Getting through security or customs at the airport can be a challenge. Perhaps equally challenging is figuring out which program you might want to sign up for to help get through security faster. TSA-Pre? Global Entry? Nexus? And what is that service called Clear? We will try here to sort through the differences.
TSA PreCheck – By preclearing yourself with the Transportation Security Administration or TSA, you can go through a separate, usually shorter line at the airport. In addition, you won’t have to take off your shoes to go through security. TSA PreCheck is available to US residents. It costs $85 and lasts five years. To sign up you need to fill out an on-line form, agree to a background check and show your ID at one of the TSA PreCheck locations, where they will also take your fingerprints. If only one of you gets the TSA PreCheck certification, it is very likely that both will be able to go through TSA Pre-check. We inadvertently stumbled upon this benefit when I got TSA PreCheck for free from work, and Mike seems to get it on all of our flights. In general, TSA PreCheck is best when most of your travel is domestic.
Global Entry – If you fly internationally, then for just $15 more than TSA PreCheck or $100 every five years, you can sign up for Global Entry. This is mostly available to US residents; however, there are some agreements with other countries. Global Entry affords all of the benefits of TSA PreCheck, plus you can get faster entry through customs and border control when entering the US. Like the TSA PreCheck, Global Entry requires an on-line application, background check, fingerprinting and a visit to an enrollment center. Global Entry requires an interview at the enrollment center. Note that each of you would need to get Global Entry in order to enjoy the customs benefits.
Nexus – This is available to both US and Canadian residents. If you travel to and from Canada frequently, then you might be interested in Nexus. At $50 for five years, it is actually cheaper than TSA PreCheck and it provides all of the TSA PreCheck benefits plus expedited border crossing into and out of Canada. The catch? Well it requires background checks in both Canada and the US and you will need to visit one of the Nexus enrollment centers, which are along the US/Canadian border. Not a big deal if you travel through those areas.
So what is Clear? Well apparently money talks when it comes to going through airport security. If you have TSA PreCheck and sign up and pay $180/year (plus $50 for each additional family member), CLEAR will get you to go to the head of the security line. It also gets you to the head of the line at sporting events, such as Yankee and Mets games. CLEAR is a private company. They aren’t at every airport, but if you are from an area where the airport is particularly congested – and you travel a lot – check out this service.
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck may be free for you! Certain credit cards – the Platinum ones – may reimburse you for money spent on Global Entry. You should check your cards for this benefit.
While generally the lines for TSA Pre tend to be a lot shorter, that is not always the case. We recently traveled and we had a race where one of us went through TSA Pre and the other the regular way. Guess what?!!! The regular way was faster! We believe that nothing beats just getting to the airport with plenty of time so that you don’t have to sweat it and then, time permitting, you can enjoy a drink before your flight boards!