If you’ve traveled through an airport over the past few years, chances are, you’ve longingly glanced at the TSA Precheck line as you’ve waited in the longer, regular line. I was pretty hesitant to apply for TSA Precheck, because I remembered watching the private service Clear open, close, and then reopen at my local airport. So, I wanted to wait a bit to see how TSA Precheck would work. Earlier this year, I finally decided to apply, and have definitely found TSA Precheck to be worth it.
What is TSA Precheck (TSA Pre✓®)?
TSA Precheck is an expedited security program where low-risk travelers can apply for an expedited security process at the airport. Those with TSA Precheck do not need to take off shoes, belts, and light coats, and don’t need to remove laptops or their liquids (note that the 3-1-1 liquid rule still applies). The whole process is generally more pleasant, and shorter, although it’s important to know that the TSA still can make you go through regular security if necessary. It’s currently available in 120 airports, with the following participating airlines: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, OneJet, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country, United Airlines, Virgin America, and WestJet. You must be departing from a United States destination to use TSA Precheck.
How to Get TSA Precheck
Getting TSA Precheck was easier than I expected. I thought that I would need to go to my local airport (which isn’t very convenient), but there are lots of suburban locations that you can visit. First, I applied online, and selected an appointment time. I didn’t have to wait long – I think I was able to get an appointment a week later. At the appointment, I was fingerprinted and interviewed over just a few minutes. You’ll also need to bring specific documentation. Once a decision is made, a letter will be mailed to your home. I was also provided with a website where I could check on the progress. I received my decision letter with my known traveler number shortly after applying. Note that those with global entry and other trusted traveler programs do not need to apply.
How does TSA Precheck Work?
Once you are approved, you’ll be provided with a Known Traveler Number. You can add the number to your frequent flyer profiles on any of the participating airlines, or you can add it when you check in. Your boarding pass will print with the TSA Pre✓® logo. As you head to the security checkpoint, find the TSA Pre✓® sign, and show the security agent your boarding pass. I’ve found the whole process to be easy. Kids 12 and under traveling with an eligible parent will be able to go through the TSA Precheck line with their parent. Kids over 13 need to apply to always be able to go through the line.
Is TSA Precheck Worth it?
With all of the traveling that I do, TSA Precheck is definitely worth it. It really does depend on how much traveling you do. If you frequently travel internationally, it may be better to apply for global entry. And, if you only fly once or twice a year, it may not be worth the time and money to get TSA Precheck.
To learn more and apply, visit the official TSA website. It’s important to note that even with a known traveler number, you aren’t guaranteed TSA Precheck.