One of the biggest complaints about flying is the hassle and wait times at the airport. In this article we will talk about how to get through airport security much faster and provide a step-by-step process of how to apply for TSA PreCheck.
With a TSA PreCheck membership you can breeze through the security lines without having to remove your liquids, shoes, laptops, belts, jackets (and your sense of being a human being)
This is a no-brainer for anyone who travels often and/or who doesn’t want to wait in long lines.
We will show you the costs and the benefits of TSA PreCheck membership and explain the application process. Plus, we will summarize which airlines and airports use the program, as well as which credit cards will actually reimburse the membership costs.
It should take you less time to read it then the security line you may currently be standing in.
Quick Answer: How to Apply for TSA PreCheck
- Step 1: Online Application: Fill out the quick online application on the TSA PreCheck website.
- Step 2: Schedule an In-Person Interview: Schedule at a local office at a convenient time.
- Step 3: In-Person Interview: A quick interview where you provide the 2 forms of approved ID and the application fee.
- Step 4: Receive your Known Travel Number and go traveling !
- NOTE: The entire process may take between 1-3 months
What is the TSA? What Do They Do?
First off the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security which was created as a response to the September 11 attacks. The TSA mainly deals with the security of travelers within the United States. Basically TSA agents are are the people you see conducting the security screening at the airports, and also serve as air marshals on airplanes.
What is TSA PreCheck?
The TSA PreCheck is a membership program that essentially rewards "trusted" travelers with shorter airport security wait times. Since members go through a background check and are registered through the TSA, they are considered low-risk travelers and their airport security process is expedited.
TSA PreCheck is the most used Trusted Traveler Program but here is the summary of the 5 major programs:
|Program Name||Program Details|
|TSA PreCheck||Travel within the US (from U.S. Airports)|
|GLOBAL ENTRY||Entry into the U.S. from International Destinations|
|NEXUS||Entry into the U.S. from Canada|
|SENTRI||Entry into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico|
|FAST||For commercial truck trucking between to/from the U.S. from Canada and Mexico|
Benefits of TSA PreCheck
Faster, much faster security screening. You've been there... your flight is leaving soon and you are stuck in the security line for 30-45minutes. Taking out all of your liquids and laptops and having to take off belts, shoes jackets is not just a pain the neck. It takes time... especially when hundreds of people ahead of you have to do it before it's your turn.
With TSA PreCheck you save time by :
- Standing in a separate line for members only which is always much shorter.
- No need to undress and to take things out of your carefully packed luggage:
- 3-1-1 liquids
- No more hopping on one foot trying to put your shoes back on while jamming your laptop back in your luggage.
Why Should I Get TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck will save you time and stress, and it may even keep you from missing your fight. You can keep your clothes on and your belongings in your bag and use a shorter security lane. You just never know how many people will be at the airport and how well the TSA will be staffed. Average wait times in regular security lanes take between 15 and 30 minutes. That's average. When it's shorter, it's great... but when it's longer, it can mean the difference between making or missing your flight. In comparison, TSA PreCheck wait times are between 2-5 minutes.
According to the TSA website, in April 2019, 93% of TSA Pre✓® passengers waited less than 5 min.
TSA PreCheck Program Details
Although the idea is fairly simple, there are a few ins and outs that you should be aware of. We will break down the following TSA PreCheck program details here:
- How the program works
- What airlines participate
- Which airports participate
- Cost of membership
How Does TSA PreCheck Work
The TSA PreCheck program is essentially a membership program.
1. Application Process: First, you must complete a simple application process with the TSA. After your pre-approved application, you will have a 10-minute in-person interview as well as a background check and fingerprinting. It's fairly painless, and you will find a step-by-step instructions on the TSA PreCheck application process further in this article.
2. Known Traveler Number: Once your application is approved, you will receive what is know as a Known Traveler Number (KTN), and be eligible to use the TSA PreCheck security lanes.
3. Book your ticket: Make sure you enter your Known Traveler Number during the reservation process. You should be able to add the number online during booking. If not, you can also call the airlines in order to add your number to your reservation. If you have frequent flyer accounts, you can add you Known Traveler Number to these and it should automatically be added to your reservation.
DOUBLE CHECK that "TSA PreCheck" is printed on your ticket or mobile boarding pass. Without this, you will not be able to use those lanes. If it's not on your ticket, contact the airline by phone or talk to them at the check-in desk. Make sure you have your Known Traveler Number with you.
That's basically it. A few notes:
- Children 12 and under are eligible to travel with their parents. Children over 12 must obtain their own membership.
- Not all airlines are part of the program, so make sure you check that before you book.
- TSA PreCheck membership does not guarantee expedited passage. Security is still the priority for all of us, and TSA reserves the right to take any measures necessary. In fact TSA states that "unpredictable security measures, both seen and unseen, throughout the airport. All travelers will be screened, and no individual is guaranteed expedited screening".
That said, remember that 93% of TSA Pre✓® passengers wait less than 5 min when going through security.
Am I eligible for TSA PreCheck?
There are a few eligibility requirements for membership.
- First, you must be either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) of the United States.
- Of course your application must be filled out with complete and true information.
- Finally, unsurprisingly, you must pass a thorough background check. This is the whole point! There are a number of criminal offenses and other factors that could disqualify you from membership.
For further detail about eligibility, check out our step-by-step application guide further down in this article.
So which airlines offer TSA PreCheck? While more and more are signing up, according to the TSA website, the current participating airlines are found below:
|TSA PreCheck Participating Airlines|
|All Nippon Airways|
|Cathay Pacific Airways|
|Delta Air Lines|
|Key Lime Air|
|KLM Royal Dutch Airlines|
|Miami Air International|
|Southern Airways Express|
|Sun Country Airlines|
|Swiss International Air Lines|
|TAP Air Portugal|
|Thomas Cook Airlines (Scan.)|
|Thomas Cook Airlines (UK)|
As with the airlines, more and more airports offer TSA PreCheck. In fact over 200 airports and 67+ airlines participate in the program including the 30 busiest.
|TSA PreCheck Participating Airports|
|Aberdeen Regional Airport (ABR)|
|Abilene Regional Airport (ABI)|
|Akron-Canton Airport (CAK)|
|Albany International Airport (ALB)|
|Albuquerque International Sunport Airport (ABQ)|
|Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport (GUM)|
|Appleton International Airport (ATW)|
|Aspen-Pitkin County Airport (ASE)|
|Augusta Regional Airport (AGS)|
|Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB)|
|Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)|
|Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (BTR)|
|Bemidji Regional Airport (BJI)|
|Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport (LIT)|
|Billings Logan International Airport (BIL)|
|Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM)|
|Bishop International Airport (FNT)|
|Bismarck Municipal Airport (BIS)|
|Blue Grass Airport (LEX)|
|Boise Airport (BOI)|
|Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN)|
|Bradley International Airport (BDL)|
|Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport (BRD)|
|Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport (BRO)|
|Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF)|
|Burlington International Airport (BTV)|
|Capital Region International Airport (LAN)|
|Central Illinois Regional Airport (BMI)|
|Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA)|
|Charleston International Airport (CHS)|
|Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)|
|Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO)|
|Cherry Capital Airport (TVC)|
|Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)|
|Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)|
|Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD)|
|Chippewa Valley Regional Airport (EAU)|
|Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)|
|Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE)|
|Colorado Springs Airport (COS)|
|Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE)|
|Corpus Christi International Airport (CRP)|
|Cyril E. King Airport (STT)|
|Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL)|
|Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)|
|Dane County Regional Airport (MSN)|
|Dayton International Airport (DAY)|
|Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB)|
|Denver International Airport (DEN)|
|Des Moines International Airport (DSM)|
|Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS)|
|Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)|
|Devils Lake Regional Airport (DVL)|
|Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport (DIK)|
|Duluth international Airport (DLH)|
|Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE)|
|East Texas Regional Airport (GGG)|
|El Paso International Airport (ELP)|
|Eppley Airfield (OMA)|
|Eugene Airport (EUG)|
|Fairbanks International Airport (FAI)|
|Falls International Airport (INL)|
|Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)|
|Fort Smith Regional Airport (FSM)|
|Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA)|
|Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT)|
|General Mitchell International Airport (MKE)|
|General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport (PIA)|
|George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)|
|Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR)|
|Glacier Park International Airport (FCA)|
|Golden Triangle Regional Airport (GTR)|
|Grand Forks International Airport-Mark Andrews Field (GFK)|
|Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT)|
|Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC)|
|Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP)|
|Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport (GPT)|
|Harrisburg International Airport (MDT)|
|Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)|
|Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport (PIB)|
|Hector International Airport (FAR)|
|Hilo International Airport (ITO)|
|Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR)|
|Honolulu International Airport (HNL)|
|Huntsville International Airport (HSV)|
|Indianapolis International Airport (IND)|
|Jack Brooks Regional Airport (BPT)|
|Jackson Hole Airport (JAC)|
|Jacksonville International Airport (JAX)|
|Jamestown Regional Airport (JMS)|
|John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)|
|John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH)|
|John Wayne Airport (SNA)|
|Kahului Airport (OGG)|
|Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (AZO)|
|Kansas City International Airport (MCI)|
|Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport (GRK)|
|La Crosse Regional Airport (LSE)|
|LaGuardia Airport (LGA)|
|Lafayette Regional Airport (LFT)|
|Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL)|
|Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport (LAW)|
|Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE)|
|Lihue Airport (LIH)|
|Logan International Airport (BOS)|
|Long Beach Airport (LGB)|
|Long Island MacArthur Airport (ISP)|
|Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)|
|Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)|
|Louisville International Airport (SDF)|
|Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (LBB)|
|Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)|
|MBS International Airport (MBS)|
|Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (MHT)|
|McAllen Miller International Airport (MFE)|
|McCarran International Airport (LAS)|
|McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS)|
|Memphis International Airport (MEM)|
|Meridian Regional Airport (MEI)|
|Miami International Airport (MIA)|
|MidAmerica St. Louis Airport (BLV)|
|Midland International Air and Space Port (MAF)|
|Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)|
|Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)|
|Minot International Airport (MOT)|
|Missoula International Airport (MSO)|
|Mobile Regional Airport (MOB)|
|Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ)|
|Morgantown Municipal Airport (MGW)|
|Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR)|
|Nashville International Airport (BNA)|
|Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)|
|Norfolk International Airport (ORF)|
|North Central West Virginia Airport (CKB)|
|Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA)|
|Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP)|
|Oakland International Airport (OAK)|
|Ontario International Airport (ONT)|
|Orlando International Airport (MCO)|
|Orlando Melbourne International Airport (MLB)|
|Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB)|
|Palm Beach International Airport (PBI)|
|Palm Springs International Airport (PSP)|
|Pensacola International Airport (PNS)|
|Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)|
|Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)|
|Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA)|
|Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO)|
|Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)|
|Portland International Airport (PDX)|
|Portland International Jetport (PWM)|
|Punta Gorda Airport (PGD)|
|Quad City International Airport (MLI)|
|Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)|
|Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP)|
|Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO)|
|Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport (RHI)|
|Richmond International Airport (RIC)|
|Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport (AMA)|
|Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport (ROA)|
|Rochester International Airport (RST)|
|Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (MFR)|
|Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)|
|Sacramento International Airport (SMF)|
|Saint George Regional Airport (SGU)|
|Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)|
|San Angelo Regional Airport (SJT)|
|San Antonio International Airport (SAT)|
|San Diego International Airport (SAN)|
|San Francisco International Airport (SFO)|
|Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA)|
|Santa Fe Regional Airport (SAF)|
|Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ)|
|Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV)|
|Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)|
|Shreveport Regional Airport (SHV)|
|Sioux Falls Regional Airport (FSD)|
|Sloulin Field International Airport (ISN)|
|South Bend International Airport (SBN)|
|Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW)|
|Spokane International Airport (GEG)|
|Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF)|
|St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE)|
|Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR)|
|T. F. Green Airport (PVD)|
|Tallahassee International Airport (TLH)|
|Tampa International Airport (TPA)|
|Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC)|
|Texarkana Regional Airport (TXK)|
|The Eastern Iowa Airport (CID)|
|Thief River Falls Regional Airport (TVF)|
|Tri-Cities Airport (PSC)|
|Tri-State Airport (HTS)|
|Tucson International Airport (TUS)|
|Tulsa International Airport (TUL)|
|Tyler Pounds Regional Airport (TYR)|
|University of Illinois Willard Airport (CMI)|
|Valley International Airport (HRL)|
|Waco Regional Airport (ACT)|
|Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)|
|Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT)|
|Wichita Fall Municipal Airport (SPS)|
|Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP)|
|Will Rogers World Airport (OKC)|
|William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)|
|Wilmington International Airport (ILM)|
|Yampa Valley Regional Airport (HDN)|
|Yeager Airport (CRW)|
NOTE: This program is only valid in the U.S. so if you are in a different country, you have to go through regular security.
Cost of TSA PreCheck Membership
There is a one-time $85 application fee which is not refundable even if your application is rejected. Membership lasts 5 years which means it's basically $17/year. Not a bad deal for how much time you will save. Also, there are several ways to get the membership fee reimbursed ! Read below!
TSA PreCheck Membership Renewal
You have to renew the membership every 5 years and can start the process 6 months in advance. According to TSA, most members can renew online. However, some people will need to do it in person to provide updated data and/or fingerprints. You will know whether you have to renew in person at the point of the online application.
Reimbursement of the TSA PreCheck Fee
If the deal wasn't good enough for you, there are actually several ways to get the $85 membership fee reimbursed.
Reimbursement Through Credit Cards
Since you're likely interested in travel-friendly credit cards, we are pleased to tell you that there are several that will actually reimburse your TSA PreCheck membership fee.
Once you are approved for one of these cards, you just pay the application fee with it and you will receive a statement credit! Pretty amazing really. And, you can receive this statement credit every 4-5 years (the length of the membership).
TSA PreCheck Application Process
Getting your TSA PreCheck is a fairly easy process, but let us make it even clearer for you with a step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Online Application
Visit the TSA PreCheck website and fill out the online application.
It's a simple and straightforward application that should take you less than 15 minutes.
Step 2: Schedule the In-Person Interview
In addition to the online application, you must conduct a quick in-person interview at a local office. Just select a convenient location and time and that's it! Depending on the location, interview spots may take 1-4 weeks to schedule.
Step 3: In-Person Interview
Don't sweat it. It should not take long! You need to bring in 2 forms of ID (which you determined in the online application). Accepted forms include a valid driver's license, a passport, or a green card.
And you will be paying the $85 application fee at the interview. You have several payment options, but the best would be to use one of the credit cards that will reimburse the membership fee!
That's it!! Just wait to be notified with your Known Traveler Number.
Keep in mind that this may take up to 1.5 months, so plan accordingly!
Step 4: Book your flight and travel
Other Travel Programs
There are several other Trusted Traveler programs that you may consider, especially because membership in some of them automatically include the privilege to use TSA PreCheck lanes. Below you will find a comparison of Trusted Traveler programs.
Unlike TSA PreCheck, Global Entry works for international travel. More specifically, membership allows expedited security for travelers entering into the U.S. from international destinations. Here are the details and the pros and cons of Global Entry:
- Eligibility: U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and select foreign nationals.
- Cost: $100 for 5 years
- Travel by: Air, Land, Sea
- Includes TSA PreCheck
- May also use SENTRI and Nexus lanes when entering into the U.S.
- Fairly quick and easy application process, similar to TSA PreCheck. Online application, background check, and an in-person interview at one of many locations.
- Expedited entry into the U.S. from abroad.
- A number of travel rewards credit cards will reimburse the application fee.
- $100 application fee. Of course this isn't an issue if you use a travel rewards card that will reimburse you the membership fee.
- Each traveler needs a membership. This means everyone in the family, even children need to have their own membership at the same cost.
- Global Entry only applies when you are entering into the U.S. If you travel to and from Canada, NEXUS may be a better option for you.
NEXUS is essentially a Canadian version of Global Entry with some benefits and drawbacks as well. It is Trusted Traveler program that is a cooperation between the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
- Eligibility: U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents, and Mexican nationals
- Cost: $50 for 5 years
- Travel by: Air, Land, Sea
- Includes TSA PreCheck and Global Entry privileges.
- NEXUS membership gives you Global Entry privileges as well. So, not only is it less expensive but it entitles you to take advantage of both programs. NOTE: The converse is not true.
- Cheaper than the other programs.
- Children (under the age of 18) of members get free membership!
- Expedited security process through both the U.S. and the Canadian border, both by vehicle and air.
- Membership process is more cumbersome. The in-person interview needs to be conducted at a facility where both the CBP and CBSA officers are present. Unfortunately, such offices only exist on the U.S. - Canadian border crossings and at certain Canadian airports that have US preclearance facilities. So although NEXUS gives you the privileges of Global Entry, you must complete the application/interview process with both U.S. and Canadian agencies.
- No reimbursement offered from any of the Travel Rewards credit cards.
NOTE: NEXUS and Global Entry systems do not communicate reliably. For example, If you are member of NEXUS and renew your passport within the 5year validly term, you must register your new passport number with both agencies. And at this point, the only way to renew your passport number with NEXUS, is in person with a Canadian official.
SENTRI is essentially the US-Mexico border version of NEXUS. It expedites the entry to the U.S. from Mexico both by air and land. However, membership of SENTRI also gives you the privilege of using NEXUS lanes when entering the U.S. from Canada by land, and Global Entry kiosks when entering the U.S. by air. SENTRI is mainly worth it if you travel between Mexico and the U.S. on a regular basis.
- Eligibility: Any nationalities may apply
- Cost: $122.50 for 5 years
- Travel by: Air, Land
- Includes TSA PreCheck, NEXUS and Global Entry privileges.
- Expedited security process through the U.S., the Canadian and the Mexican borders.
- Children under 18 need membership but only have to pay fingerprinting fees (appx: $18)
- The only processing centers for interviews are in Arizona, California, and Texas
Which Trusted Traveler program is for me?
Basically it depends on your travel needs. If you travel between Canada and the U.S. frequently, and you can go through the application process and interview with both U.S. and Canadian agencies, then NEXUS makes the most sense and is the cheapest ($50).
If you live in the south and travel between the U.S. and Mexico regularly than SENTRI makes sense, since it gives you privileges to the other programs as well. It is, however the most expensive ($122.50).
If you won't take advantage of traveling to/from Mexico and Canada than Global Entry is probably the best bet since it's fairly priced and the application process is convenient.
If you're only worried about domestic flights, then TSA PreCheck will be great for you.
Remember that while TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are much more expensive than NEXUS, both of those programs' fees may be reimbursed by Travel Rewards cards, while none of the cards offer this for NEXUS.
For further information and to apply for any of the programs, visit the Homeland Security website.
What is TSA PreCheck?
It is U.S. government program that allows "low risk" travelers to pass through an expedited airport security screening at most U.S. airports.
What are the benefits of TSA PreCheck?
Simple: You will get through airport security faster. You will have access to a separate security lane and will not need to remove your shoes, jacket, belt, laptop and liquids.
Can I use TSA PreCheck for international flights?
No, TSA PreCheck is strictly a domestic program for flights within the United States. For international Trusted Traveler programs check out Global Entry, or NEXUS.
Who is eligible for TSA PreCheck?
U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders) are eligible to apply.
How do I get TSA PreCheck?
There is a short online and in-person application process. This also involves a criminal background check and requires typical proof of citizenship / residency.
How long does it take to get TSA PreCheck?
All together between 1-3 months.
The online application shouldn't take more than 15 minutes. Then you have to schedule an interview at a local enrollment center, which could take up to 1 month.
After the in-person interview it may take another 1.5 months to become a member. Keep this in mind when planning your trip!
Which airlines offer TSA PreCheck?
You can take advantage of the program at more than 60 airlines and 200 airports within the U.S. Look here for the list of airports and airlines.
Where do I have to apply for TSA PreCheck?
After the online application, you have to conduct an in-person interview at one of the enrollment centers located throughout the United States.
If you fly often, then we highly suggest signing up for TSA PreCheck or one of the other Trusted Traveler programs. The short amount of time it takes for the application and interview process is well worth the time saved at the airports. 5 minutes through security... that's what motivated me, personally.
If you travel internationally and don't mind spending just a little extra, it would be an even better idea to sign up for Global Entry or Nexus. However, if you are really only looking for domestic program, TSA PreCheck is your best bet.
Remember that there are several Travel Rewards credit cards that will reimburse your membership fee for TSA PreCheck as well as Global Entry.
We hope that you found this guide helpful and welcome any further questions or suggestions below.