Which Trusted Traveler Program is Best for You?

November 8, 2022

Categories: Safety, Security and Intelligence, Travel Tips,

You’re running late for a flight and stuck in a long security line. You’re juggling bags, laptops and liquids. And you have to get your shoes off…and your kids’, too. You look with longing at the passengers breezing through the trusted traveler line, shoes on, laptops in their bags, and no tiny laces to tie up. It seems too good to be true. Can one really access such unbridled security line freedom?

 

The answer is yes. It’s just a matter of picking which one is right for you. Let’s take a look at the options.

 

Programs at a glance

 

 

TSA Pre Check

Cost: $85/new enrollment, $70/renewal every five years.

Where you can use it: Departures from U.S. airports

Policy on Children: Children 12 and under included.

Eligibility: U.S. Citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents.

Application Process: Fill out your application online and then enroll in person with any enrollment center (there are more than 500 around the country!)

Privileges: No need to remove shoes, laptops, belts, 3-1-1 liquids or light jackets.

 

Global Entry

Cost: $100/five years.

Where you can use it: Entry into the U.S. from International Destinations—by air, land or sea.

Policy on Children: Children are not included and must complete their own application and interview, paying the $100 enrollment fee.

Eligibility: U.S. Citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and some foreign nationals.

Application Process: Fill out your application online and then if you are conditionally approved, you may enroll in person upon arriving into the country or at an enrollment center.

Privileges:

  • Reduced wait times entering the United States.
  • No paperwork to be filled out upon entry.
  • Includes TSA PreCheck.

NEXUS

Cost: $50/five years

Where you can use it: Entry into the U.S. from Canada by air, land or sea.

Policy on Children: Each child must have their own membership.

Eligibility: U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents, and Mexican nationals.

Application Process: Apply online and then schedule your in-person appointment at an enrollment center in either the United States or Canada.

Privileges (according to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol):

  • Using dedicated processing lanes at land border crossings,
  • Using NEXUS kiosks when entering Canada,
  • Using Global Entry kiosk when entering the United States, and
  • Calling a marine telephone reporting center to report your arrival into the United States and Canada
  • Access to TSA PreCheck® expedited security lanes at airports within the U.S. and U.S territories for U.S. Citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and Canadian citizens.

Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI)

Cost: $122.25/five years

Where you can use it: Entry into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico

Policy on Children: Each child must have their own membership.

Eligibility: U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and all foreign nationals.

Application Process: Apply online and attend your enrollment interview in person.

Privileges (according to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol):

  • Expedited vehicle/pedestrian entrance into U.S. from Canada and Mexico.
  • Access to PreCheck expedited security lanes at airports within the U.S. and U.S territories for U.S. Citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents.

 

Free and Secure Trade (FAST)

Cost: $50/five years

Where you can use it: Truck drivers entering and leaving the United States from Canada and Mexico

Policy on Children: N/A

Eligibility: U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents, and Mexican nationals

Application Process: Apply online and enroll at an enrollment center in the U.S., Canada or Mexico.

Privileges (according to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol):

  • Expedited customs processing for commercial carriers.
  • The ability to use designated FAST lanes to more quickly transport goods into the U.S.
  • Does not include PreCheck.

CLEAR

CLEAR is a bit different from the other Trusted Traveler programs which are run through the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. CLEAR is an identity verification system that scans your eyes or fingerprints to confirm your identity.

Cost: $189/year. While CLEAR is more expensive than the other programs, there are ways to save by enrolling friends or through certain airline and credit card memberships.

Where you can use it: More than 50 locations across the nation. These include large venues like airports and stadiums.

Policy on Children: You can add up to three people to your membership for $60.

Eligibility: U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents over 18.

Application Process: Begin enrollment online and then complete it at an airport kiosk. There is no in-person interview required.

Privileges:

  • Breeze through airport security without showing any documents.
  • No need to remove shoes, laptops, belts, 3-1-1 liquids or light jackets.
  • Once verified, members are escorted to the front of the security line by a CLEAR ambassador.

 

Line for TSA Precheck

Which one is best?

Using the graph above, you can choose which is best for you, depending on your budget, your mode of transport and where you will be traveling.

If you are considering applying for Global Entry, note that there is currently a backlog of applications. In August of this year, Fortune reported that there is an 18-month delay following a surge in applications after the pandemic. If you plan to fly domestically, stick with PreCheck for now, where enrollment usually happens within three weeks.

If you are a U.S. citizen traveling to another country, the TSA has arranged similar agreements with other countries for expedited entry. You can view the list here to see if you might be eligible.

If you are traveling elsewhere in the world, your country or the country you are visiting may have their own individual trusted traveler programs. It’s a good idea to research what is available in your country or destination, but the Million Mile Secrets blog has compiled a helpful list of countries with such programs.

 

PreCheck vs. CLEAR

For U.S. citizens, choosing a trusted traveler program becomes a little murky when you must decide between PreCheck and CLEAR.

Here are the pros and cons of each:

 

PreCheck

Pros:

  • Only $85 for initial enrollment, and it lasts five years. Renewal is just $70.
  • Available at more airports than CLEAR.
  • Children under 12 are included.
  • In August 2022, the TSA reported that 95% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes.

 

Cons:

  • Only helps in the airport security line.
  • It’s become so popular that at times the line is as long as the regular security line.
  • Sometimes the TSA will decide not to include your PreCheck status on your boarding pass. “No individual is guaranteed expedited screening,” says the TSA website. While this is rare, it is unpredictable and a pain if you’re counting on a short line.

 

CLEAR

Pros:

  • CLEAR will not randomly exclude you from using their program at the airport.
  • It can be used at some large venues to make it easier for you to enter large events, like sports games and concerts.
  • Usually has shorter lines than PreCheck because there are fewer members

 

Cons:

  • More expensive than PreCheck.
  • Children are not included.
  • Available at fewer airports than PreCheck.
  • Uses biometric data to confirm your identity, which some travelers may be uncomfortable with.

 

Whatever you choose, the value of a Trusted Traveler program membership can’t be overstated, especially in this post-pandemic season. Eric Rosen for The Points Guy says “It makes more sense than ever to consider ways to expedite security screening at airports.”

 

Pitfalls to Trusted Traveler Programs?

Forbes calls these programs the “secret weapons” of experienced travelers who want to “speed through airport security and make screenings less intrusive.” So could there be any pitfalls to joining?

 

The biggest pitfall would be not to sign up for one! However, once you do sign up, make sure you enter your Known Traveler Number (KTN) every time you book your ticket and confirm in advance it is on your boarding pass. If not, you may have entered your information incorrectly, and it is worth a call to your airline or to the TSA.

 

Trusted Traveler programs are ideal solutions to improve your speed through security, increasing your peace of mind at the airport. Smart travelers will pack a Global Rescue medical evacuation and travel risk membership for peace of mind during travel. If you’re ill or injured during a trip, a Global Rescue membership covers the price of a field rescue or medical evacuation, which could cost up to $300,000. The cost to Global Rescue members? $0. No charge. Without Global Rescue, your travel emergency could take longer, cost more — and make a dangerous situation a lot worse. Given the volatility in the world right now, travelers need to be prepared to leave wherever they are quickly,” Global Rescue’s Richards told Forbes.

 

 

 

 


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