PreCheck queue at TSA security stations, you’re likely already somewhat acquainted with these memberships.

For anyone who has endured lengthy waits in security or customs lines, the appeal of joining one of these programs becomes increasingly apparent. This piece will clarify what each of these programs entails, highlight membership benefits, detail the associated process and costs, and guide you in discerning which (or both) aligns best with your needs!

Here is everything you will find on this page:

What is TSA PreCheck? TSA PreCheck
Credit: TSA PreCheck by tsa.gov

What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck® is a five-year Trusted Traveler Program membership administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA). According to the TSA, the program allows approved passengers to go through faster, dedicated security lines at more than 200 participating U.S. airports. In addition, PreCheck holders do not need to remove laptops, 3-1-1 compliant bags, shoes, belts, or light jackets and outerwear. 

Any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can enroll in TSA PreCheck. Children under 12 can join registered parents or guardians in the PreCheck line without a separate membership. Children 13-17 can do the same, but only if they are on the same flight reservation as their parent or guardian. Any child (under 17) must apply for a PreCheck membership if they wish to use these services when traveling alone. 

You can apply for TSA PreCheck in person directly at any enrollment center by walking in. Still, completing a five-minute online pre-enrollment application and scheduling your appointment is better to ensure you are not waiting to be seen and expedite the process. 

After your ten-minute in-person interview, you should receive your Known Traveler Number (KTN) confirming your enrollment within 3-5 days. However, the TSA notes that some applications can take up to two months to process. You can check the status of your application online

After reducing the fee in November 2022, the TSA PreCheck program currently costs $78 for the five-year membership; afterward, five-year renewals are $70 online. Renewing in person at an enrollment center will cost $78 again.

Once approved for TSA PreCheck, you are issued a Known Traveler Number (KTN), commonly called your TSA PreCheck Number. When making your flight reservations add this number to the Known Traveler Number box during the booking process. You can also add your KTN to online travel agencies (OTA) like Expedia or Hopper. You can find your TSA PreCheck number online if you’ve forgotten or lost it.

What is Global Entry? Global Entry
Credit: Global Entry by twitter.com/CBP

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a five-year Trusted Traveler Program membership administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). According to the CBP, the program allows approved passengers to skip the traditional customs process at 53 U.S. airports. Instead, rigorously vetted Global Entry members use a separate line serviced by automated kiosks to process their entry into the U.S. 

Additionally, Global Entry comes with a TSA PreCheck membership, so there is no need to apply for both if you intend to apply for Global Entry. Also, Global Entry members do not need to complete a customs declaration form before flight arrivals; members complete this at the self-service kiosk. 

However, unlike TSA PreCheck, children, partners, and anyone without a Global Entry membership cannot accompany Global Entry members through the expedited processing lines. Children (under 18) can enroll in Global Entry with parental or legal guardian permission, and CBP does not require their parents or guardians to be registered.

The application process for Global Entry is more stringent than TSA PreCheck. First, you must initiate your application online through the Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) website after creating an account. Once you receive conditional approval by email from the CBP after submitting your application online, you have a couple of options. Walk-ins are available without an interview appointment through the enrollment-on-arrival service only if you land in the U.S. from abroad.

However, just like TSA PreCheck, walk-ins are low priority, so scheduling your interview in advance is better. If conditionally approved, you can schedule your interview at an enrollment center.

Global Entry processing runs a little slower than TSA PreCheck; currently, the TTP says the application processing takes 4-6 months. However, once approved, your status in the dashboard will reflect this, and you can find your PASSID at the top of the dashboard page. Airlines colloquially refer to all TTP IDs (PreCheck, Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST) as Known Traveler Numbers

If you are a U.S. citizen, U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident, or Mexican national, you will also receive a Global Entry Card 7-10 days after final approval. According to the TTP, foreign nationals approved for the Global Entry program are not eligible for Global Entry Cards. Cards are issued automatically at no additional cost. The global Entry Card allows you to utilize two more Trusted Traveler Programs, SENTRI, and NEXUS, that enable pre-screened travelers to use expedited processing when entering the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Global Entry costs $100 for the five-year membership, which includes your PreCheck, SENTRi, and NEXUS memberships. Just so you know, the fee is non-refundable, even if you are denied. You are eligible for renewal one year before your current Global Entry membership expires, and you can renew online through the dashboard. According to the TTP, a renewal interview may not be required, but you will receive an email if it is.

Global Entry Vs. TSA PreCheck Customs and Security
Credit: Customs and Security by Danielfela via Dreamstime

Global Entry Vs. TSA PreCheck

Choosing between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck is like deciding between an all-inclusive resort and a luxury hotel. Both offer comfort and expedited services, but the all-inclusive option (Global Entry) offers more perks for international travelers.

TSA PreCheck gives you faster screening at U.S. airport security lines, and Global Entry gives you faster customs processing when returning to the U.S.

If you travel internationally sparingly, TSA PreCheck alone might be enough. If you are a frequent international traveler, Global Entry might be more your way to go, especially since you get TSA PreCheck with Global Entry.

Global Entry is $100, and TSA PreCheck is $78 for five-year memberships; however, application processing times for Global Entry are significantly longer than PreCheck. Global Entry can take 4-6 months, while PreCheck is usually 3-5 days, but up to two months in some instances. 

The additional $22 for the more-inclusive Global Entry membership might not be much more of a charge for the benefits. Still, considering this added time cost, it might not be worth it if you are primarily interested in domestic PreCheck services and want your membership sooner.

The pre-application for TSA PreCheck is smaller than the Global Entry application but takes a similar amount of time to complete. Just so you know, while it is recommended to complete a PreCheck pre-application, it is not mandatory. If you skip this step, you can still enroll by visiting an enrollment center as a walk-in, although the appointment may take a bit longer without a scheduled appointment. In contrast, Global Entry applications must be submitted online before your interview. Interview durations are also about the same, with PreCheck taking roughly 10 minutes and Global Entry 10-15 minutes.

Final Takeaways

Final Takeaways

TSA PreCheck costs $78 for five years and expedites your airport security experience, while Global Entry, costing $100 for the same period, does the same for customs. 

Your travel needs should be the basis for choosing between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. PreCheck is sufficient for those primarily traveling domestically, while Global Entry gives travelers substantial advantages for international flights. 

Global Entry also includes a membership to TSA PreCheck, so if you know you want Global Entry, there is no “vs.” to consider here; you automatically get both when you signup for Global Entry. 

However, Global Entry is a more rigorous application process, takes longer to get, and costs more than PreCheck. You can start both applications online; however, you’re welcome to walk into any enrollment center to sign up for TSA PreCheck, but you’ll need to begin your Global Entry application online. Applying to Global Entry only makes sense if you are a more frequent international traveler.

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