Tsa-ap­proved ways to shorten wait­ing line time

Fre­quent fliers say ser­vices of­fer great value, re­duce stress

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - SUNDAY MONEY - By Gre­gory Karp Nerdwallet

The sum­mer air travel sea­son is shap­ing up to be the busiest ever, which could mean lengthy lines at U.S. air­port se­cu­rity check­points. But you can use the faster lanes if you be­long to an ex­pe­dited screen­ing pro­gram, which could es­sen­tially be free to join with the right credit card.

The pri­mary fed­eral pro­grams for air travel, TSA Precheck and Global En­try, cost $85 or $100 per trav­eler, re­spec­tively, and en­roll­ment lasts five years for both.

Both give you ac­cess to the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Precheck se­cu­rity lanes at more than 200 do­mes­tic air­ports, where wait times as of May were less than five min­utes for 92 per­cent of pas­sen­gers, ac­cord­ing to TSA. Global En­try in­cludes TSA Precheck priv­i­leges and adds ex­pe­dited en­try through U.S. cus­toms when you re­turn from a for­eign coun­try.

‘If you use it, you don’t want to go back’

Faster se­cu­rity lanes could help re­duce stress this sum­mer as a record 243 mil­lion pas­sen­gers and crew mem­bers are pro­jected to pass through air­port se­cu­rity check­points na­tion­wide from Me­mo­rial Day to La­bor Day, ac­cord­ing to the TSA. That to­tal is up from 239 mil­lion last year.

“Fre­quent trav­el­ers place great value on Precheck and Global En­try,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel in­dus­try an­a­lyst at At­mos­phere Re­search Group. A 2017 sur­vey by Harteveldt’s group found that 91 per­cent of busi­ness air­line trav­el­ers said ex­pe­dited air­port screen­ing was im­por­tant to them.

Joe Bran­catelli, a busi­ness travel writer and founder of travel site Joe­sentme.com, calls both pro­grams a breeze to use. “If you use it, you don’t want to go back,” he said.

Leisure trav­el­ers will have to de­cide whether they fly of­ten enough to jus­tify the cost and ef­fort to ap­ply. For ex­am­ple, if you take two round-trip do­mes­tic flights each year, Precheck’s cost will av­er­age $4.25 per flight.

Here’s how to know whether Precheck or Global En­try is right for you and how a credit card might be able to de­fray the cost.

Which to choose

With both pro­grams, you pro­vide per­sonal in­for­ma­tion and sub­mit to a back­ground check. In ex­change you get a trusted trav­eler num­ber, which you can use for faster screen­ing.

Global En­try might be the ob­vi­ous choice for fre­quent and in­ter­na­tional trav­el­ers be­cause it comes with more ben­e­fits for a lit­tle ex­tra money, cost­ing an av­er­age of $3 more an­nu­ally than Precheck.

The down­side of Global En­try comes up­front: It’s a big­ger has­sle to ap­ply for, and it re­quires a more thor­ough back­ground process than Precheck. It not only re­quires a pass­port but also an in-per­son in­ter­view, which is avail­able at the na­tion’s large in­ter­na­tional air­ports and bor­der cross­ings.

If you rarely travel abroad, don’t have a pass­port and don’t live near a Global En­try cen­ter, TSA Precheck may be the bet­ter op­tion.

Ap­pli­ca­tion de­tails are on the TSA Precheck and Global En­try web­sites.

Ben­e­fits of precheck

TSA Precheck sta­tus gives you ac­cess to se­cu­rity lanes with lighter screen­ing. To use the spe­cial lane, make sure your trusted trav­eler num­ber is in­cluded in your air­line itin­er­ary. Leave on your belt and shoes, keep your lap­top in its case, and let liq­uids and gels re­main in your carry-on. Ded­i­cated Precheck lanes and quicker screen­ing usu­ally mean faster-mov­ing lines. Chil­dren ages 12 and younger can use Precheck lanes when trav­el­ing with a par­ent or guardian who has the Precheck in­di­ca­tor on their board­ing pass.

Ben­e­fits of global en­try

Global En­try, run by U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, in­cludes TSA Precheck ben­e­fits and ex­pe­dited cus­toms screen­ing when trav­el­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally. When re­turn­ing to the U.S., you can use a self-ser­vice kiosk in­stead of wait­ing in cus­toms lines. The pro­gram also in­cludes ex­pe­dited pro­cess­ing at Mex­ico and Canada bor­der cross­ings. Chil­dren of all ages need their own Global En­try sta­tus to use ex­pe­dited cus­toms screen­ing.

How credit card can help

More credit cards that earn travel re­wards are start­ing to add a valu­able ben­e­fit: re­im­burse­ment of the ap­pli­ca­tion fee for Precheck or Global En­try once ev­ery four or five years. Typ­i­cally, re­im­burse­ment is au­to­matic when you use the travel credit card to pay the $85 or $100 fee.

For card is­suers, the ben­e­fit is be­com­ing a must, es­pe­cially for travel credit cards with hefty an­nual fees. “If you want to mar­ket your card as an elite one and charge a high fee, you bet­ter of­fer this re­bate as part of the bun­dle of ben­e­fits,” Bran­catelli said.

Other ad­vice

TSA of­fers th­ese tips for reg­u­lar se­cu­rity lanes:

■ Be­fore head­ing to the air­port, check your carry-ons for pro­hib­ited items.

■ Dur­ing busy travel pe­ri­ods, TSA rec­om­mends us­ing its app, MYTSA, to check what your wait time might be.

■ When pack­ing your car­ryon, keep in mind that some items will need to be re­moved and scanned sep­a­rately.

John Locher / Associated Press

TSA Precheck and Global En­try give pas­sen­gers ac­cess to the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Precheck se­cu­rity lanes.

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