TSA PreCheck explained, plus credit cards that reimburse it

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TSA PreCheck provides expedited screening when you check in at the airport. Passengers who have TSA PreCheck clearance on their boarding pass can go through a dedicated line at U.S. airports for faster security clearance. We’ll explain everything you need to know about this Trusted Traveler program and how it can make your pre-flight experience better.

What does TSA PreCheck do?

TSA PreCheck is a government-run program that provides expedited screening at airport security checkpoints for travelers flying from U.S. airports. With TSA PreCheck, you’ll use a separate line at the airport for screening and you won’t have to remove your shoes or belt, or take your laptop or other electronic devices out of your carry-on. According to the TSA, 99% of passengers who use the TSA PreCheck lines wait less than 10 minutes to complete the screening process.

How to get TSA PreCheck

TSA Precheck is a Trusted Traveler program run by the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration. Membership in this program is limited to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and legal permanent residents. For those who fit the residency criteria, there are a few steps to apply for TSA PreCheck:

  • Go to the Trusted Traveler website and select the Get Started button under TSA PreCheck.
  • You’ll be taken to a screen that shows you a choice of two different TSA PreCheck screening providers. You’ll have to go in person to complete your application, so it might make sense to choose the provider closest to you. The providers are:
    • Idemia, which charges $78 to enroll, $70 to renew online and has over 610 enrollment centers, or 
    • Telos, which charges $85 to enroll and $70 to renew online and has 28 enrollment centers. 
  • Make an appointment. At the appointment, which TSA says should take about 10 minutes, you’ll be asked to provide the appropriate identification, have your photo taken and be fingerprinted.
  • Pay the application fee. Some travel credit cards offer an application fee reimbursement if you charge it to the card. More on that below.
  • Wait to receive your Known Traveler Number (KTN) from your provider. TSA says this usually takes about three to five days, although it could take up to 60 days. You can get your application status by email, phone, text, or by checking online through the enrollment provider you applied with.
  • Once you have a KTN, you can add it to any frequent flyer programs you participate in and also enter it on any flight reservations you make to have TSA PreCheck marked on your boarding pass for security. Each time you book a ticket you’ll need to enter your KTN on your reservation if it isn’t already saved with the airline to take advantage of the TSA PreCheck line. If your boarding pass does not show a TSA PreCheck indicator you will not be able to use the PreCheck lane to go through security.

What’s the difference between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry ?

TSA PreCheck is run by the Transportation Security Administration and expedites the security line process when departing from U.S. airports. 

Global Entry is run by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and allows expedited entry into the U.S. from international locations. However, TSA PreCheck is included with Global Entry membership. Here’s a side-by-side breakdown of the two programs:

TSA PreCheck Global Entry
Application fee $78 or $85 depending on which of two providers you choose. $100
Length it’s valid 5 years 5 years
Main benefits Expedited security line screening, can leave on your shoes, belt and light jacket, allowed to leave laptops and other electronics in your carry-on bag. All the benefits of TSA PreCheck plus expedited arrival into the U.S. when returning from travel abroad.
Travel companion restrictions Children under 17 traveling with someone who has TSA PreCheck can also go through the line. All traveling companions, regardless of age, must have their own Global Entry ID to use the expedited entry line.
Application fee $100
$78 or $85 depending on which of two providers you choose.
Length it’s valid 5 years
5 years
Main benefits All the benefits of TSA PreCheck plus expedited arrival into the U.S. when returning from travel abroad.
Expedited security line screening, can leave on your shoes, belt and light jacket, allowed to leave laptops and other electronics in your carry-on bag.
Travel companion restrictions All traveling companions, regardless of age, must have their own Global Entry ID to use the expedited entry line.
Children under 17 traveling with someone who has TSA PreCheck can also go through the line.

What is CLEAR?

CLEAR is a biometric technology company that is not a government-operated trusted traveler program but can provide expedited identity screening. CLEAR® Plus is a program found at more than 55 U.S. airports that allows its members to go through the security checkpoint process in a dedicated lane with reduced waiting times.

Certain credit cards provide a statement credit to reimburse CLEAR Plus membership, such as the The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Green Card.

TSA PreCheck is in more than 200 airports, although some airports will have both TSA PreCheck lanes and CLEAR lanes. Which one is faster will depend on various factors including how busy the airport is and how many people are in line for each.

To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page

All information about the American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by Fortune Recommends™ .

The Platinum Card® from American Express

See Rates and Fees

Intro bonus


Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after spending $8,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of card membership






Annual Fee $695
Purchase APR See Pay Over Time APR
Foreign Transaction Fee None


Are there other Trusted Traveler programs?

Yes, in addition to TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, other trusted traveler programs include:

  • NEXUS: This program has a $50 application fee and is good for five years once approved. NEXUS allows expedited air, vehicle and pedestrian entry into the U.S. and Canada, expedited marine entrance into the U.S. from Canada and access to TSA PreCheck expedited security lanes at airports within the U.S. and U.S territories for U.S. Citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and Canadian citizens.
  • SENTRI: This program has a $122.25 fee and SENTRI is valid for five years once approved. The program allows expedited air, vehicle and pedestrian entry into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico. It’s available to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, as well as all foreign nationals. SENTRI offers access to TSA PreCheck expedited security lanes at airports within the U.S. and U.S territories for U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents.
  • FAST: This program has a $50 fee and it’s valid for five years. FAST allows expedited entry for truck drivers entering and exiting the U.S. from Canada and Mexico who are U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents, and Mexican nationals. FAST does not include TSA PreCheck membership.

Credit cards with TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement

There are numerous travel credit cards that offer an up to $100 application fee reimbursement credit for you to apply for either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry if you pay with the card. Some of the options include:

To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page

To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card,  see this page 

To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, see this page 

To view rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, see this page

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Intro Bonus


Earn 75,000 miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening





Annual fee $95
Regular APR 19.99%–29.99% variable


The takeaway

TSA PreCheck has the potential to save you a lot of time and hassle at the airport, particularly if you’re a frequent traveler. And, with the right credit card, you can get it almost free—we say “almost” because cards that come with a TSA PreCheck reimbursement typically charge an annual fee, so you’ll still have to pay to carry the card. But that doesn’t have to be expensive. 

For example, the United Explorer charges a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (then $95). If you’re someone who flies United regularly, you’ll likely find this card well worth that price tag. In addition to the TSA PreCheck benefit, it offers perks such as your first checked bag free, priority boarding, and two United Club one-time passes per account anniversary year.

In conclusion, we think most travelers flying out of U.S. airports will find TSA PreCheck well worth it. And, if you fly internationally, consider Global Entry—you’ll get PreCheck included.

UnitedSM Explorer Card

Intro bonus


Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open





Annual fee $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (then $95)
Regular APR 21.99%–28.99% variable APR



Please note that card details are accurate as of the publish date, but are subject to change at any time at the discretion of the issuer. Please contact the card issuer to verify rates, fees, and benefits before applying.

Fortune Recommends™ has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Fortune Recommends™ and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefits guide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.



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