TSA PreCheck is a trusted traveler program run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that allows pre-approved passengers to go through expedited security screening at select U.S. airport checkpoints.
The program allows U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and lawful permanent residents to move through airport security with greater ease and speed. TSA PreCheck travelers do not have to remove shoes, belts, light outerwear, laptops, or 3-1-1 compliant liquids from their bags at TSA checkpoints. This enables airport screening to be less intrusive and allows the TSA to focus resources on passengers who may pose a higher risk.
The goal of the program is to improve the travel experience by permitting low-risk travelers to enjoy a smart and efficient screening experience. TSA touts Transportation Security Administration PreCheck as a win-win for travelers and the agency alike. Travelers get the benefit of shorter security wait times and a smoother process, while TSA can allocate resources more effectively to passengers who need enhanced screening.
Who is eligible for TSA PreCheck?
U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and citizens of partner countries are eligible for TSA PreCheck.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or a lawful permanent resident. Citizens of partner countries who travel to the U.S. may also be eligible through U.S. Customs and Border Protection trusted traveler programs like Global Entry.
Transportation Security Administration PreCheck is open to U.S. armed forces members, including active duty, reservists, National Guard members, and Coast Guard members. Discharged and retired members are also eligible.
Travelers of all ages, including infants and children ages 12 and under, can receive TSA PreCheck screening when traveling with an eligible parent or guardian who is a member of the program.
To take advantage of Transportation Security Administration PreCheck benefits, you must be flying on a participating airline and departing from a participating airport. Eligible travelers are pre-screened and verified by TSA as low-risk.
How to Apply for TSA PreCheck
Applying for TSA PreCheck requires completing an online application, attending an in-person appointment, and undergoing fingerprinting.
To begin, you must visit the TSA PreCheck application website and fill out the online form. This will require entering your biographic information and paying the $78 application fee.
Once your application is conditionally approved, you will need to schedule an appointment at an enrollment center to provide your documentation and get fingerprinted. You must bring proof of identity and citizenship, such as an unexpired passport or original birth certificate and a government ID.
At your appointment, a TSA agent will verify your documents, take a photo of your Known Traveler Number profile, and fingerprint you for an FBI background check. The fingerprinting is required to complete the threat assessment.
After attending your in-person appointment and clearing the background check, you will be fully enrolled in TSA PreCheck and can use the expedited screening lanes at airports. Your Known Traveler Number will be valid for 5 years before you need to reapply.
The entire application process can take 2-3 weeks. Be sure to apply in advance of any upcoming travel so you can take advantage of TSA PreCheck screening.
TSA PreCheck Benefits
TSA PreCheck enables travelers to breeze through airport security with fewer hassles and less stress. By qualifying for the program, travelers get to keep their shoes, belts, jackets, and light outerwear on while going through screening.
Additionally, TSA PreCheck members don’t need to remove laptops or liquids from their bags. This avoids the typical airport security nuisance of unpacking all your belongings into bins. It also prevents you from forgetting to repack important or valuable items in the rush to get through the line.
In most cases, travelers can simply walk through metal detectors rather than full-body scanners. They can keep their phones and keys in their pockets too. Family members under 13 years old can also use the expedited screening lane when traveling with a TSA PreCheck adult.
Overall, the program cuts down on the preparation necessary before entering airport security. Members can arrive at the screening checkpoint with less hassle and stress. They can skip long standard security lines in most cases as well. This provides peace of mind when traveling.
TSA PreCheck Airport Security Process
The TSA PreCheck security screening process at airports is designed to be faster and more convenient compared to the standard screening lane. Here are some key aspects of how it works:
Dedicated Lane – Transportation Security Administration PreCheck participants have access to a dedicated lane at airport security checkpoints. These lanes are typically much shorter than the regular lanes.
Don’t Remove Shoes – You can keep your shoes on when going through the TSA PreCheck lane. This speeds things up considerably compared to having to remove shoes in the standard lane.
Light Jackets Stay On – With Transportation Security Administration PreCheck, you don’t need to take off light jackets or coats when going through security. This also saves time.
Laptops Can Stay in Bags – Laptops and other electronics don’t need to be removed from your bag when using the TSA PreCheck lane. You can leave them inside, which is very convenient.
No Liquids or Gels Restrictions – The 3-1-1 restrictions on liquids and gels do not apply to TSA PreCheck members, making it easy to travel with beverages and toiletries.
The expedited screening process allows TSA PreCheck members a faster and smoother airport security experience. You breeze through the dedicated lane while keeping shoes and light jackets on and laptops tucked away in your bag.
TSA PreCheck Airports
TSA PreCheck is available at over 200 airports across the United States, covering all major airports and most mid-size airports. This makes it widely accessible for travelers across the country.
Some of the major airports that participate in Transportation Security Administration PreCheck include:
- Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
- Denver International Airport (DEN)
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- McCarran International Airport (LAS)
- Miami International Airport (MIA)
- Orlando International Airport (MCO)
- Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
In addition to individual airports, all major US airlines participate in TSA PreCheck, including American Airlines, Delta, United, Southwest, Alaska, Hawaiian, JetBlue, and more. This makes TSA PreCheck convenient for most airline travelers in the US.
With TSA PreCheck available at most major airports across the country and the vast majority of domestic airlines, travelers can easily utilize expedited screening on a wide range of flight itineraries. The extensive airport and airline participation makes the benefits of TSA PreCheck membership widely accessible.
TSA PreCheck Membership Validity and Renewal
TSA PreCheck membership is valid for 5 years. After 5 years, members need to renew their membership to continue enjoying Transportation Security Administration PreCheck benefits.
Members can renew their TSA PreCheck membership in two ways:
Online – Members can go to the TSA PreCheck website and renew their membership online by paying the renewal fee. Online renewal is the quickest and most convenient option.
In Person – Members can visit an application center and renew their membership in person. This requires scheduling an appointment at the center. In-person renewal takes more time and effort compared to online renewal.
TSA recommends renewing your membership at least 6 weeks before it expires. This prevents any lapse in benefits. Once renewed, the Transportation Security Administration PreCheck membership is valid for another 5 years from the date of renewal.
Members should receive a renewal notice by email 120 days before their membership expires. The notice has instructions for renewing online or in person. As long as members renew on time, they can enjoy uninterrupted TSA PreCheck benefits for air travel.
TSA PreCheck Costs
The $78 fee is paid upfront at the time of application submission. It allows you to use Transportation Security Administration PreCheck lanes at airport security for 5 years before needing to reapply and pay the fee again.
Some credit cards will reimburse this application fee as part of their travel benefits. However, the TSA application fee itself cannot be paid directly with a credit card, only with a checking account.
The $78 covers your background check and full 5-year membership. There are no hidden fees or additional yearly costs beyond the upfront application charge. You do not have to pay separately each time you use TSA PreCheck airport screening.
Transportation Security Administration PreCheck can save families and frequent flyers hundreds of dollars over 5 years by avoiding regular lane delays and screening hassles. At just $17 per year, it can be a worthwhile investment for air travelers who value their time and convenience.
Pros and Cons of TSA PreCheck
TSA PreCheck provides several benefits that make going through airport security faster and easier, but it also has some downsides to consider.
You can go through expedited screening lanes at airports, allowing you to keep your shoes, belt, light jacket, and laptop in your bag. This speeds up the screening process significantly.
TSA PreCheck members don’t need to remove liquids or gels from carry-on bags, saving time and hassle.
There are no limits on liquids for TSA PreCheck members. You can bring beverages and toiletries of any size.
You don’t need to take electronics like laptops or tablets out of your bag when going through security with TSA PreCheck.
TSA PreCheck lanes are usually much shorter than standard security lanes, so you spend less time waiting in line.
Once approved for TSA PreCheck, it’s valid for 5 years before needing to reapply. You can use it at over 200 airports in the U.S.
You have to pay an application fee of $78 that covers a 5-year membership. It’s not free.
The application process involves an in-person appointment to provide fingerprints and ID verification. This can be inconvenient.
Pre-check lanes aren’t always open at every airport. Sometimes the regular security line is faster.
You still have to go through a metal detector, and carry-on bags are scanned. It’s not zero security.
PreCheck membership doesn’t guarantee you’ll get Transportation Security Administration PreCheck screening on every flight. You may sometimes get standard lane screening.
So in summary, Transportation Security Administration PreCheck can make the airport screening process much smoother and more convenient by allowing you to keep items in your bag and use expedited lanes. But membership does come at a cost, and there is an application process.
TSA PreCheck vs. Alternatives
When deciding whether to apply for Transportation Security Administration PreCheck, travelers should consider how it compares to other airport security programs like Global Entry and CLEAR, as well as general screening.
Global Entry – Like TSA PreCheck, Global Entry allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers to use expedited security screening lanes. However, Global Entry requires a more extensive application process, costs more ($100 for 5 years versus $78 for 5 years for PreCheck), and has additional membership benefits like expedited customs screening when entering the US. Global Entry includes Transportation Security Administration PreCheck, so members can access the expedited security lanes. Global Entry could be a better choice than PreCheck for frequent international travelers.
CLEAR – CLEAR uses biometric confirmation of identity to allow members access to expedited security lanes. However, CLEAR members still have to remove shoes and liquids and undergo standard screening procedures once at the security checkpoint. CLEAR costs $189 annually, significantly more than PreCheck. CLEAR provides more convenience in verifying identity, but PreCheck offers faster physical screening. CLEAR and PreCheck can be used together for maximum speed and ease.
General screening – Travelers without PreCheck or other memberships must use standard security lanes, which involve removing shoes, liquids, laptops, and other steps. Lines are typically longer, and screening procedures are more extensive. General screening lanes are free but lack the convenience and time savings of PreCheck. For infrequent travelers or those unwilling or unable to pay, general screening is the only option. The hassle of general screening could push occasional travelers to apply for PreCheck.