How to Get TSA PreCheck for Free

Global-Entry-610If you get my weekly newsletter (sign up here) then you know that I have a love/hate relationship with TSA PreCheck. I love it because the line is usually much shorter and I don’t have to take off my shoes, belt and jacket. I also don’t have to take my laptop or my 3-1-1 compliant liquids bag out.

But at the same time I sort of hate it because it seems they’ve been allowing totally random people who haven’t applied or received a background check to enjoy the benefits of the program. Here’s my rant on the subject.

However, it looks like the Transportation Security Administration is starting to wake up because according to the New York Times, they plan to end the free rides for those who haven’t applied. So how do you get TSA PreCheck for free?

Global Entry—for international travel
TSA PreCheck costs $85 for five years, which seems like a fair deal. But if you travel internationally at all (and especially if you do it frequently), it makes sense to instead get Global Entry, which gives you expedited processing through CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) at airports and land borders upon arrival in the U.S. as well as TSA PreCheck for only $15 more ($100 total) and is also good for five years! Tip: If you have an American Express Platinum credit card, pay with it and they’ll reimburse you the $100 Global Entry fee.

NEXUS—for travel to Canada
An even better deal, if you travel to and from Canada often, is to get NEXUS. It’s basically the same thing as Global Entry except only for Canada—and it also includes Global Entry and TSA PreCheck and only costs $50 for five years. The downside is that you need to have your face-to-face appointment in Canada or one of their enrollment centers near the Canadian border, like in Seattle or Niagara Falls. Here’s a list of locations.

Sentri—for travel to Mexico
For those frequent travelers to and from Mexico, get Sentri ($122.25) as it’s just like NEXUS but for Mexico and it too includes Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.

To give you a better understanding, here’s a quick and handy comparison chart from the Department of Homeland Security created. It shows all the programs, the eligibility requirements, application process and fees, along with links to all of them.

No matter which one makes sense for you, it will be the best money you’ve ever spent as a traveler as it will mean you’ll be able to breeze past the customs and immigration lines—which will now take about two minutes.

Johnny Jet

About the Author

Johnny Jet
I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

80 Comments on "How to Get TSA PreCheck for Free"

  1. Hmm, I got the Global Entry though my platinum American Express card. I had no idea I could’ve added TSA pre-check for $15.00 more. Is it to late to add it on??

  2. Somehow TSA precheck started showing up on ALL my boarding passes last year. I never applied or paid a fee. 12 trips, some international,, all TSA precheck. Perhaps it is my age

  3. Cathy LoCascio | August 13, 2014 at 9:49 am | Reply

    My wife and i just went through Pre-check and got approved. did not know Global entry was an option. Is there an upgrade?

  4. I recently got the NEXUS card and was told that the program now ncludes Global Entry as well. It seems to allude to this is the packet I was given, but I haven’t had a chance to test it out yet.

  5. Can you clarify a couple of things that are confusing on the comparison chart you linked? …..

    I have Nexus, since I go back and forth to Canada a lot [a quick note to those using it across the land borders….you wave the card in front of the blank-looking reader and drive on up to the booth… don’t wait as I did for a beep to tell you it’s been read. Canada must have registered me entering 16 times in a row before I figured it out; and the bored Quebecois agent at the booth was not amused].

    Back to the chart: it says that Nexus includes the benefits of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck…. but it is half the price of just the Global Entry alone, which doesn’t make sense.

    Does it mean that I don’t need to apply for anything further to use those two, or do I need an additional Global Entry card?

    Thanks,

    • You are correct! It is cheaper to have Nexus and it includes all three. You just need to put your Known Traveler ID into your airline accounts. You should also have been interviewed by CBP for Global Entry when you went for your NEXUS appt so you should be all set their too.

      • One other point about Nexus, if you plan on using it at airport crossings Canada requires a retina scan. The procedure is not available at all interview locations e.g. International falls, so you may have to do that at another point of entry.

  6. I am in the process of applying for BOTH Global Entry and Pre-Check. I didn’t realize they “overlapped” (despite scouring the sites for this info) Fortunately I’ve only paid the Global Entry fee so far–thanks for saving me $85!

  7. You never did say how to get it FREE.

  8. I have flown three times since getting pre-check and I have yet to get pre-check on my boarding pass even though my number is on the reservation.

  9. I don’t totally get this. Everytime I fly Southwest, I am pre screen. I’m guessing that I’ve flown with them so often and for so many years, that the airline is issuing this. Is that correct?

  10. As an USA citizen, will the Nexus pass be used for entry into Canada AND a return to the U.S?

  11. I just got the pre-check without even asking for free. I fly Alaska airlines several times a year and the past few times they have autimatically been sending me through PreCheck. Could it be because I fly the same airline so often?

  12. I am US Airways Silver and when I get a 1st Class upgrade which is a bout 95% of the time I get Pre Check, funny thing is I am a Brit on an L1 work visa

  13. Not all airlines are a part of the precheck system. It’s mainly the legacy carriers and a few others. I believe the pre-check website lists the airlines that participate.

  14. Great info. Thanks! I need a little more information on the Nexus play which seems the no-brainer most cost-effective option. For $50 ya really get it all for 5 years? (Nexus, Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check?) Scanning the Nexus application sites I note some offices state they can take the necessary iris photographs and other sites don’t explicitly state this. Can all the listed sites provide all the necessary services needed to issue the Nexus certification? Or must the applicant visit one of the sites capable of taking the iris photo before the card can be issued? TIA for any clarification.

  15. i’ve always been curious about the global entry…but everytime i land at logan, it’s roped off! that seems like a waste to me. has anyone had pleasant experience with global entry?

  16. I have Global Entry and I also have my known id in my American profile, but I always have to ask for them to add the TSA precheck at the counter. The TSA told me GE is not precheck. I just let it go because the line was getting longer than the regular priority lines anyway.

  17. Regarding the NEXUS application, say we apply and interview at the Seattle location, how soon afterwards will they become active, i.e., NEXUS, GE and TSA Pre-Check? That day, for example?

    • No. It will take time to get approved and then even more time to get an appt and then you will have wait about a week for your card in the mail

  18. Is the TSA PreCheck only available to US citizens? What is the criteria to qualify? My husband travel to the US from Australia frequently for work and it would be handy for him to have this.

  19. I’m flying on Westjet to canada, can I use my global entry card to go thru TSA pre check?

    • Nope! You would have to have TSA PreCheck on your ticket and you won’t since Westjet isn’t a member. Air Canada is.

  20. I have Aeroplan and cannot find a place to input my known traveler ID. Do you know where I can input it? Thanks.

  21. Thanks, John. I just applied. I have been using Pre-Check for free and don’t want to lose it…

  22. this may sound trivial but my son has an AE Platinum card and I do not, can he use his card to pay for my GE and TSA PreCk and then get reimbursed or does the CC used have to be in my name. BTW, he already has both…don’t know if he has this info though!

    • Good question. You might have to call AMEX but I *believe* it has to be the cardholders name.

      • Yes only the AX Platinum Card Holder is eligible for the Global Entry Card which is reimbursed by AX later.
        One odd thing that AX will pay 100.00 for Global Entry but not 50.00 for the Nexus with the Global Entry included.
        So now i am applying on my own for the Nexus

  23. We just got the TSA Precheck approval a few months ago. I was wondering is it somehow possible to add Global Entry? Would we have to apply for that separately? Thank you.

  24. I have a question… We are a family of four destined to bounce around Europe this summer. Three of my family members have a Middle Eastern last name. Will any of these cards assist with customs in other countries besides US? We have travelled internationally 4 times since 9-11 with little trouble. Thank you!

  25. Am I eligible to apply for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck if I am on L1 visa and hold a Non-US Passport? I have been living in the US for almost 2 years and keep traveling on work inside and outside the country.
    Thank You!

  26. Can anyone be added to pre check even the small children? I didn’t know that Amex platinum has that option and I should look into it with them.

  27. That NY Times article has been floating around since 2014 and despite TSA claims that they are tightening up the use of Pre-Check, the number of non pre-check passengers going through is as high or higher than ever. This was highly evident during the holidays, when most of the passengers going through pre-check were not only NOT pre-check, but seemed to be first time travelers, including a woman who tried to put her dog through x-ray.

    I once wrote to the TSA supervisor at EWR, pointed him to the article and he replied that passengers are “profiled” during times of high traffic. I don’t know what their profiling consists of, but I’ve seen many instances when travelers who are not US citizens are given a pass into pre-check.

  28. Your link to the Mexico Sentri website is outdated. Can you supply the new one? Thanks!

  29. If you have children under 12, they’re covered by your PreCheck status. That’s not true for Global Entry. I was thrilled when an upgrade got me free PreCheck status, and the TSA officer waved me and my two kids to that line (their dad did not have precheck and had to use the regular line).

  30. Susan Bissette | April 13, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Reply

    I usually get TSA precheck with credit card. However, I am 71 y.o. & have had both hips & both knees replaced. The TSA precheck is not helpful for me & once it caused me to suffer through EXTENSIVE additional screening in the precheck line here in Charleston, SC. Here they have told me to go through the regular security line to avoid problems! I call that discrimination! I have AmEX Platinum but am somewhat reluctant to apply for Global Entry because of this.

  31. i have global entry but how do you add this number to an airline ticket?
    or must it be added to your frequent flyer account for every airline?

  32. My husband and I live in Iowa, the closest we can go for an interview is Minneapolis for Global Entry. We have a flight out of Minneapolis in Oct. If we fill out the form, is it possible to make an appointment before the flight? I would assume not and we have to make a seperate trip. Thank you
    Cathy

  33. Suzanne M Barker | May 25, 2016 at 10:31 am | Reply

    Got my initial approval in early May. The soonest interview appointment for PDX is 11/29/16 and October 2016 for Seattle. I love Precheck but having to wait six months for an interview at US Customs is ridiculous. Asked if I could do a walk-in and PDX and SEA said no walk-ins allowed. I am heading to DC in July and have scheduled my interview there instead of waiting so long.

  34. George Keller | May 25, 2016 at 11:03 am | Reply

    I have had the Global Entry for 3 years. In the 3 years only once did I not have TSA Pre-check. Even though my Global Entry number is listed in my profile with the airlines it is important that I fill in the Known Number in the actual reservation. Southwest is the worst. Be sure to enter the Known Number at the time of making the booking.

  35. Sometimes TSA is longer than ordinary lines for some reason. And recently at JFK, both lines were merged as the very early weekend time was not busy. But if you can manage Global Entry for 5 years at $99 and a few minutes on the computer/plus a ride to your airport… do it immediately. JFK’s American Airlines arrivals area was so full one afternoon that the escalator people started getting dangerously backed up

  36. I just chatted with Am/Ex about the reimbursement if I apply for Global Entry. Although I have a Delta Platinum Am/Ex card (and have been a member for 49 years) my card was not eligible. You must have one of those cards with a yearly fee of $450.

  37. One of the most wonderful things about the TSA is how abysmally it’s marketed Pre-check.
    That low awareness among the flying public insured nice sparse lines. Now the headlines about nightmare waits at securitry are drawing more people.
    Johnny, why add to the hoards? Maybe a moratorium on Pre-check related posts would be a good idea?
    Signed, selfish but honest.

  38. In your last narrative you wrote: “it took Natalie and me (me,Me, ME, me).” Hats off to you for writing it CORRECTLY. As a former foreign language teacher and stickler for correct grammar it pains “I” to hear the pronoun “I” used as an object or object of a preposition. Keep it up, Johnny.

  39. I started to apply for GOES and then realized that there is no place in Connecticut to complete the process. Unfortunately, it is just too time consuming to travel to Mass or Rhode Island to complete. I wish you had mentioned that not all states have access to this important part of the process. But, thank you for the tip anyway.

  40. So you’re basically saying if you can qualify for an American Express card you can get for free but otherwise it ain’t free. That’s a misleading sentence to put on Facebook.

  41. Would love to participate in the Global Entry program. Unfortunately, there are no enrollment centers in Oklahoma, or in Arkansas or Kansas, the adjacent states. There is one in Dallas, TX, which is a 5.5 hour drive from where I am located in Oklahoma. How convenient is that? I can participate in the TSA Precheck, however.

  42. GE line at SFO was more crowded than regular line when I returned in Feb. Flight attendants behind me in line said it’s because foreign carrier flight attendants aren’t automatically passed through and have to have fingerprints compared with database. When friends returned two days later, GE was completely closed at SFO.

  43. The title of this web page “How to Get TSA PreCheck for Free implies that TSA Precheck can be had for FREE, I must be missing something because I can’t find any information about “How to Get TSA PreCheck for Free”

    Please clarify.

    Thanks

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