I’m a little bit hesitant to publish this article because I don’t actually want these travel programs to become popular. The more people who join, the less valuable it is for me personally. But I only have a handful of readers and those readers, yes I’m talking about you specifically, are so marvelous that I felt obligated to share. If you travel often, are a U.S. citizen or a citizen of a few other random countries, aren’t on the terrorist watch list and can pass a background check, go apply RIGHT NOW.
Oh, I haven’t actually explained what the programs are that you’re applying for? Right. Sorry, I’m really excited about this. I’m talking about Global Entry, a perk from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CPB) and the TSA precheck, a perk from the Transportation Security Administration.
Global Entry lets you zip through customs and immigration when you’re flying into the United States internationally and the TSA precheck lets you zip through the security line in certain airports for certain airlines when you’re traveling domestically (or flying out of the United States). Whether it’s your pants or getting through long lines, who doesn’t like to zip?
I flew in from Montevideo to Miami recently and the experience was nothing short of heavenly. A horde of passengers exited my airplane and we all started walking through the airport to go to immigration and customs when we came to a fork in the hallway. There was an airport worker herding people; I said the magic words “Global Entry” and she smiled brightly and pointed to the right. The vast majority of my airplane comrade suckers veered left while I and approximately four others veered to the glorious right.
I timed this next part so I could share it with my sister.
Total time to get through customs and immigration using Global Entry: 4 minutes, 25 seconds
- 45 seconds at a kiosk swiping my passport, flashing my fingerprints, answering easy customs questions and printing a receipt.
- 1 minute, 40 seconds waiting in line to talk to the immigration officer.
- 2 minutes talking to the immigration officer. We spent most of that time talking about his friend also named Anita (my real name isn’t Thriftygal) who recently married. Her new last name was Mann and we chuckled about that. Anita Mann. It’s ironic because now that she’s married, she actually doesn’t need a man. Haha.
And then I was done! In less than five minutes, I finished one of the most annoying aspects of traveling internationally. You guys, the experience was life affirming.
TSA precheck is pretty fabulous as well. I flew to DC a couple of weeks ago and breezed through the special, always shorter line for the security screening. I didn’t have to take out my laptop or take off my shoes or remove my liquids from my luggage. I wished that I wore belts so that I could chuckle when I didn’t have to take it off when I went through security. The agents are friendlier and more handsome. The angels sang as I made my way through, passing up all the chumps waiting in the regular line. It reminded me of my time as a flight attendant and I’m in favor of anything that reminds me of that happy time.
Okay, so now that you’re sold on the utter fabulousness of this, you’re asking how much and how you can get this. The TSA precheck applications costs $85 and the Global Entry application costs $100. If you get Global Entry though, you automatically get the TSA precheck. I’m not sure why anyone would do only the TSA precheck – maybe if you never plan to leave the United States? Ever? But for an additional $15, I’d get it regardless. Didn’t my Montevideo story entice you at all?
To apply, go to the CBP’s website and fill out the application and pay the fee. They’ll email you an approval not too long after if you’re approved. You then have to schedule an interview. It’s mostly instructional, explaining how you use the kiosks and such. Then, you bask in the awesomeness of the shorter lines and the beautiful agents.
Oh, one final note. Certain credit cards will reimburse you for the fees for these programs. I thought the vast majority of them were not worth the annual fee. Spending $450 to save $100 isn’t thrifty. Some of the additional perks *may* be worth the price for you personally, but I was unimpressed as you have to do quite a bit of planning. For example, you can get the Citi Prestige credit card. It costs $450/year, but if you’re getting the Global Entry application fee ($100) and buying an airplane ticket that cost more than $250 (they’ll reimburse up to $250) and already paying for four nights in the same hotel (they’ll reimburse for the fourth night) and will spend $3,000 in the first three months of having the card (they’ll give you 50,000 miles), this card might be worth getting. It seems like a lot of hoops to jump through and a lot to remember to make it worthwhile.
Do not get this card if you have credit card debt you’re struggling to pay off. Don’t get this card if you’re not going anywhere anytime soon and won’t need the perks. I imagine only three or four of you out there may actually benefit from this card. Please think very carefully if you’re one of those few. And in case you’re curious, I’m not getting any money if you click and apply for the card. I know there’s a way for bloggers to do that, but I couldn’t figure it out in a timely manner.