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TSA Pre-Check Proves More Valuable Than Ever—And It’s Still Free with the Right Credit Card

TSA Pre-Check expands to 47 airlines at over 200 airports nationwide.

TSA Pre-Check Proves More Valuable Than Ever
TSA Pre-Check Proves More Valuable Than Ever
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The Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check program (TSA Pre✓®) continues to make travel easier for airline passengers. Just this week, the program added five new eligible airlines for which passengers can use TSA Pre✓. This comes on the heels of the addition of 12 new airlines in 2017. Now, it’s possible to cut lines and breeze through airport security (read: no shoes, belt, laptop, or toiletry removal) on a total of 47 airlines at over 200 airports nationwide. And, best of all, applying for TSA Pre✓ is simple, straightforward, and even free—if you have the right credit card. Here’s what you need to know about the program and how to apply without paying a dime.

What is TSA Pre-Check?

The Transportation Security Administration’s TSA Pre✓ program gives travelers access to expedited security departure lines, where you do not need to remove shoes, belts, laptops, or liquids. According to TSA statistics, in January 2018, 94 percent of TSA Pre✓® passengers waited less than five minutes to go through airport security.

How can I get TSA Pre-Check?

There are two ways to get TSA Pre✓. One is to apply directly through the TSA website, enter all the necessary personal background information, submit a completed application, and pay the nonrefundable $85 fee (which may be eligible for reimbursement through your credit card benefits—see below).

Once your application is conditionally approved, you’ll receive a message to schedule an in-person appointment at a TSA Pre✓ center, typically located at or near major US airports. You’ll need to bring a valid form of identification (e.g., a valid driver’s license), have your photo taken, and have your fingerprints scanned. If your background check turns up clean and the interviewer identifies you as a legal, low-security-risk traveler, you’ll receive a nine-digit “Known Traveler Number” on the spot (valid for five years) and be able to utilize the benefits immediately.

The second way to get TSA Pre✓—and the way we recommend doing it—is by applying for Global Entry through the process outlined here and paying the $100 fee. Global Entry is a trusted traveler program that allows you to bypass the traditional immigration and customs lines at 59 major airports (46 of which are in the United States, 13 of which are in airports abroad where clearance into the United States takes place pre-flight). When you are approved for Global Entry, you are automatically enrolled in TSA Pre✓: No need for a separate application or application fee. Your Global Entry PASS ID serves as your TSA Pre✓ “Known Traveler Number.”

Which are the new—and old—airlines offering expedited screening through TSA Pre-Check?

Just last week, the following airlines joined the TSA Pre✓ family:

  • Air France
  • Brussels Airlines
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  • Philippine Airlines
  • World Atlantic

In 2017, we saw the addition of:

  • All Nippon Airways
  • Cathay Pacific Airways
  • Contour Aviation
  • Copa Airlines
  • Dominican Wings
  • Finnair
  • InterCaribbean Airways
  • Korean Air
  • Silver Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Swift Air
  • Turkish Airlines

This brings the total airlines participating in TSA Pre✓, as of February 2018, to 47. (Note: The most current list is always updated on TSA’s Pre✓ map.) The other 30 airlines offering expedited screening at press time are:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Airlines/ Virgin America
  • Allegiant Air
  • American Airlines
  • Aruba Airlines
  • Avianca
  • Boutique Airlines
  • Cape Air
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Key Lime Air
  • Lufthansa
  • Miami Air International
  • OneJet
  • Seaborne Airlines
  • Southern Airways Express
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • Sunwing Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • WestJet
  • Xtra Airways

Wow, that’s a long list! Are there any airlines that still do no participate in TSA Pre-Check?

Yes! 47 airlines may seem like a lot, but there are dozens more out there that have yet to jump on the bandwagon. Noticeably absent from the TSA Pre✓ list are:

  • Air New Zealand
  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • British Airways
  • China Air
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Fiji Airways
  • Hainan,
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar
  • Swiss Air

How do I get TSA Pre-Check for free?

Use the right credit card with the right benefits to pay the nonrefundable application fee, and TSA Pre✓ or Global Entry (with TSA Pre✓ bonus) won’t cost you a cent. The charge will automatically come off within days of it clearing your account.

The following luxury credit cards offer an $85 TSA Pre✓ credit OR a $100 Global Entry statement credit every four to five years (as you must renew your PASS ID every five years):

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve℠
  • Citi Prestige® Card
  • Mastercard® Black Card™
  • Mastercard® Gold Card™
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • U.S.Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

The following luxury credit cards do not offer a TSA Pre✓ or Global Entry statement credit:

  • American Express Gold cards
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred®
  • Mastercard® Titanium Card™
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Award-winning travel writer and economist Paul Rubio is a credit card enthusiast, whose sophisticated use of points and rewards has helped him travel to 132 countries for free. Paul is a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in economics. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University with a double major in economics and environmental policy and a minor in conservation biology. He attended both undergraduate and graduate schools on full scholarships. Paul worked in the field of wildlife conservation before embracing his writing talents full-time in 2008. Since then, he has won more than two dozen national awards for his exemplary work in travel journalism. The prolific writer contributes to a number of top-tier international, national, and regional publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Florida Design, Fodors.com, Palm Beach Illustrated, and Robb Report.