With summer coming up, everyone is talking about their travel plans. One thing that comes up a lot in conversation is the TSA PreCheck program. The one question I get a lot:
Is it really worth it?
The quick answer is: YES!
The longer, more informative answer? Right here:
The Lowdown: TSA Pre-Check is available by the Transportation Security Administration in the United States. It's available at 160+ airports including 12 participating airlines. It provides expedited, more seamless process of security screening when at the airport.
How Much You'll Pay: $85 for 5 years.
How to Get It: You can apply/pre-enroll online or in person at an approved application center. Then, you schedule an appointment at one of the centers for an interview. You'll have to bring certain documents such as your passport, birth certificate, etc and a form of payment to the appointment. The purpose of the interview is to review personal information like place of birth, take fingerprints, verify Social Security number, etc. Once the interview is complete and the fee is paid (credit card, personal check, money order), all you do it wait!
After the Wait: About a week or two after your interview, you'll receive a letter from the TSA regarding their decision. My friend received it within a week but mine took over 2 weeks - I'm guessing it was due to the fact that I'm dual-citizen (Japan & United States) and the background check took longer.
Once you're approved, you receive a KTN (Known Traveler Number) which you'll need each time you fly. The KTN is the golden ticket to get into the TSA PreCheck line at the airport. All approved airlines will always have a section for "Known Traveler Number" during booking and all you have to do it type it in. On your boarding pass, it will say "TSA PreCheck" - see below:
At the Airport: You get to skip the general line of security and find the TSA PreCheck line. It's generally much shorter. The best part? You don't have to remove your shoes, laptop, liquids, belts or jewelry.
My Experience & Take: I love the PreCheck program and I'm mad I didn't apply as soon as it started. I don't know what I would do without it and can't imagine myself lining up in the regular line anymore! At $17 a year, I think it's a complete steal. Of course you should consider how often you fly but even if you flew once a year, $17 is about half of what some airlines make you pay for "priority security" passes! A lot of my friends who I travel with also have PreCheck so it makes it quick and convenient to get through security even if you're running late. I always have closed-toe shoes or boots on and travel with my laptop so the fact that I don't have to remove them makes me oh-so-happy!
Things to Note: As perfect as I make it sound, there are things to keep in mind. I don't know all the cons to the program but a few instances I've ran into where I haven't been able to use the program properly:
- At LAX (Los Angeles Airport), if you're flying out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, TSA PreCheck doesn't exist.
- When I had an early flight out of Detroit and tried to get through TSA, they told me that the PreCheck line doesn't open until 8:00AM.
- A TSA Agent told me I had to take out my laptop and didn't let me argue or show him the TSA website where it specifically states I don't have to take it out. I think that's more of a training issue and hopefully that's been fixed by now.
- Air Canada
- Alaska Airlines
- Allegiant Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Southwest Airlines
- Sun Country
- United Airlines
- Virgin America
For more information or to apply for TSA PreCheck, visit their official website here. For some additional travel hacks, check out my Travel Hacks post here!
Do you have TSA PreCheck? If you do, do you love it? If you're from another country, do you have something similar?
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