Few things are more annoying than landing on a long-haul international flight to find immigration queues or almost miss your boarding window due to problems with your flight. security. Fortunately for frequent travelers, there are various screening programs that can speed things up on both sides of your journey.

TSA Precheck, Global Entry and CLEAR are three of the best-known programs. Although some special benefits overlap, each program has been created for a particular group of people and the programs are not mutually exclusive. You may be able to join all three programs, but it is expensive and time consuming – it is best to know the specific characteristics of each program to determine which one (or more) would be best for you.

TSA Precheck

TSA Precheck is a convenient and inexpensive way to quickly access the security lines of more than 200 US airports. With more than 7 million members, TSA Precheck has revolutionized the security process across the country. To qualify, complete an online application and make an appointment in person at one of the 380 TSA Precheck registration centers. The request should only take about five minutes and your background check in person should only take 10 minutes. By completing your application, you will see the next available appointment at the registration center closest to your residential address.

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Once you have passed the background check, you will be given a TSA Precheck Passenger Number (TSA). You can then enjoy your membership by adding your KTN to your ticket. With TSA Precheck, you will no longer have to take off your belt, your shoes or your light jacket. You can also avoid taking out your laptop or liquids.

Most members of TSA Precheck pass the security within 5 minutes. Considering the strange objects that TSA agents have discovered you will be happy to move quickly.

The $ 85 fee will cover you for five years. If you are a cardholder enrolled in a rewards program through a bank or hotel brand, you may be eligible for a credit or even the opportunity to use your points reward for paying these fees. Two of the most popular cards that offer a TSA Precheck waive fees include Capital One Venture and Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards.

Global entry

Unlike TSA Precheck which is associated with TSA, Global entry is a program of the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Global Entry includes all the benefits of TSA Precheck, but adds an accelerated border crossing to the US (and a few others). This program was designed to create a network of trusted travelers while reducing queues to US immigration. It is based more on the safety aspect of border travel.

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The application process for Global Entry is a little more rigorous than TSA Precheck's. The initial application will help US CBP determine whether or not you are a low risk traveler. If this is cleared, you will need to schedule an in-person interview and a background check. The interviews take place at various registration centers in the United States. There are also Global Entry Ports in other countries, including Canada, Qatar, Singapore, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

Once you are approved for global entry, you will be a valuable part of the trusted traveler network. Avoid queues and go directly to the Global Entry Immigration booths, scan your passport and fingerprints, complete the customs declaration and you'll be ready to go. Note that the $ 100 fee will cover you for five years.

For $ 15 more, you will enjoy the benefits of TSA Precheck and the opportunity to travel more efficiently to customs when returning from abroad. Like TSA Precheck, some credit cards offer fee waivers, including Platinum and Business Platinum from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi AAdvantage MasterCard.


Clearn is a program that can be used alone, but it is very convenient when used in tandem with TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Clear uses biometrics to recognize your identity and sends you directly to the bins, security. This does not qualify you for the TSA Precheck treatment itself, but it works well together. This is the fastest registration process because it is only an application and a quick installation process in a Clear station.

Clear is now available at more than 35 airports in the United States, including DTW, ATL and LAX. Clear is also available in some stadiums and venues. Clear is a subscription instead of $ 15 / month billed annually. Delta offers a Clear discount for elite members and a free Clear membership for Delta Diamond Medallion members.

Clear lines are often shorter, which can help you get through strengthening airport security much faster.

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Bottom line

The best program for someone in the window seat might not be the best program for the person in the driveway, so to speak. It depends on your type of traveler, the frequency of your trips to the United States and the frequency with which you leave and re-enter the United States.

If you're just interested in a quick way to get through the security queue, Clear is enough … But $ 180 a year is more expensive than TSA Precheck, which costs $ 85 for five years and is just as good for travelers who wish to avoid the hassle of the security process in the United States. Global Entry adds the benefit of an expedited border crossing. Global Entry takes full advantage of Global Entry, but TSA Precheck is certainly worth it for frequent domestic travelers.

John E. DiScala runs the website Johnny Jet and specialized in maximizing credit card points, travel offers and travel tips.