TSA PreCheck® vs. Global Entry: Which Is Better?

If you’re a frequent flyer, you know how much time is wasted waiting in airport lines. That’s where Global Entry and TSA PreCheck® come in. Both are Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler Programs that offer faster security screening at airports. 

But which one is better? And how do you decide which to get? Here are the key differences between these two services, so you can make your next trip through airport security a little less exhausting.

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  • TSA PreCheck allows faster security clearance for domestic travelers.
  • Global Entry provides faster customs clearance for travelers entering the U.S. from international airports.
  • Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck and has a slightly higher fee.

. . .

The Difference Between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

While both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry require a background check and in-person interview, the key difference is where you use your membership:

  • TSA PreCheck lets you skip regular security screening lines at U.S. airports. 
  • Global Entry offers faster customs screening when you’re reentering the U.S. from certain countries. 

There’s a small cost difference as well: 

  • Global Entry, which includes TSA PreCheck, costs $100 for five years. 
  • TSA PreCheck does not include Global Entry and costs $78 to $85 for five years. 

If you travel internationally at least four times annually, the TSA recommends Global Entry.

How Does TSA PreCheck Work?

Enrolling in TSA PreCheck eliminates many of the pesky tasks others have to do when traveling through U.S. airports. You won’t have to remove your shoes or belt, your laptop can stay snugly tucked away in its carrying case, and your liquid containers can remain packed. 

To sign up, look online for an enrollment center in your area, then submit your application. You’ll set up an on-site appointment that takes about 10 minutes to collect your fingerprints, photo, and payment. It’s similar to a background check for employment in education or government. 

Once approved, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number, or KTN. Whenever making flight reservations, you’ll enter that number to get your TSA PreCheck stamp of approval. Your approval is good for five years.

Most TSA PreCheck passengers (99%) have a security wait time of 10 minutes or less.

Children and TSA PreCheck

For TSA PreCheck, kids aged 12 and under can accompany a parent or guardian unrestricted. However, those aged 13-17 must be enrolled on the same reservation and have the TSA PreCheck indicator on their boarding pass.

Children who travel alone may enroll individually in TSA PreCheck. Adults who accompany them with a gate pass cannot use TSA PreCheck lanes, as it doesn’t apply to gate passes. 

How Does Global Entry Work? 

Global Entry works similarly to TSA PreCheck and offers the same benefits, but with the addition of expedited customs processing for reentering the U.S. It’s overseen by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

Much like TSA PreCheck, signing up for Global Entry involves a brief application followed by an in-person interview and background check. Approved low-risk travelers get to check in more swiftly when returning to the U.S. from international airports. 

Since the CBP uses a risk-based approach, a prior criminal record or other red flags may disqualify you from enrollment. 

Children and Global Entry 

For Global Entry, those under 18 must have permission from a parent or guardian, but that adult does not have to be a Global Entry member for a child to join the program. 

Cost of Global Entry or TSA PreCheck  

There is a small cost difference between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.

Global Entry, which includes TSA PreCheck, costs $100. It’s nonrefundable, whether or not your application is approved. 

For TSA PreCheck®, there are two approved providers: Telos and Idemia. Each has a slightly different fee structure:

  • Telos charges $85 for a five-year membership. A renewal costs $70 either online or in person.
  • Idemia charges $78 for a five-year membership. A renewal costs $70 online and $78 in person.

With both providers, fees are nonrefundable and renewals are good for five years.

You can pick your preferred TSA PreCheck provider based on cost and location. According to the TSA, Telos has 26 active locations and Idemia has over 600 locations.

For military personnel

Members of the U.S. military and Department of Defense civilians can access TSA PreCheck at no cost, for all official and personal travel. 

Credit cards that reimburse application fees

Several credit cards feature TSA PreCheck and Global Entry reimbursement as a benefit. Over 30 credit cards are listed as “featuring TSA PreCheck®” on the TSA’s website. 

If you’re not sure if your credit card offers it, read your card agreement or contact your card company to find out (or upgrade to a travel credit card that does, if you’re a frequent flyer). 

Pros and Cons of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

While both programs are great for frequent travelers, neither one is perfect. For example, the CBP says the wait time for Global Entry is now up to 11 months — so the sooner you can start the application process, the better. 

Pros and cons of Global Entry

Pros

  • Potentially faster customs processing into the U.S.
  • Includes TSA PreCheck 

Cons

  • Costs more than TSA PreCheck
  • Not useful unless you regularly travel internationally
  • Long application wait times

Pros and cons of TSA PreCheck

Pros

  • Potential access to faster security screening at U.S. airports
  • Free for military personnel
  • Cheaper than Global Entry

Cons

  • Availability and shorter lines not guaranteed
  • No international travel benefits
  • Wait times for enrollment appointments may be long

Application Process for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

For either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, you’ll first set up your Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) account and pay the fee. After that, schedule an in-person appointment. 

Global Entry appointment process

After you’ve passed the first conditional review by CBP, you’ll receive the go-ahead to schedule your interview at an enrollment center for Global Entry. For families with multiple applicants, each person needs to go through an individual interview for fingerprinting and ID presentation. 

Global Entry Enrollment Centers are located nationwide. Some travelers may qualify to use Enrollment on Arrival (EoA), which enables you to complete the Global Entry interview upon arrival in the U.S. rather than having to do the interview separately from your travels. 

TSA PreCheck appointment process

To set up an appointment for TSA PreCheck, visit the Universal Enrollment Services website or call (855) 347-8371. The TSA recommends doing your pre-enrollment online with your selected provider if you’re a new enrollee.

You’ll give fingerprints and show documentation proving your identity.

Other Trusted Traveler Programs for U.S. Citizens

Some flyers qualify for these other programs for prescreened travelers:

NEXUS

The NEXUS program applies to travelers entering the U.S. and Canada. When flying into Canada, use NEXUS kiosks, and when flying into the U.S. from Canadian preclearance airports, use Global Entry kiosks. 

SENTRI

The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) is also a part of CBP. If entering the U.S. at southern land border ports, SENTRI members get to use dedicated lanes. 

CLEAR Plus

A CLEAR Plus membership enables you to use your retinal scan or fingerprint to skip security lines. It’s pricier than other programs, at $189 per year, but could be worth it if you frequently fly through airports with long TSA PreCheck lines. 

Should I Get Global Entry or TSA PreCheck?

If you're a frequent traveler and want an easier, less intrusive airport security screening process, joining either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck is almost a no-brainer. Both programs require a bit of legwork and a fee but can save you a ton of time and hassle for five years of travel.

The choice between the two depends on how much you travel outside of the U.S. Generally, a few international trips per year may make Global Entry worthwhile due to the minimal cost difference. But if you strictly travel domestically, TSA PreCheck is a solid option. 

FAQ

Does Global Entry include TSA PreCheck?

Yes, if you pay the $100 for Global Entry membership, you automatically receive TSA PreCheck benefits as well. 

Who should get TSA PreCheck?

If you travel within the U.S. several times a year but don’t fly internationally, TSA PreCheck is a skip-the-line benefit at domestic airports. 

Who should get Global Entry?

Someone who flies frequently both within the U.S. and internationally is a great candidate for Global Entry. It costs just slightly more and gives you the added benefit of shortening your time in customs lines when flying back to the U.S. 

To Sum Up…

With both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, you can say goodbye to long airport lines and breeze through security much faster. Which is best for you depends on whether you mostly fly domestically (go for TSA PreCheck) or internationally (go for Global Entry).

For more travel tips and hacks, like dealing with lost luggage or delayed flights and scoring first-class flights on points, follow Erika on Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube.

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I'm an award-winning lawyer and personal finance expert featured in Inc. Magazine, CNBC, the Today Show, Business Insider and more. My mission is to make personal finance accessible for everyone. As the largest financial influencer in the world, I'm connected to a community of over 20 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I'm also the host of the podcast Erika Taught Me. You might recognize me from my viral tagline, "I read the fine print so you don't have to!"

I'm a graduate of Georgetown Law, where I founded the Georgetown Law Entrepreneurship Club, and the University of Notre Dame. I discovered my passion for personal finance after realizing I was drowning in over $200,000 of student debt and needed to take action-ultimately paying off my student loans in under 2 years. I then spent years as a corporate lawyer representing Fortune 500 companies, but I quit because I realized I wanted to have an impact; I wanted to help real people and teach them that you can create a financial future for yourself.

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Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.