Travel can be costly—and not just in dollars, but in time. How many minutes tick into hours as you wait in lines, wade through forms, and sit in the bustling airport waiting areas? If you plan to fly soon or are a frequent traveler, figuring out how to minimize your time cost is a must.
For some, that can mean following a standard packing list, keeping a go-bag of toiletries on hand, and knowing where to park and what entrances to use. And for many people, it means using the Transportation Security Administration’s TSA PreCheck trusted traveler program to streamline security wait time and screenings.
Is TSA PreCheck worth it for you? Let’s weigh the costs and benefits.
TSA PreCheck benefits kick in once you head inside the airport. So long as you have the TSA PreCheck indicator showing on your boarding pass, you have access to the dedicated TSA Precheck lane at any security checkpoint. This means:
How much time do you save? 95% of TSA Precheck passengers spend less than five minutes at security checks, compared to an average of 9 to 23 minutes at the nation’s 25 busiest airports.1,2
Application to the TSA PreCheck trusted traveler program costs $85 and renewal cost depends on method: either $70 to renew online or $85 to renew at an enrollment center.3
Each payment covers five years, which (if you renew online) means:
You may be able to receive TSA PreCheck status at no cost or at a discount. Consider:
While there is some time involved in the application process and enrollment center appointment, it will be outweighed by the time savings at security checkpoints for even moderate travelers within a year or so.
That said, if you’re protective of your privacy, you might evaluate aspects of the application process as unwelcome costs.
Your name will be checked against:
More relevant to privacy is the fingerprinting done at TSA enrollment centers. The TSA hands off your fingerprints to the FBI for a criminal background check.5 It is illegal for the FBI to retain them and they’ve denied past accusations of doing so.
It’s unclear whether the TSA shares fingerprints with other law enforcement agencies. They do share significant biographical and background screening data with any agency deemed to be an “appropriate authority,” which has raised concerns from many organizations, including the ACLU.
You can sit down and calculate how much money you’re paying related to time savings fairly easily.
For instance, based on the $17 annual cost of the first five years, someone who flies four times per year ends up paying $4.25 per trip. Subtracting the five-minute average for TSA Pre Check member security line from a 16-minute average of regular security lineat a busy airport, you’re down to 11 extra minutes, or 37 cents per minute you’d pay to avoid extra wait time.
Travel monthly? Then your unit costs go down to $1.42 per trip and 13 cents per minute of wait time.
Most frequent travelers lean toward a “yes,” that TSA PreCheck membership is worth it, especially if a credit or other program balances the price. Ultimately, you need to decide if being a TSA PreCheck member is worth it to you based on your travel frequency and how you measure nonmonetary costs.
Yes, you’ll reduce your airport security screening and line sitting time—but did you know you can also reduce the time you spend applying for TSA PreCheck?
That’s where GOV+ comes in. Whether you’re renewing your TSA PreCheck or applying for the first time, GOV+ makes the process easy. All you have to do is fill out our easy online form. We’ll check your eligibility, set up any necessary in-person appointments for you, and make sure you have the correct documentation.
1. TSA. TSA PreCheck®. https://www.tsa.gov/precheck
2. Upgraded Points. Average TSA Security Wait Times by U.S. Airport [Interactive Data Study]. https://upgradedpoints.com/travel/airports/average-tsa-security-wait-times-us-airports/
3. TSA. TSA PreCheck® FAQ. https://www.tsa.gov/precheck/faq
4. TSA. Credit Cards and Loyalty Programs featuring TSA PreCheck. https://www.tsa.gov/precheck/credit-cards-offer
5. USA Today 10 Best. Why Does TSA PreCheck Need my Fingerprints. https://getaway.10best.com/12783006/why-does-tsa-precheck-need-my-fingerprints