TSA PreCheck – What You Need to Know and How to Apply

If you haven’t heard, everyone wants to know about TSA Precheck. What does it mean and how do you get it? We’ve been using it now for almost five years and I have certainly noticed the uptick in passengers using the expedited security lines at the airport. We feel it has been worth the investment for the amount of time we spend at airports. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, here is what you need to know about TSA PreCheck:

How to Apply for TSA Precheck-Kids Are A Trip

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What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck is a Trusted Traveler program that allows pre-screened individuals to use special security lanes at airports. In doing so, they enjoy an improved travel experience as they do not have to remove items such as belts, shoes, light outerwear/jackets, laptops from bags, and their liquid carrying bags.

Typically travelers in the US with a regular boarding pass must go through standard security lanes or apply for one of the expedited programs.

Where can I enroll for TSA Precheck?

TSA PreCheck isn’t available at every airport, but it is available at 200 airports in the U.S. and counting. Click HERE to find a location near you. More than 10 million travelers are enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program, and it’s only getting busier.

Airport Crowds and TSA-Kids Are A Trip
Are you ready to avoid the crowds? Photo credit: Creative Commons

How does the TSA application process work?

The process has a couple of steps, beginning on your home computer and ending at an application processing center. To begin with, you apply on-line using this form. The form is fairly self explanatory and once complete allows you to schedule an in-person appointment.

Within 45 days of completing your on-line pre-enrollment form you are required to visit an application center (locations can be found here, there are over 380 to choose from) to provide biographic information including your name, date of birth, and address.

TSA Precheck Airport windows plane in sky-Kids Are A Trip

At your in-person appointment you will also be fingerprinted, required to provide valid required documents for TSA PreCheck. These include your identity and citizenship/immigration documentation, for example, a valid passport, or an original birth certificate and a valid U.S. driver’s license.

You will need to pay a non-refundable application processing fee of $85 (this application fee is good for 5 years of TSA Precheck). Acceptable forms of payment are: credit card, money order, company check, or certified/cashier’s check. Cash and personal checks are not accepted.

After completing the application process, successful applicants will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) via U.S. mail in approximately 2-3 weeks. You may also check the status of your application on the TSA PreCheck website by clicking on “Check My Service Status”. 

Once issued, your Known Traveler Number (KTN) is valid for five years. You will not receive a card to carry, simply a letter with your KTN. Going forward, you will now need to provide this number when booking travel reservations.

Everything You Need to Know About TSA Precheck-Kids Are A Trip

Now that you have your Known Traveler Number (KTN), what happens next?

When you travel, you will want to make sure the airline you are flying has your KTN in advance. It is essential that it is printed on your travel documents. If you belong to a frequent flier program, go on the airlines website and enter your KTN in their system.

Note that this doesn’t automatically populate every time you book a reservation, so you will want to make sure that it is documented going forward each and every time.

What about TSA Precheck for Minors?

Do children need TSA Precheck?

Many people want to know how to get TSA precheck for a child. Family members age 12 and under, who are traveling with an eligible parent or guardian who has TSA PreCheck on their boarding pass, can participate in expedited screening.

TSA Precheck for 13 year olds to 15 year olds

However, travelers 13 and older must go through standard security lanes or should apply for their own Known Traveler Number. Our family invested in Global Entry for our kids which includes TSA Pre-Check.

If your children will be 13 in the near future, you might want to go ahead and make their appointment now. If children are still little, keep using your TSA Precheck to bring them along.

One issue I have heard is that people with children ages 13 to 15 have problems with the state issued ID when going to the enrollment center. TSA Precheck with teens tends to generate the most questions since most children do not have a government photo unless it is on a passport or driver’s permit.

Please keep this in mind and check with your local office before making your appointment. Our children have passports so we did not have an issue.

tsa precheck Kids in the Airport-Kids Are A Trip
What about the kids?

TSA PreCheck is just one of four Trusted Traveler programs offered by the Department of Homeland Security. To find more information about the other programs such as Global Entry, you can read this comparison chart.

How to Get TSA Precheck and Global Entry for free

Several credit cards will reimburse your TSA pre check fees (and even Global Entry fees). Chase Sapphire Reserve, the American Express Platinum card, and Capital One Ventures reward all offer reimbursement for TSA fees.

Have you enrolled in TSA Pre Check? Do you think it is worth it?

If you still have more questions you can find a list of Frequently Asked Questions and Answers here: TSA PreCheck

What Is TSA Pre Check and How Does it Work-Kids Are A Trip



  1. I’ve always wanted to apply but for some reason always forgot to. Now that I have a seven-month old and still fly just as much, this sounds like a great alternative to giant lines. Thanks for the post!

  2. I like how you really did the research here! I’ve been wondering if it’s worth it to get any of these expedited programs- will look into Global Entry, too. Thanks!

  3. Prior to our next out of country travels we will do this. I kind of cheat the system sometimes carrying a British Passport and PRA card I pick the shortest line and hop on in……. I can still do this, but will do the application for this as well…..


  4. Ray, I think it really helps. Nice to not have to unpack the bags in security.

  5. Thanks Christy! It does take some research to figure everything out. I appreciate you noticing. : ) Have a great week.

  6. In traveling in just a few weeks! This is a great resource!!

  7. Glad you enjoyed it! TSA PreCheck is super helpful! Safe travels!

  8. I can’t find the list of required documents for a 13 year old to apply for PreCheck. After searching the DHS website I’ve come up empty handed.

  9. I have a 14 yr old that is going to apply. She has a birth cert but none of the other listed documents. I can’t even get her past the documents section of the online app because of this. Any ideas? Thanks

  10. Ken, I have a couple of thoughts. Are you doing TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry? My first thought would be to call TSA 866-289-9673 and ask for their suggestions. If you have a local TSA office near you, the other option would be to just walk in and ask them. We have passports for our children and did Global Entry so I was able to do this online. My third option would be the final one and that would be to get a passport for your 14 year old, but that seems like extra work at this point.

  11. Also, if you have TSA PreCheck, it is my understanding they can travel with you and go through Pre-Check with you up to age 18.

  12. I have a 9 yr old and 13 yr old. How strict are they about the age limit?

  13. If you have a child over 12 but under 18 what documentation do you need to apply

  14. It honestly depends on the airport and TSA agent. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

  15. Thanks for the info. Unfortunately the info isn’t all there because it doesn’t address clearly how to handle that age group when they don’t have a passport. You also can’t apply online or do an appointment because they don’t have the two document requirement. I’m going to do a walk in with my 14 yr old with a bc and report back. Thanks again.

  16. Let me know what you find out. Are you applying too? Could always kill two birds with one stone if you are already going in.

  17. My wife and our older daughter (with a BC and DL) have already applied online and have an appointment. Thinking right with you we are taking the younger daughter as a walk in and see what happens. Let you know.

  18. OK here’s the latest. I sent this question to @AskTSA and asked in person at my home airport TSA Pre office:
    I have a 14 yo child & want to apply for precheck for her. only has a birth cert & school ID. no other docs on list. what can we do?
    I got this same answer at both places:
    She will need a state-issued photo ID along w/ her birth certificate for TSA Pre✓® enrollment.
    So, depending on how much hassle an ID is at your DMV or state office, it might make more sense to get a passport. BTW… my 16 yr old, with a driver’s license and birth certificate, went through the process in less than 10 min with an appointment and me there to pay and sign.

  19. Thank you for doing the leg work on this. I am sure it will help many people considering TSA PreCheck. At this point, I think if you are planning any international travel, you might as well do the Global Entry since that covers TSA and passport control too.

  20. From your comparison chart, NEXUS has the same benefits as the TSA precheck and more but at half the cost…

    What do you think?

  21. Well NEXUS is $50 versus $85, so it’s not really half the price. There aren’t very many enrollment centers for NEXUS either (the ones they have are located near the Canadian border making it difficult for most to apply). On the positive side, children are free until they are 18. For us, Global Entry was the way we ended up going.

  22. Short term we will get the 14 yo a state ID and PreCheck. Long term we will end up going Global Entry too.

  23. We are looking into this for our family. Can you tell me more about the application processing center visit? My searches indicate first available appointment times. Will I be able to select a time that works for my schedule or am I assigned a time? Also can I make an appointment for my entire family, so we can take care of all business in one visit?

  24. You can choose a time that works for your schedule. Unfortunately you have to schedule one for each individual, but I found that when I brought my children to my appointment (their appointments were on different days) they were able to process them with me. Don’t know if they would be able to do that with spouses. Hope this helps.

  25. At Orange County, CA, I had an appointment for one daughter and tried to get the other done as a walk in at the same time. They wouldn’t do it for me. Fyi

  26. we weren’t sure it would be worth it for us since we split our flying between domestic and international. I’m not sure if any international carriers allow you to enter the your TSA # when you book a flight — Aer Lingus didn’t when we flew last month, so that’s a bummer. Maybe that will change. The fact that it is good for 5 years makes it worthwhile. I think even when the TSA line is long, it moves faster than the regular line because you don’t need to remove shoes, take out laptops, etc. And also you tend to be in line with more frequent travelers who know the routine.

  27. We invested in the Global Entry since we do a fair amount of international travel. It’s $100 for 5 years and includes TSA Precheck. We thought that was the best deal out there. It is nice to not have to remove everything and when you’re traveling with kids, that’s a big help!

  28. This article is very helpful. I was hoping that younger children didn’t need to have Pre-Check if they are traveling with an adult having the same. Thanks for all of the details. I wonder how much more trouble the application for Global Entry is. I understand you need to go through an in-person interview, but that’s the only difference I know of.

  29. Young children up to age 12 can travel with a parent who has pre-check. Global Entry is just a waiting process. The interview was not difficult. You make an appointment and they pretty much keep things going on schedule. You just have to ask if the cost is worth it. GE is $100 for 5 years and includes Pre-Check. If you travel internationally enough, it might be the right choice.

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