What is TSA Precheck and is it really worth the hassle to get it?
TSA Precheck is a background check with the Transportation Security Administration that costs $85. You have to have your passport and your drivers license and such when you fill out the application online (find it here: https://universalenroll.dhs.gov/workflows?servicecode=11115V&service=pre-enroll )
Once done with the application you have to set up a time for an appointment. This is not as extravagant or hard as you may think it is. I thought it would be at the airport and I just didn’t feel like fighting all the taxi’s and traffic and paying for parking for an interview. To my suprise, it was in an H&R Block and only about 20 minutes from where I live.
I waited about 10 min for my appointment, and once I went in, it was a nice woman who verified my general information and made sure that all the information would match what was on my passport. Then I was digitally fingerprinted and that was it. She told me that it would take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to get my KTN number (known traveler number) which is kind of like a bar code number that allows you to bypass the long line through security. You can go in the TSA precheck line that gives you priority, you don’t have to take off belts, shoes, remove liquids or your laptops — so pretty much for the next 5 years I’m going to feel like one of the VIP people for the next 5 years when I travel.
Once you have your KTN number, which will come to you through email, you have to enter it when you are booking your flight (although you can go back in after booking and enter it later). This way it is in the airlines system, and when you print off your ticket, the KTN is on your ticket. This number will work with most airports within the United States and is good for 5 years. Now if you wish to have a International fast pass (if you will) through security, then you can apply for this and it is also good for 5 years, but does cost $300. For those who travel overseas quite a bit, this may be worth it. I decided to get mine when I was coming back from Israel and was stuck in the JFK airport in the middle of summer and the AC was out and they were having electrical/computer issues, the line was so long and I think I was stuck in that line for about 2 hours after 18 hour flight…..it was miserable and I have avoided that airport every since.
Note; The airports that I tend to avoid for this reason are JFK, Chicago, and LAX when coming back into the US from overseas. I won’t give my personal reasons why I avoid them, but I’m telling you, you want to avoid them. I really like SLC, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Atlanta airports personally. Just keep in mind that if you have a layover more than 4 hours long at certain airports they make you check your back out, and go through security again.
UPDATE: 3/30/17 – was informed by one of our followers that if you are going to eventually get a Global Pass then to go ahead and get this pass first because they throw in the TSA precheck with it. If you get TSA precheck first, the process to get your Global Pass could take longer, and would essentially be a double expense to you for the same product.
Update: 5/23/17 – My trip to Morocco started out extremely well, the TSA pre-check was so worth it when coming up to the line and passing everyone else that had to wait. But it wasn’t exactly useful when traveling abroad, Delta and Air France may be partners, but you still have to wait like everyone else when passing through border control. So all in all, if you are doing a lot of national travel & just want the convenience of having the TSA pre-check to get through quicker, like if you have children… then I would highly recommend it. If expecting to use it for International travel, don’t bother…..its not worth it.
Janiel Green is a Travel Guru with 21 years of National travel experience in the USA, and 17 years of International Travel experience. She is a highly educated, courageous, driven and dedicated individual to both her professional and personal life. She is the Founder of Culture Trekking LLC, and is dedicated to bringing a celebratory passion for humanity into her writing to make meaningful, useful, and heartfelt recommendations for a culturally enriched travel experience. For inquires please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org