Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or both? You’ve got options. To understand what’s better for you, your travel habits and your budget, we’re doing the deep dive on what the differences are, what each expedited service gets you, and how much you can expect to be out of pocket – both on time and money.

What are they?

TSA PreCheck is run by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and helps speed you through security before your flight’s departure. Global Entry, on the other hand, is run by the US Customs and Border Protection and is useful in the arrival process, to quickly get you through customs when you’re entering the US from abroad.

For TSA PreCheck, the benefits are simple. When you get to the airport, you go to the PreCheck line. You won’t have to remove your shoes or belt and can keep liquids and your laptop in your bag. Sometimes, you will bypass the body scanning machine for a simple metal detector. As a time saver, the TSA reports that 93% of PreCheck members get through security in less than 5 minutes.

For Global Entry, you’ll get all the benefits of TSA PreCheck (it comes packaged together), as well as much faster customs screening when you arrive in the US from an international flight. Instead of waiting to talk to a live customs agent, you’ll use a kiosk to whisk through. It also includes expedited processing when heading over the land border to Mexico or Canada.

So, why wouldn’t I just get Global Entry?

The more complicated thing about Global Entry is the approval process and number of available enrollment centers for your in-person interview. While both programs require some version of a live interview, TSA PreCheck has over 380 locations where this could take place, whereas Global Entry only has 116. That’s why it can be weeks – or even months – before you get an appointment date. Also with Global Entry, the application is a little more involved – including documenting at least 5 years of your past employment and travel history.

What’s the approval process like?

For Global Entry, you need to already have a passport and will be required to conduct an in-person interview. It involves questions about your employment status, background and why you want to use Global Entry. You’ll need to bring several documents with you (these will be detailed in your appointment letter). After the interview, an officer will take biometric information like a photograph and fingerprints.

For TSA PreCheck, it’s a little more streamlined. You still need to fill out an application and conduct an in-person interview, but the application doesn’t have you go into your travel history and doesn’t require a passport. It’s more the basics: personal information and employment status. The interview has similar questions to that of Global Entry, but there are many more locations available to you to schedule the interview. At the end, you’ll also need to register your biometrics – fingerprints and a photo.

What do they give me?

With Global Entry you get a special card to take with you and show/scan when you go through customs. You’ll also get a letter with your Known Traveler Number (KTN) to use when you book or check-in to your flights. TSA PreCheck, once approved, will send you your KTN in a letter – which you’ll need to remember to enter as part of the flight check-in or booking process. Also, when you use your KTN, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be approved to use the PreCheck line. If there are any existing security concerns, you may be directed to use the regular security lines.

What about my kids?

Here’s another big difference between the programs. If you have TSA PreCheck and use it to fly, your child (12 and under) can go through the PreCheck line with you. Kids over 13 will need to apply for their own number. With Global Entry, no matter the kid’s age – they’ll need to apply and enroll in the program individually.

How much do they cost?

For a five-year membership, Global Entry is $100 ($100 to renew) while TSA PreCheck is $85 ($70 to renew).

What else should I know?

There are some workarounds for where you take the in-person interviews. If you’ve already applied and your application was accepted, Global Entry will let you use Enrollment on Arrival when returning to the US from an international trip to finish the interview process without an appointment. This can be helpful if you don’t have a Global Entry office near you and just happen to be flying into an airport with one (may also save you a trip to the airport).

Also, several major credit cards offer to cover the cost of fees for both PreCheck and Global Entry. Check your cardholder agreement to see if yours is covered.

Finally, for Global Entry, you don’t have to be a US citizen to be eligible. You can also apply if you’re a lawful permanent resident, Mexican national or a citizen of Argentina, India, Colombia, United Kingdom, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland or Taiwan.

The bottom line.

Get TSA PreCheck if you don’t really travel internationally and travel 3 or more times a year. It’ll save you time and a bit of money compared to Global Entry. But if you plan on traveling out of the country even a handful of times in the next 5 years, Global Entry is worth the additional cost and time.

About the author

Paul SteeleFounder of - Avid wanderer whom loves to share the great sights and hidden treasures of the world. From the mountains of his home in Cumbria to lands far away. Contributes regularly to Cheapflights, Visit Britain and Huffington Post

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