It seems lately everyone wants to know about TSA Precheck. What does it mean and how do you get it? We’ve been using it now for over a year and I have certainly noticed the uptick in passengers using the expedited 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:
What is TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck is a Trusted Traveler program that allows pre-screened individuals to use special security lanes at airports and enjoy an improved travel experience since they do not have to remove items such as belts, shoes, light outerwear/jackets, laptops from bags, and their liquid carrying bags. TSA PreCheck isn’t available at every airport (but it is available at over 200 airports in the U.S. and counting) and over 7 million travelers are enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program, making it more appealing by the minute.
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) to provide biographic information including your name, date of birth, and address. At your in-person appointment you will also be fingerprinted, required to provide valid required identity and citizenship/immigration documentation including, for example, a valid passport, or an original birth certificate and a valid U.S. driver’s license, and you will need to pay a non-refundable application processing fee of $85 (this 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.
Now that you have your Known Traveler Number (KTN), what happens next?
Whenever you travel, you will want to make sure the airline you are flying has your KTN in advance and has it printed on your travel documents. If you are part of a frequent flier program, go into 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. You can read more about managing your KTN in this TSA post.
What if I travel with my kids?
Family members ages 12 and under, traveling with an eligible parent or guardian that has TSA PreCheck on their boarding pass, can participate in expedited screening. However, family members 13 and older must go through standard security lanes or should apply for their own Known Traveler Number. For us, we 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 they 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. 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 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) if you pay with their cards. 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
*This post was originally published in April 2015, but was updated with current information in October 2016