TSA PreCheck: Is the Cost Worth the Benefits?

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If you’ve been anywhere near an airport in the last few years, you’ve definitely heard the phrase “TSA PreCheck.” If you haven’t gotten on the PreCheck train yet, you’re not alone. At first glance, TSA PreCheck seems like one of those unnecessary perks that you can live without. But, in reality, it is a widely known benefit that both frequent fliers and one-trip-a-year passengers utilize. Keep reading and we’ll tell you what exactly TSA PreCheck is, how to apply for it, the cost, and the benefits.

What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck is an indication on your boarding pass that allows you to go through expedited screening. With TSA PreCheck, you do not have to take off your shoes, light outerwear, or belts when going through security. Additionally, you do not have to take your liquids, laptop/tablet, or other electronics out of your luggage during the screening process.

As TSA precheck requires an application and approval process, you’ll likely find that you get to go through a shorter line at the airport. Moreover, as everyone with precheck isn’t spending time taking things off their body and out of their luggage, the line itself tends to move quicker.

Simply put, TSA PreCheck allows you to go through the TSA screening process faster and easier.

Speed through security checks with TSA PreCheck for some extra dollars.

TSA PreCheck: The Full Process

TSA PreCheck Cost

Unfortunately, TSA PreCheck isn’t a free service, but it is low-cost! TSA PreCheck costs a non-refundable fee of $85. As PreCheck is valid for five years, you’ll be paying $85 for five years of expedited screening. You’ll pay the fee at the in-person enrollment center and can pay with credit cards, money orders, company checks, and certified/cashier’s checks. Cash and personal checks are not accepted.

One way to avoid this cost is to check if your credit card offers free TSA precheck. A variety of cards offer to cover the TSA precheck cost as a benefit to you.

Some of the cards that offer this benefit are:

  • United Explorer Card
  • Chase Sapphire Rewards
  • CapitalOne Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Bank of America Premium Rewards Visa Credit Card

There is an expansive list of credit card companies that offer this as a benefit, so make sure you check with your credit card before paying the fee.

TSA PreCheck Application

There are two parts to the TSA PreCheck application: pre-enrollment and in-person enrollment. Every applicant must complete the in-person enrollment and it is recommended to do pre-enrollment as well.

To enroll in TSA precheck, applicants must provide the following:

  • Required biographic information
  • Valid identity/citizenship documentation
  • Fingerprints
  • Photo
  • Enrollment fee

All of the above can be done at the in-person enrollment center, but to expedite the process, you can provide initial biographic information through pre-enrollment online. Additionally, you can make an appointment for the in-person enrollment center so you’re not waiting in a long line when enrolling in-person.

Post-Application Process

After completing the in-person enrollment, you receive a notification via U.S. mail informing you of your status. You can also check progress online here. The notification will provide you with your Known Traveler Number (KTN), which is what you will use to activate the precheck benefits. Every time you buy a flight, you will enter your KTN so that you can receive the TSA precheck benefits. You can also find your KTN number online here.

TSA PreCheck Locations

Now that you’ve got TSA precheck, what do you do? Well, you use it! There are over 200 airports and 73 airlines in the United States that allow TSA precheck benefits.

TSA PreCheck Renewal

The renewal process is a bit easier than the application process. Those looking for TSA PreCheck renewal will be able to do so up to six months before their KTN expires. There are two possible paths: complete online renewal or in-person renewal.

Everyone seeking renewal must complete a renewal application online. For most applicants, this online application is sufficient. After submitting the application, you can expect a notification from TSA within 2-3 weeks informing you if your precheck has been renewed.

Some applicants may have to go in-person after submitting an online application. Reasons for this vary, but some common ones are poor quality of fingerprints from the first application or a name change.

The renewal cost is the same as the initial application fee, $85, and is valid for five years.

If you renew within one year after your KTN expires, you will keep the same KTN number. To help you out, TSA will send you a notification when it is time to renew – as long as they have valid contact information.

Additionally, if you do not renew within one year after expiration, you will be considered a new applicant. This is significant, as most renewal applications only require an online application. If you do not want to go back in-person, make sure you re-apply within one year of expiration to mitigate that possibility.

Other TSA Programs

There are a variety of other TSA programs that will give you precheck without having to go through the TSA precheck application process.

If you are enrolled in one of the following programs, you can use your membership and KTN to receive precheck benefits without enrolling separately:

  • Global Entry

Now that you’re an expert on all-things TSA PreCheck, it’s time for you to decide for yourself if the cost is worth the benefits. Learn more about other TSA programs on our KTN breakdown.

If you’re having trouble with your application or have any other questions, you can browse through TSA’s help center page or call their customer service number at (866) 289-9673.

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