Is TSA Pre-Check Really Worth it?

Is TSA Pre-Check Really Worth it?

If you’ve traveled by plane in the past five years, you may have seen a separate TSA line clear security much, much faster than yours. This is TSA Pre-Check, a special program that takes a large suffering out of traveling in the United States. How do you get into TSA Pre-Check? Read on, dear readers!

What are the benefits of Pre-Check?

Not only do you get your own, much shorter line at security, you’ll also have the privilege of not taking off your shoes, not separating your liquids and not removing your laptop from your bag. Anything non-metal can stay in your pockets, and your watch and belt can stay on. Basically, all you have to do is put your bag and cell phone through the metal detector. When there’s no line, the whole process can take less than 30 seconds.

Ok, I’m in. How do I get it?

TSA Pre-Check costs $85 for a five-year membership. If you just want to pay, you can do so here, and you’ll need to set up a time for an appointment at the airport (or one of hundreds of non-airport locations, run by IdentoGO), and not have one of these pre-disqualifying crimes on your record.

Don’t want to pay? There are ways that you can get this membership for free, like if your credit card includes a membership credit for Global Entry, which is a fast pass for customs, you’ll receive TSA Pre-Check automatically. This normally costs $100, but credit cards like the Citi Prestige Card and American Express Platinum include it as a membership benefit. If you just want TSA Pre-Check, that is reimbursed instead of Global Entry (but why not get both?).

Keep in mind that Global Entry is a harder-to-get membership. I’ve seen friends denied for past arrests, even minor ones. If you’ve ever been arrested, you may have difficulty getting this membership.

Just this week, the TSA unveiled another option to pay for your membership — Alaska Airlines Miles. You can redeem 10,000 miles for the $85 membership fee. I wouldn’t recommend this, as it’s a terrible redemption value, but if you’re miles-rich and don’t care, this is an option.

In all, I’d estimate that TSA Pre-Check has saved me from spending about two days of my life in line over the last three and a half years. The value is there. Any of you have Pre-Check stories you wish to share?

(Cover photo via Flickr/albedo20)