Should I get TSA Pre Check? Is it worth it?
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, being in an airport is not always a great experience. There are usually lines at baggage check, at security and at the gate, and at times the wait can be significant, especially when it comes to international flights. It’s a process designed to keep all of us safe, but it’s also a time-consuming one. Fortunately, if you find yourself wishing there was a better way, you may be able to streamline the hassles at the airport with something called a TSA Pre-Check. To determine if it is right for you, check out the guide below.
What is it? The Pre-Check was created by the Transportation Security Administration to allow some travelers to get through security faster. These travelers are deemed to be low-risk, and therefore are not subjected to the same screening process as the general population before a flight. Benefits of getting a TSA Pre-Check include getting to use an expedited line, not having to remove your shoes, belt and jacket, and not needing to remove your laptop from its bag, among other things. This option became available to certain frequent fliers in 2011. It was made available to the general public in December of 2013, but only those who qualify can actually use it.
Do I qualify? Only citizens of the United States without a criminal record can are eligible. Meeting these criteria does not instantly grant you access to the program, but does allow you to apply for it.
How do I apply? The four-page online Pre-Check application asks a series of questions, such as your Social Security number, driver’s license number, passport number and employment history, to allow officials to conduct a background check. You must also list every country you’ve visited within the last five years and pay an $85 fee. If the background check is clear, you’ll be notified via email to set up an appointment for an in-person interview at a local enrollment center, most of which are at airports. During your appointment, you should expect to be fingerprinted, and an official will verbally confirm the information you gave on your application. If you gain entry into the Pre-Check program, your membership lasts five years. After that, you’ll need to re-apply. Your fee is not refundable if your application is not approved.
Is it worth it? Even if you meet the requirements to qualify for the Pre-Check, there are a few things you should consider when deciding if it’s right for you. If you only fly once every few years, it might not be worth the $85 fee. Also, keep in mind that the application process can be time-consuming. An estimated 2,000 people apply for this every day, which can mean more waiting around for you.
On the other hand, frequent fliers might find the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial inconvenience. Paying an extra fee and taking the time to enroll can save time and make traveling much more bearable.
TSA Pre-Check [Transportation Security Administration]
The Ultimate Guide to TSA Pre-Check [Lounge Buddy]
Here’s why every American traveler should sign up for TSA PreCheck [Business Insider]