June 14, 2024

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Traveling Around the World

How to Get TSA PreCheck for Free

Frequent travelers have their airport routines down to a science. As a full-time digital nomad, I fly tens of thousands of miles each year, so I’ve experimented with many different ways to make flying as seamless as possible. With TSA PreCheck, you can breeze through security and board your plane just minutes after arriving at the airport. Here’s everything you need to know about TSA PreCheck — including how to get it for free. 

TSA PreCheck Costs and Requirements

TSA PreCheck is a popular program offered by the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA). Travelers enrolled in the program enjoy expedited security. You don’t have to take off your shoes, belts, or light jackets or remove electronics and small liquids from your carry-on baggage. According to the TSA, 99 percent of PreCheck passengers will get through security in 10 minutes or less. From personal experience, I’ve gotten through security in less than two minutes. Most often, it’s less than five, but this can vary depending on the airport. 

TSA PreCheck is available at more than 200 airports nationwide and with more than 90 different airlines. To enroll, you must complete an application online, visit an enrollment location for fingerprinting, documentation, and payment, and then receive your Known Traveler Number (KTN). Once you have this number, you can add it to your future reservations with airlines, and TSA PreCheck will appear on your boarding pass. 

There are new PreCheck enrollment partners to help combat the long wait times in processing applications and finding an in-person appointment. Depending on the provider, new applications will cost between $78 and $85, while renewals cost as low as $70. 

U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and citizens of partner countries enrolled in Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI are eligible to participate in TSA PreCheck, as well as Canadian citizens who are members of NEXUS. You can be disqualified for several reasons, including anything that may arise from a criminal background check conducted as part of your application. 

Global Entry is another Trusted Traveler Program that expedites re-entry into the U.S. from abroad. If you are enrolled in Global Entry, you use facial recognition software at Global Entry kiosks before speaking with a customs agent. I’ve had Global Entry for years, and it’s one of my favorite investments. It costs $100 to apply. The application fee and process for getting approved are slightly more strict and take longer, but it is worth the effort. Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck benefits.

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Credit Cards That Offer Free TSA PreCheck

There are dozens of cards that offer a reimbursement for the application fee for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. If your card offers this benefit, you simply need to use your card when paying for the application fee, and you will be reimbursed within a few weeks as a statement credit on your account. 

Be sure to read the terms and conditions of the benefit for your card, as most will only reimburse once every four to five years and might only cover TSA PreCheck, not Global Entry. Below is a list of all the cards that currently offer a statement credit for most or all of the application fee for TSA PreCheck, along with their annual fee. 

Credit Cards With an Annual Fee Under $100:

  • Aeroplan® Credit Card: $95 
  • Arvest Visa Signature® Credit Card: $0
  • Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card: $95 
  • Capital One Venture Card: $95 
  • Choice Privileges Select Mastercard®: $95 
  • Commerce Bank World Elite Mastercard®: $95 
  • HSBC Premier World Mastercard: $0 for qualifying HSBC bank clients
  • IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card: $99 
  • Navy Federal Credit Union Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Card: $49 
  • PenFed Pathfinder Rewards Visa Signature Card: $95, waived for existing PenFed Honors Advantage Members
  • Provident World+ Travel Visa Signature Card: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $45 
  • Truist Enjoy Travel Credit Card: $0 
  • United Explorer Card: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • USAA Eagle Navigator Visa Signature Credit Card: $95
  • U.S. Bank Altitude Connect Visa Signature Card: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • U.S. Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express Card: $85 

Premium Credit Cards:

  • Capital One Venture X Card: $395 
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® Credit Card: $550 
  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard: $595 
  • Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card: $350 
  • Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card: $650 
  • HSBC Elite World Elite Mastercard: $395 for qualifying HSBC bank clients
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card: $650 
  • MasterCard Black Card: $495 
  • MasterCard Gold Card: $995 
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: $695 
  • SKYPASS Select Visa Signature Card: $450 
  • Truist Enjoy Beyond Credit Card: $195 
  • UBS Visa Infinite Credit Card: $495 
  • United Club Infinite Card: $525
  • United Quest Card: $250 
  • U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card: $400 

Business Credit Cards: 

  • Capital One® Venture X® Business Card: $395 
  • IHG One Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: $99 
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card: $199 
  • Truist Business Travel Rewards Credit Card: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $49
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: $695 
  • Capital One Spark Miles for Business: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

I used my Capital One Venture Card to enroll in Global Entry in 2019. My renewal is coming up this year, so I’ll likely use my Capital One Venture X to pay the renewal fee. With so many cards offering this statement credit and wait times at airports continuing to increase as we move into summer, it would be foolish to let my membership lapse and not enjoy the many benefits of these programs. 

Dustin Chambers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Other Ways to Get Free TSA PreCheck

If you have children 12 or under, they may accompany you in the TSA PreCheck lane without needing to be enrolled in the program themselves. Children aged 13 to 17 could join you in the PreCheck lane if the TSA PreCheck indicator appears on their boarding pass. If not, they will need to use the regular security lane. If children 17 or under travel by themselves, they must have their own membership to use the PreCheck lane. 

Some loyalty programs, like United MileagePlus, IHG Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy, will let you use points to cover the application fee for TSA PreCheck. However, this will not be the best valuation you can get from your points, so it would be better to use a credit card.