While world travel is on pause, I thought it a good time to dive deep into what I consider a must-have travel perk for travel both domestically and internationally. This will give you time to consider your options, educate yourself, apply for and get ready for when travel opens back up. When it does, there will be a tidal wave of travelers, and long lines at the airports.
What are trusted traveler programs? They are programs that allow members to use expedited lanes at U.S. airports, and when crossing international borders, avoiding long lines. There are 6 programs available. I’ll be going over 3 of them this week. All memberships are valid for 5 years.
There is nothing worse than standing in long lines at the airport when you’re starting a vacation, or traveling for business. Perhaps you’ve considered them before, but just never applied. I’ve been granted TSA Precheck randomly in the past, and enjoyed that luxury. I travel for work (someone has to check out those cruise ships and luxury hotels), and have learned a thing or two about these programs. So before you take off your shoes, belts, and remove your laptop and liquids from your carryon bag, let’s check out these programs and the benefits they offer.
My recommendations: Here is my quick and easy version. I’ll explain the first 3 programs in detail below.
Global Entry, in my opinion, is your best option. For $100, you get reduced wait times and less invasive TSA security checks, no paperwork to be filled out upon entry back into the US, and the added-bonus of an express line through customs and immigration on your way back to the United States from international airports and destinations. Plus, it also includes TSA Precheck. If you have a passport, this is my recommended program.
TSA PreCheck is your best choice if you don’t have a passport, or fly only domestically within the US. It makes checking in at the airport much less of a hassle. No need to take off your shoes, belts or light jackets, no need to remove your laptop, liquids from your carryon bag. However, if you go to even just one international trip or one international airport within five years, you’ll regret not paying the extra $15 for Global Entry. Precheck cost is $85.
Clear is not recommended at this time. Clear uses biometric data (your eyes and fingerprints) to bypass the line to check in with TSA (the part where the agent reviews your ID and jots a note on your ID). From there, however, it does not get you around the security screening process that TSA Pre or Global Entry does. It works in tandem with those programs, meaning you still have to apply for those programs. So there is no real advantage to using Clear to get through airport security other than the slight time savings. And the cost ($179 per year) is prohibitive.
Clear Sports is the only advantage if you’re a sports fan or concert-goer in certain cities, which will give you expedited entry into 19 stadiums around the country. Other than that, I don’t recommend Clear at this time.
Here is a more detailed explanation of each program.
Over 200 airports in the US and over 73 participating airlines make it a clear benefit. It is for air travel only. It is perfect for US domestic travelers. If you travel internationally, you shoulder consider Global Entry, which will give you all the benefits of TSA Pre and more.
You can use TSA PreCheck to jump the lines at security when you depart from any participating airport in the USA. There is no need to take off your shoes, belt or jacket. You don’t have to get your liquid bags or laptop out of your bag.
To join TSA PreCheck, just fill out the TSA PreCheck program application form and attend an interview. Wait 2-3 weeks for an approval letter, and you’re good to go!
TSA PreCheck Benefits:
✔ No lines – Reach your gate faster
✔ No need to take off items of clothing like your shoes, belt and jacket
✔ No need to take out your liquids bag or laptop
HOW TO APPLY FOR TSA PRECHECK:
It takes 5 minutes to submit an online application TSA Precheck click here and schedule a 10-minute in-person appointment that includes a background check and fingerprinting at the enrollment center. The cost is $85, and is good for 5 years. Before you apply, be sure this is the right trusted traveler program for you.
HOW TO USE TSA PRECHECK:
✔ Once you receive your KTN (Known Traveler Number) you must enter it into the “Known Traveler Number” field when making airline reservations.
✔ You must also book your flight using the exact name you used when you registered for TSA PreCheck
✔ At the airport, check in for your flight and go straight to the PreCheck Security lane (not all airports have TSA PreCheck screening; in the event that you are using an airport without TSA PreCheck you must proceed through regular security lines)
Global Entry allows pre-screened, low-risk travelers to expedite the line at security, immigration and customs using designated Global Entry kiosks. This is not a program you can join instantly. Every applicant must fill out a lengthy Global Entry application, even child applicants must have their own Global Entry application submitted. When Customs and Border Patrol receive your application they send it to a variety of government agencies, specifically, US law enforcement and US immigration, as well as checking their own database for previous violations. Being classified as a low-risk traveler means that you have not committed any felonies that violate the Global Entry program. This thorough and stringent checking means that the United States can keep our borders safe!
Global Entry Benefits:
✔ No lines
✔ No customs checks
✔ No paperwork
✔ You can also use your Global Entry ID as your REAL ID for domestic travel! No need to get a state-issued real ID drivers license
Global Entry program members can use Global Entry Customs Kiosks at more than 75 airports when returning to the U.S. from travel abroad.
HOW TO APPLY FOR GLOBAL ENTRY:
1. Create a Trusted Travelers Program (TTP) account. Regardless of your age, everyone must have their own account.
2. Logon to TTP and complete your application. A $100 nonrefundable fee is required for each completed application.
3. After accepting your completed application and fee, Customs and Border Patrol will review your application. If your application is conditionally approved, then your TTP account will instruct you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center . Each applicant must schedule a separate interview.
4. You will need to bring your valid passport(s) and one other form of identification, such as a drivers license or ID card to your interview. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must present your machine-readable permanent resident card.
In addition to Global Entry membership, you also get:
✔ Expedite the security line with free TSA PreCheck
✔ Cross the US-Mexico land border using the SENTRI lane (registered vehicles only)
✔ Join international Trusted Traveler programs and use e-gates in over 10 countries
✔ Use the NEXUS lanes at Canadian airports
Global Entry and TSA PreCheck:
~ Global Entry members qualify for free TSA Precheck
~ Once you’re approved for Global Entry program, you can start using your membership number known as PASSID or KTN (Known Traveler Number) when you book your flights
~ The KTN PASSID number signifies to security staff that you can expedite security at participating US airports using the TSA lanes
This means as a Global Entry member there’s no waiting in long lines at security checks, and you won’t have to take off your jacket or take out your laptop or clear bag with liquids items.
HOW TO USE GLOBAL ENTRY:
Using Global Entry is easy. You simply head toward the line that says Global Entry when you arrive at immigration.
Approach the kiosk, use your fingerprints to identify yourself, sometimes this takes a few tries, answer the questions (you’ll recognize them from the blue CBP entry form) and take your photo. Then, proceed to baggage claim with your printout. You actually don’t need your Global Entry card to go through Global Entry kiosks in the U.S., but you will need it when traveling through NEXUS or SENTRI points at the Canadian and Mexican borders when coming back into the U.S. for expedited entry .
Parents should note that very young children who are Global Entry members may simply be too squirmy to scan reliable fingerprints. If they receive a crossed-out printout, show that to the CBP officer.
CLEAR uses biometrics, your fingerprints and the iris in your eyes to confirm your identity rather than the usual forms of identification such as a passport or drivers license. You’re able to bypass the general security lines at over 30 airports and 20 sports and concert venues across the country, saving you time.
CLEAR gets you through the document-clearing portion at the airport. It does not, however, get you access to TSA PreCheck, which is the physical screening.
The cost is $179 per year. You can add up to 3 adult family members to your account for $50 each per year. Children under 18 don’t need an account; they can accompany family members in the CLEAR line for free.
CLEAR ID Benefits:
✔ CLEAR allows you to essentially bypass the entire security line, whether you have PreCheck or not.
✔ You don’t have to fumble around in your wallet or purse to get your ID out — the biometric scan that took place earlier verified your identity, and all you need to do is hand your boarding pass to the TSA agent and then you can continue on to the actual security screening.
✔ Signing up is easy — the first step is to register your personal information online.
Currently CLEAR is available at the following airports, stadiums and other locations: CLEAR Locations
HOW TO APPLY FOR CLEAR:
1. You can start the enrollment process online at CLEAR or in person, no appointment needed.
2. The final steps must be done at a CLEAR location, and include answering a few simple questions to verify your identity, providing a valid photo ID and payment method, and then attaching your biometrics (which are your fingerprint and picture of the irises of your eyes) to your newly-created account.
3. You must be a US citizen or legal permanent resident, must be at least 18 years old, and have the following forms of photo ID:
A) US drivers license
B) US passport or passport card
C) US-issued permanent resident card
D) State-issued ID
E) US military ID
HOW TO USE CLEAR:
When arriving at the airport, there are two steps that need to be completed: Identity verification and security screening.
CLEAR travelers have their own separate lane for the first step, which is identity verification. You go to a kiosk and use either your fingerprint or eye scan to identify yourself, rather than the TSA agent who normally inspects your ID.
Once your identity is verified, a CLEAR representative will escort you to the security screening area, bypassing all those harried travelers waiting in line to be screened by an agent. If you’re enrolled in TSA PreCheck, you’ll be taken to that line. If you don’t have TSA Pre, you’ll stand in line with the other travelers, having to take off your shoes, belts, jackets and remove laptops from their bag. Children under 18 may use the CLEAR line when traveling with a paid member.
You can use your paid Clear membership at select stadiums that have CLEAR lanes. There is, however, a CLEAR Sports membership that is free that allows fans to enjoy expedited entry to games at participating stadiums. This membership, however, does not provide non-stadium CLEAR locations such as airports.
To apply for a CLEAR Sports membership, simply arrive at any eligible stadium for an eligible event and visit the enrollment area outside the stadium. CLEAR Sports members may bring one guest with them through the Clear Lane at stadium locations. Clear Sports members may upgrade to a paid membership that is valid at airports.
As you can see, there are some wonderful benefits to the 3 programs listed above. Next week, I’ll delve in detail into the final 3 programs, which are NEXUS, Sentri and FAST.
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