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Is TSA Precheck worth it? Application and Benefits

10 mins read

The rewards system revolutionized e-commerce and the same system has now found its way into credit cards, air tickets, and more. Earlier people looked at the price of an item and decided if or not they wanted to go ahead with the purchase and today they look at the benefits or rewards that they stand to make from a purchase. Similarly, with airlines, you have frequent flyer and air miles programs. In the US, TSA PreCheck is a reward program for those that are part of frequent flyer programs and a few other special people. But is TSA PreCheck worth it? We will answer that and will also inform you about some TSA PreCheck benefits.

Is TSA PreCheck worth it? Application and Benefits

Companies are always looking to find new ways to retain customers. Airlines are not far behind in that regard. They offer customers various types of rewards so that they remain loyal. TSA PreCheck is one of many such rewards. Let us learn more about it.

What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck page

Launched in December 2013, TSA stands for Transportation Security Administration. It is a Trusted Traveler program wherein a select few customers of an airline get the opportunity of being screened quickly and on priority as opposed to other travelers. Usually, it is people who are members of frequent flyer programs or members of SENTRI, NEXUS, Free and Secure Trade, and Global Entry or belong to the US military, cadets, and midshipmen of United States service academies. By March 2019 this program was supported across more than 200 airports in the US. And by June 2022 82 airlines were participating in the program.

There is a background check done, fingerprints are taken and a fee of 78 dollars is to be paid to get yourself enrolled in the program. After this is done you get a Known Traveler Number instead of an ID card. Travelers can look at their boarding passes and check for TSAPRECHK, TSA PRE, or TSA Pre✓® indicators to know if they have TSA or not.

It is safe to say that the system has its issues and people have had complaints in the past and continue to have it to date but there are also certain good things about it.

Is TSA PreCheck worth it?

People checking in

When finding the worth of things or checking if something is worth it or not usually the price of it is taken into consideration. So let’s start with the price you need to pay for enrolling yourself in the TSA PreCheck program.

TSA PreCheck now costs you 78 dollars and is valid for five years but earlier it cost you 85 dollars. Also, the renewal charge is 78 dollars for people getting it done in person while the online process requires you to pay 70 dollars. However, if you are a part of Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI then your membership may already include TSA PreCheck. Also, your kids aged 12 or under can join you in the TSA PreCheck line free of cost. So far, is TSA PreCheck worth it? If not we have more information coming your way.

Cards that cover TSA PreCheck

Person holding cards
Photo by Avery Evans on Unsplash

There are also ways where you can end up getting TSA PreCheck for free. As mentioned above your membership with other trusted travel programs can help you get this benefit or holding certain travel cards can get you reimbursed for TSA PreCheck. The following cards cover the cost of TSA PreCheck.

Aeroplan® Credit Card, Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, IHG® Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express, Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card, United Club℠ Infinite Card, United℠ Explorer Card, United Quest℠ Card, and U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card.

Also by choosing to become an Orbitz Rewards Platinum member you can avoid the 78-dollar charge. You just need to get the Top status in the Orbitz loyalty program and enroll for TSA PreCheck and then Orbitz will cover the cost for you. However, even without signing up for all these cards and programs, you are paying just 78 dollars for 60 months which comes to 1.3 dollars a month, and if you travel more than once a month then the cost sounds even cheaper in exchange for a quick and hassle-free airport check.

TSA PreCheck Benefits

TSA PreCheck enrollment page

For a system or program to be considered good in the first place they need to have various partners where you can avail of the benefits offered. If you opt to buy a credit card that offers you rewards or benefits on fuel purchases at just one petrol pump instead of a few 100 then would you consider getting that card? No. Similarly, TSA PreCheck is also only worth it when you consider the fact that more than 200 airports and more than 82 airlines are a part of the program and support the TSA PreCheck benefits that we are about to mention.

First and foremost, TSA PreCheck helps you by making the airport checking line shorter and quicker for you by placing you on a separate and special line which saves you from the pre-travel headache. In this line, you are also allowed to carry 3-1-1 liquids, shoes, light jackets, laptops, and belts. Also, TSA estimates that 95% of the TSA PreCheck members who have subscribed for the program are spending less than 5 minutes in the checking line. We ask again is TSA PreCheck worth it? Totally.

You can now afford to head to the airport a little later than usual and you don’t need to worry about standing in an endless line. Also, with TSA PreCheck you can say goodbye to taking off your shoes and socks in public, which means you have no trouble taking off and putting on shoes as well as getting to keep clean socks. Your carry-on bags can have the liquids and laptops in them as this line doesn’t require you to put them in a separate security bin and that means your packing stays intact.

You can say your goodbyes without rushing, or you can quickly get checked in and then proceed to enjoy at the airport or visit shops, or you can also quickly wrap up last minute packing up at home or head to the toilet without worrying about missing your flight. There are many such minor and major benefits that you could enjoy and thus we say yes to whether is TSA PreCheck worth it.

Also Read: Sam’s Club One Day Pass: Shop Without a Membership

TSA PreCheck Application

Person writing something | Is TSA Precheck worth it
Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

To become a member of any club or even to sign up for a card there are documentation and paperwork processes. There is form filling and providing the necessary details to go ahead with the process. Signing up for TSA PreCheck is no different. There is a TSA PreCheck application that you need to fill out before you can sign up for their program. Before that, you are also advised to check DHS-trusted travel programs like SENTRI, NEXUS, and Global Entry. This helps you to check your eligibility and also helps you find out the best-suited program for your needs.

To fill out the form you need to head to the online website tsa.gov/precheck or tsaenrollmentbyidemia.tsa.dhs.gov and fill out the forms and submit them online. Remember to pay attention to the website as any website not ending in .gov is not a legitimate TSA PreCheck website. Also, if you are applying for their program for the first time then you need to head to the TSA PreCheck enrollment center and fill out the form in person. A first-time applicant will also not be asked to provide payment options online. Is TSA PreCheck worth it? Yes. Then you must be willing to bear a little inconvenience on the first visit.

The online application process takes around 5 minutes which is as much time as you spend in the quicker check lines using the TSA PreCheck program, however, the in-person process may take more time. Also, for renewal, the users are encouraged to apply online as the fee for the same is just 70 dollars as opposed to the 78-dollar charge for in-person renewal. Although validity for both is 5 years.

As a first-time member, you won’t be able to pay online and need to head to the enrollment service anyways because there is a background check done and you are also asked to give your fingerprints. So it is not just the payment for which you need to head to the center. The application may take anywhere between 3 and 5 days to go through, however, at the max, it can take up to 60 days as well which is why people are requested to consider applying for a renewal 60 days before the expiry is due.

TSA PreCheck Renewal

Airline checkin attendant

As stated above TSA PreCheck encourages members to apply for a renewal 60 days before the expiration of the previous term. This means that you need to check for your expiration date and be ready in advance. Although you can apply for a renewal six months in advance to the expiry of the recent membership. Also, there is no need to worry about the early TSA PreCheck renewal as it still becomes valid only after the current membership period ends and so you don’t lose out on any days of the mentioned 5 years.

In case you might have gotten your name changed during the previous membership period then you need to call the TSA PreCheck Help Center at 855-DHS-UES1 (855-347-8371) and get your name updated before you apply for a renewal. You can also head to the enrollment center to apply for renewal in person. Now you might ask if is TSA PreCheck worth it because the renewal process seems to be a bit blurry. Don’t worry we will simplify it for you.

Renewal Process

Person using laptop | is tsa precheck worth it
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

First, you need to head to the TSA PreCheck website and here you will come across Apply Now and Renew Now options. Here you need to choose the latter option. Here you fill out your Known Traveler Name, Date of Birth, and Legal Last Name and submit that to move to page 2. There are four pages in total that you need to fill up. Provide the correct details for whatever is asked of you and that should take care of the renewal application.

You are generally asked for confirming address and passport details and answer some common questions, however, if you are found guilty of having violated federal security reasons then your application may be revoked or suspended. After all this is done you await confirmation. There are also other ways to renew your TSA PreCheck membership.

Some other conditions

You can apply for TSA PreCheck after your old membership expires but this will lead to you losing your TSA PreCheck benefits and this means even if you booked a flight when your membership was valid, the expiration means no more TSA PreCheck benefits for you for now. Also now you are required to submit a new form and you also get a new KTN. However, you can re-up your membership for free by using certain cards for the same.

If you renew for Global Entry then your membership to TSA PreCheck is automatically renewed as well and you no longer have to go through the process mentioned above. The PASS ID on the back of your Global Entry card also acts as the KTN number. If you are a U.S. citizen, U.S. lawful permanent resident, or approved foreign national who has been approved for NEXUS or SENTRI then renewing either of them automatically renews your TSA PreCheck membership. Again your PASS ID can be used as a KTN.

If you attend a military academy or are an active member of the US armed forces then TSA PreCheck benefits can be availed by using your Department of Defense ID number from the back of your Common Access Card as the KTN.

Pros and Cons of TSA PreCheck

passengers waiting in queue

Though we say yes to answer the question, is TSA PreCheck worth it, that does not mean that the program is wholly good or has no shortcomings. It is now time to look at a few strong points and a few weak points of this program to be able to make a case for or against it.

Pros

Person standing with boarding pass | is tsa precheck worth it

Who doesn’t like to be treated differently when it is positive? If you get special treatment where you can legally cut lines and have shorter wait times and checking periods at the airport compared to others then why won’t you sign up for it? Post Pandemic as we head towards normalcy the waiting time at airports has been two to three hours and more in some cases and it can get frustrating after a point.

As the TSA claims that almost 95% of its users have to wait less than 5 minutes in line we wonder why won’t people want to belong to that 95%. Also, with TSA PreCheck you get to carry quite a few items on airplanes that others can’t. Also, you don’t have to remove your belt, shoe, or socks as other people have to and your laptop and liquid can be passed off merely by placing them in a bag which is not how it works for normal passengers. When you consider the bigger picture you come up with a list of benefits as opposed to the average traveler and that should be a reason enough.

Also Read: Are Teslas Worth it? An Analysis

Cons

TSA PreCheck fee might be less for moving you from a long line to a much shorter line and getting you certain benefits, but that still does not make a compelling case. Various other programs offer more benefits than this for a similar amount or a few extra bucks. Also, the service is limited to US citizens and mostly exists for domestic travel so not much to fuss about there.

At various US airports, you have private security programs that are proving to be a competition to the TSA PreCheck system. The TSA PreCheck team has also not made friends with the Police officers since the TSA badges rolled out and made them angry a few years back. Also, at the start of the article, we mentioned how not everyone is a fan of TSA PreCheck. So all these problems combined form a huge challenge for the TSA PreCheck system to stay relevant in the coming time.

TSA PreCheck has also struggled in the past in being able to provide a better service to customers even after having been paid for it and that is bound to make anyone mad.

Sushma Singh

Sushma is a financial expert and online entrepreneur. With years of experience in personal finance and business management, she is dedicated to empowering individuals to take control of their finances and make smart investment decisions. Through Moneymint's website, she provides insightful tips, strategies and resources to help individuals grow their wealth and achieve financial stability. Join Sushma on the journey to financial freedom today!

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