After an eight-hour flight from London, my weeklong trip to Austria was officially over. I had just landed at JFK International Airport in New York City and I practically ran out of the plane so that I could be among the first to clear customs. But my excitement quickly faded when I realized that I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Can you relate?
It took me over an hour to clear customs that day and in the midst of all that aggravation and frustration, it dawned on me. Why hadn’t I signed up for Global Entry (GE) or TSA PreCheck yet?
After watching dozens of travelers pass me by and clear customs within minutes, I decided that enough was enough. When I got home I was going to figure out how to sign up before my next trip.
If you’re tired of long lines at the airport and want to speed past security and US customs, here’s what you need to know about Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. Also, for my financially savvy travelers out there, here’s how you can enroll in both programs for free.
What You Need to Know About Global Entry
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows pre-approved travelers to get expedited clearance through US customs and immigration upon arrival at select airports.
Membership is valid for 5 years and to qualify for this program, you have to go through a thorough background check and in-person interview. You’ll also have to pay a non-refundable $100 fee to submit your application.
While US citizens and permanent residents are eligible to enroll, citizens of the UK, Argentina, Germany, Switzerland, Taiwan, Panama, South Korea, India, Colombia, Singapore, and Mexican nationals are also eligible to participate in this program.
For those who don’t have a US visa or passport, traveling to the US for leisure or business requires a ESTA, an electronic travel authorization which is valid for two years. For more ESTA requirements do your research prior to planning a trip to the States.
How does it work?
When entering the country, pre-approved travelers can use automated Global Entry kiosks to quickly go through customs. To clear customs, verify your fingerprints and scan your passport or U.S. permanent resident card.
By signing up for this program you have the ability to skip the long lines. No additional paperwork is needed upon arrival into the country. Also, did I mention that TSA PreCheck is also included.
That’s right TSA PreCheck is included in the membership!
The one thing to remember is that at the airport, you can’t take any travel companions with you including your spouse or kids. Only members can use the expedited kiosks and each person has to go through the entire screening process to enroll in the program. So perhaps this may be a good time to talk to your family and friends about signing up.
What is TSA PreCheck?
While GE expedites the entry for travelers entering the country, TSA PreCheck expedites the TSA security screening process at airports. TSA PreCheck members don’t have to take off their shoes or remove their laptops or liquids from their bags when going through security which saves them a lot of time at the airport. According to the Transportation Security Administration, in June 2019 92% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes.
What happens after submitting the application?
After submitting my application, I received a conditional approval letter and CBP invited me to schedule an in-person interview at an enrollment center.
While I’ve heard that lots of travelers have had delays scheduling their interviews I found availability quickly.
In New York City there are several locations to choose from including JFK International Airport.
What do you need for the interview?
Prepare for your interview with a CBP officer by bringing the following documents with you:
- Valid passport or permanent resident card
- Evidence of residency (utility bill or driver’s license etc)
At the end of the interview, your photo and biometric information (fingertips) will be taken.
How to get it for free!
If you’re like me, when I found out that there was a way to sign up for free, I was all ears.
The good news is that several credit cards actually offer to reimburse card members the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee if you use their card when enrolling.
These credit cards include:
- Capital One Venture Rewards (I’m a big fan of this credit card)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- United Explorer Card
Listen to Podcast Episode: How to Get Started Credit Card Hacking
Since TSA PreCheck enrollment costs $85 and Global Entry (which includes TSA PreCheck) is only $15 more, it’s worth it to enroll in the GE program and get both memberships.
How I did it: I used my Capital One Venture Rewards credit card to enroll in the Global Entry program. As a cardmember, you can receive up to $100 credit or $85 credit for TSA PreCheck when you use your Venture credit card.
Capital One immediately reached out to me via email letting me know that they would reimburse the charge within 2 billing cycles but it did not take that long. In less than a week my statement credit had already appeared wiping out the fee, I did not have to do anything.
How about if you already have a membership, can you use your credit card benefit to pay for someone else’s enrollment? With the Capital One Venture card, yes absolutely!
Use your credit card to pay for anyone’s enrollment, no questions asked. Just remember that you only get one statement credit for either trusted traveler membership every four years.
Danielle is a travel finance strategist, author, speaker and podcaster. She paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27 and has traveled to 27 countries and 4 continents. She refuses to let her financial responsibilities hold her back from living life on her own terms.