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How to Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Free: Try These 5 Credit Cards

Updated Jun 29, 2021 | Published Feb 11, 201910 min read

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At a glance

For the avid traveler, a program like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry can be a huge help (and an even bigger time saver). Picking the right travel credit card to support your adventures can score you a free Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership in addition to rewards and perks.

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I remember what it was like to stand in endless airport security lines. To remove my shoes, jacket, and laptop; to collect all my liquids and place them into a tiny bag.

But, even though I still fly all the time, I haven’t done that in years. I’m not rich, and I’m not royalty: I have TSA PreCheck, a magical traveler program from the Transportation Security Administration that allows me to breeze through security like Beyonce. Because I have Global Entry, too, I never have to deal with immigration lines (or their frustrating wait times) either.

Intrigued? You should be. Keep reading to discover the difference between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck — and how you can become a member of these elite clubs for free.

Or, if you’re ready to apply for a card, jump to our favorite cards with TSA PreCheck/Global Entry fee credits.

Enrollment required for select benefits; terms and limitations apply.

Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck

Global Entry TSA PreCheck
Application Fee
  • $100
  • $85
Application Requirements
Membership Length
  • Five years
  • Five years
Key Membership Features 
  • Membership includes TSA PreCheck
  • Enjoy access to an expedited security lane and the ability to bypass immigration lines when re-entering the U.S.
  • Members receive a “Known Traveler Number” to use when booking flights
  • Enjoy access to an expedited security lane at more than 200 airports with 56 airlines

What Is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck is one of several Trusted Traveler Programs from the U.S. government. It’s open to most U.S. citizens, nationals, and lawful permanent residents.

With TSA PreCheck, low-risk travelers have access to an expedited security lane at more than 200 participating airports when flying with 56 participating airlines. You won’t need to remove light jackets, belts, or shoes, and can also leave liquids and laptops in your carry-on.

If your application is approved, you’ll receive a “Known Traveler Number.” When booking flights, you’ll include that number on your reservation, and will then see “TSA Pre✓” listed on your boarding pass. (If it’s a paper version, it’ll have “TSA PRECHK” printed across the top.)

TSA PreCheck boarding pass

Insider tip

When traveling with a parent or guardian who has PreCheck, children under 12 can travel in the expedited TSA PreCheck lane (without applying for the program). Members of the military do not need to apply for TSA PreCheck; as long as they include their DoD number when booking, they will have access to the expedited security screening line. While eligible Department of Defense federal civilians don’t need to apply either, they must opt in here.

How to Apply for TSA PreCheck

Applying for TSA PreCheck is a little simpler than the process for Global Entry. To apply for TSA PreCheck:

  • Fill out an online application.
  • Find an enrollment center and schedule an appointment to enroll in-person (includes fingerprinting for a background check).
  • Pay your non-refundable $85 application fee.
  • Once approved, use your Known Traveler Number when booking airfare to utilize your TSA PreCheck membership.

What Is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a supercharged version of TSA PreCheck offered through U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Not only will you get PreCheck at U.S. airports, but you’ll also be able to bypass immigration lines when re-entering the United States after an international trip.

Instead of standing in that snaking line to see a border agent, you’ll go to a Global Entry kiosk, where you’ll quickly scan your passport and fingerprints before heading to customs.

To make it crystal clear, the answer to “does Global Entry include TSA PreCheck?” is a resounding yes.

If your Global Entry program application is approved, you’ll automatically get TSA PreCheck, too. You’ll need to include your Known Traveler Number (KTN) when booking flights to qualify for the expedited screening.

Insider tip

Since your passport will be linked to your KTN, you won’t usually need to carry your Global Entry card with you. One exception is if you’re driving across the border from Mexico or Canada, and want to take the express lane. In that case, your car must be registered with the program, and every person in your vehicle must have his or her physical Global Entry or SENTRI/NEXUS card. (I learned this rule the hard way!)

For most people, Global Entry is the smarter choice. It includes TSA PreCheck — plus the ability to skip lines at immigration. For only $15 more, that’s well worth it (and if you read the rest of this post, you won’t be paying that fee anyway).

Global Entry TSA PreCheck

My first time using my Global Entry card: a fantastic day.

In my mind, the only reason you might opt for TSA PreCheck is if you don’t think you’ll qualify for Global Entry. Since you’ll have to pay the application fee regardless of whether you’re approved, you should read the guidelines carefully.

  • The requirements for Global Entry members are pretty strict: You may be disqualified if you “have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants,” including for driving under the influence.
  • For TSA PreCheck, certain crimes, like espionage, will bar you forever — and some felonies will bar you for seven years — but requirements are generally more lax.

PreCheck might also be preferable if you live far from the nearest Global Entry enrollment center or never plan to travel abroad. In that case, it might make sense to simply visit your local PreCheck enrollment center instead.

How to Apply for Global Entry

To apply for Global Entry:

  • Make a Trusted Traveler Programs account (regardless of age, everyone must have his or her own individual account).
  • Log in to your TTP account and complete the application for Global Entry.
  • Pay your non-refundable $100 application fee.
  • If your application is approved, your TTP account will instruct you on how to schedule an in-person interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center (every applicant needs a separate interview).
  • Don’t forget to bring your passport and one other valid form of I.D. (driver’s license or ID card).

How Can You Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry for Free?

The easiest way to get TSA PreCheck free is with a travel rewards credit card that reimburses your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.

You’ll need to go through the usual application process, and you’ll have to pay the application fee upfront using your eligible credit card. Then, once the fee appears on your bill, the issuer will automatically give you a statement credit to match it, usually within two billing periods. $100 for Global Entry, or $85 for TSA PreCheck.

Note that, with most credit cards, this offer is only available every four or five years.

What Are the 5 Best Credit Cards With TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Fee Credits?

More than 20 credit cards offer a statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. If you don’t already have a credit card with this benefit, you might consider applying for one before paying your application fee.

Here are five of our favorites. (None have foreign transaction fees, making them good options for international travelers.)

Best for Travel Rewards

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Chase Sapphire Reserve®
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  • Min. credit levelExcellent
  • Annual Fee$550
  • Regular APR16.99%-23.99% Variable

Due to its high rewards, Priority Pass lounge access, and generous travel credit, this is already my favorite travel rewards card. The fact you can get a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit every four years is just icing on the cake.

Even though its annual fee is intimidating, the $300 travel credit essentially reduces the net annual fee to $250.

Spending Rewards
  • 10X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides
  • 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on:
    • Travel (after the full travel credit is used)
    • Dining
  • 1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 60,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening

Key Features & Terms

  • Perks: $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass membership, Primary Car Rental Insurance, Trip Delay Insurance, Free DashPass membership, and more
  • Annual fee: $550
  • Purchase APR: 16.99%-23.99% Variable

Read more in our 2021 Review: Chase Sapphire Reserve – the Best Premium Travel Card?

 

Best for Lounge Access

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The Platinum Card® from American Express
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  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$695
  • Regular APRSee Pay Over Time APR

Rates & Fees

American Express is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

Like the Reserve, the Amex Platinum is another amazing premium travel rewards card, offering a Global Entry credit every four years and a TSA PreCheck credit every four-and-a-half years. Its biggest perk is its generous lounge access, which means free food and booze, fewer people, and lots of power outlets. It also comes with Uber credits and hotel elite status.

Spending Rewards
  • 5X Membership Rewards points per dollar (on up to $500,000 spent per calendar year, then 1X) on:
    • Flights booked directly through airlines or through American Express Travel
    • Prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel
  • 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar on other eligible travel expenses booked through American Express Travel
  • 1X Membership Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus
  • 100,000 bonus points for spending $6,000 in the first 6 months; 10X points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during the first 6 months

Key Features & Terms

  • Global Lounge Collection: Enroll for complimentary access to Priority Pass, Centurion, American Express International, Delta Sky Club, Escape, Airspace, Lufthansa, and Plaza Premium Lounges.
  • Up to $200 in annual Uber Cash: Add your Platinum card to the Uber App to get up to $15 in Uber Cash per month, plus a bonus $20 in December; U.S. Eats orders and rides only.
  • $200 hotel credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits each year for prepaid hotels booked through The Hotel Collection and Fine Hotels & Resorts; must pay with the Platinum card.
  • $300 Equinox credit: Pay with your Platinum card to get up to $300 in statement credits annually with Equinox (up to $25 per month), for Equinox All Access, Destination, E by Equinox, or Equinox+ membership fees.
  • $240 digital entertainment credit: Pay with your Platinum card to get up to $240 in statement credits annually for digital entertainment (up to $20 per month), only for eligible purchases from Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times.
  • CLEAR credit: Up to $179 in statement credits annually for CLEAR biometric security, enough for a membership.
  • Uber Eats Pass: Get unlimited $0 delivery fees and 5% off orders at eligible restaurants for 12 months; must enroll by 12/31/21. Taxes and service fees may apply and do not count toward the order minimum. Eats Pass will start auto-billing 12 months from enrollment, at then-current monthly rate. Learn more.
  • Uber VIP status: Add your Platinum card to the Uber App to get Uber VIP status where available.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit: A statement credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100 every four years) or TSA PreCheck ($85 once every four and a half years)
  • Complimentary elite hotel statuses: Hilton Honors Gold status and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status
  • The Hotel Collection: A $100 hotel credit and room upgrades when available for every eligible two-night stay
  • Fine Hotels & Resorts Program: Daily breakfast for two, room upgrades when available, amenities valued at $100, and more at eligible properties
  • $100 annual Saks credit: Up to $100 in statement credits each year for Saks Fifth Avenue: $50 from January through June, and $50 from July through December
  • Global Dining Access by Resy: Resy provides access to exclusive reservations and dining experiences.
  • Point transfer: To a selection of airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Shopping and travel protections: Purchase Protection; Extended Warranty; Return Protection; Baggage Insurance Plan; Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance; Trip Delay Insurance; Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $695

Enrollment required for select benefits; terms and limitations apply.

The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)

Read more in our 2021 Review: The Platinum Card® from American Express – Is It Worth the $695 Annual Fee?

Insider tip

Trying to decide which premium travel card to get? Here’s our head-to-head breakdown of the Amex Platinum vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Best for Rewards & Low Annual Fee

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$95
  • Regular APR17.24% - 24.49% Variable

Although this card doesn’t have a slew of fancy perks, it does earn solid rewards at a low annual fee. This card’s Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit comes around every four years.

Spending Rewards
  • 2X miles per dollar on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 60,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months

Key Features & Terms

  • Perks: Point transfer ability and Visa Signature benefits, like the Luxury Hotel Collection and concierge service
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Purchase APR: 17.24% - 24.49% Variable

Read more in our 2021 Review: Capital One Venture Rewards Card – A Hotel Card for You?.

Insider tip

If you’re looking for other cards with low annual fees that offer these credits, check out the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card (Review). For just $95 you get the application fee credits, along with a $100 incidental airline fee credit.

Best for United Flyers

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United℠ Explorer Card
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  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$95
  • Regular APR16.49% to 23.49% Variable

This respectable travel rewards card is one of several designed for frequent flyers on United. (If you’re more an American Airlines fan, try the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (Review), which offers Global Entry/TSA PreCheck reimbursement every five years.)

With this United card, you’ll get a free checked bag, priority boarding, and two free United Club passes annually. The annual fee is waived for the first year, and your Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit is available every four years.

Spending Rewards
  • 7X or more miles per dollar on tickets purchased from United
    • 2X miles per dollar from the Explorer Card
    • 5X miles or more per dollar for being a Basic MileagePlus member
  • 2X miles per dollar for:
    • Restaurants
    • Hotel accommodations purchased directly with the hotel
  • 1X mile per dollar on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 60,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months; an additional 10,000 bonus miles for spending $6,000 in the first 6 months

Key Features & Terms

  • Perks: Free checked bag, priority boarding, and two United Club lounge passes each year
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Purchase APR: 16.49% to 23.49% Variable

Read more in our 2021 Review: United Explorer Card – A Great Option for United Flights?.

Read more 20 United Explorer Card Benefits That Blow Its Annual Fee Out of the Water

Best for Hotel Lovers

Citi Prestige® Card
  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$495
  • Regular APR16.99%–23.99% Variable

Citi is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

Capped at twice per year, this card offers your fourth night free on stays booked through ThankYou.com. Although the annual fee is high, you’ll get a $250 travel credit, as well as Priority Pass lounge access and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit every five years.

Spending Rewards
  • 5X ThankYou points per dollar spent on:
    • Air travel
    • Restaurants
  • 3X ThankYou points per dollar spent at:
    • Hotels
    • Cruise lines
  • 1X ThankYou point per dollar for all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 50,000 ThankYou points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $500–$1,000 (assuming 1–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 12.5–25%

Key Features & Terms

  • Perks: Fourth night free, $250 travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership, point transfer ability
  • Annual fee: $495
  • Purchase APR: 16.99%–23.99% Variable

Read more in our Review of the Citi Prestige® Card.

Insider tip

Looking for other hotel cards offering credits for expedited airport service? For a lower annual fee ($89) — which includes one free night per year, and your fourth night free on reward stays — the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (Review) is a fantastic choice. Alternatively, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (Review) is a high-end option for SPG/Marriott loyalists.

Read more Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Full List of Credit Cards That Offer Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Credits

How Can You Get TSA PreCheck for Free Without a Credit Card?

Credit cards aside, another way to get TSA PreCheck for free (or Global Entry, in some cases) is by being an elite member with certain loyalty programs, or by redeeming points or miles.

Here are a few of your options:

  • Delta Air Lines: Platinum or Medallion members can get a Global Entry voucher as one of their Choice Benefits.
  • Orbitz Rewards: Platinum members can opt for a free TSA PreCheck or LoungeBuddy membership.
  • United MileagePlus: Redeem 10,000 miles for TSA PreCheck (at 0.85 cents per mile).
  • IHG Rewards: Redeem 30,000 points for TSA PreCheck (at 0.28 cents per point).
  • Radisson Rewards: Redeem 65,000 points for TSA PreCheck (at 0.13 cents per point).

If you have elite status and can get free PreCheck, great — but when it comes to reward points and miles, you’ll likely find better value by redeeming them for flights or hotel stays. So we don’t recommend using credit card rewards to pay for the application.

Should You Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry?

Though the answer probably depends on how much you fly (and where), I can tell you I applied for Global Entry in 2014 and have never looked back. The expedited security checkpoints, coupled with the opportunity to sail on past the lengthy immigration lines after international flights, save me so much time and frustration at the airport that I’d call it one of the best travel purchases I’ve ever made.

So, while I would happily pay $100 for the convenience of Global Entry membership — why would I? Getting Global Entry or TSA PreCheck for free is a cinch with any of the travel credit cards above.

Itching for an adventure? Why not take a look at our picks for the Best Airline Credit Cards and Best Hotel Credit Cards?

Alternatives to Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

While Global Entry/TSA PreCheck are arguably the best choices for services that expedite your airport experience, the two programs aren’t your only options. Take a look at a few others with similar functions.

CLEAR

CLEAR scans your biometrics (face, irises, and fingerprints) to confirm your identity, letting you bypass security lines at airports, stadiums, and other venues. Every time you check in to a CLEAR pod, it checks your irises or your fingerprints to make sure it’s you.

However, CLEAR is only available at a handful of locations. At the time of publication, CLEAR is available in 32 different cities in the U.S., though major travel hubs like L.A. and New York City are included.

Take note: CLEAR doesn’t let you skip security, it only lets you skip the line. You won’t have to give your boarding pass or ID to the TSA agent. Instead, you’ll check in at a CLEAR pod and then proceed directly to security. But you can pair it with TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

It’s currently priced at $15 per month, or you could pay $179 for 12 months. It’s a domestic service so it won’t help if you’re traveling internationally.

You can apply online at Clearme.com. After filling out an application, head to any CLEAR location in person to complete the process. CLEAR says on its site that once you’ve completed enrollment, you can start using CLEAR as soon as you’d like.

Mobile Passport

Mobile Passport is a free app you can download to your smartphone. It was created for U.S. and Canadian passport holders to expedite the customs process when returning to the United States. It doesn’t require any interviews or background checks to use.

There’s a paid version called Mobile Passport Plus that adds an automated document scanner for passports, encrypted storage for passports, and a history of previous trips submitted on the app. It costs $15 annually.

Use the app while on the plane to pre-submit passport information and to answer customs questions prior to landing. Once you’ve submitted your information, you can use designated Mobile Passport Control lanes upon your arrival at the airport or seaport to complete the process.

Mobile Passport is currently available at 32 international airports and four seaports. You can see the complete list of locations here.

Elite Membership With Airlines

Certain preferred customer programs with airlines include expedited airport security perks. Airline loyalty programs that offer priority screening lines at airport security include but are not limited to:

  • American Airlines: Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum members
  • JetBlue: Mosaic members
  • Delta: Gold, Platinum, and Diamond members
  • United Airlines: Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, and Premier 1K members
  • Southwest Airlines: A-List and A-List Preferred members

Some airline credit cards offer priority airport screening as a perk, or expedite the process to become an elite member. Here are a few examples:

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Written by

Susan Shain

Susan is a freelance writer who specializes in turning complex financial topics into engaging and accessible articles. She's been writing about personal finance for six years, and was previously the senior writer at The Penny Hoarder and a staff writer at Student Loan Hero. Her personal finance writing has also appeared in publications like MarketWatch and Lifehacker.

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