Is TSA PreCheck Worth It?

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Is TSA PreCheck Worth It?

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.

What Are the Benefits of TSA PreCheck? 

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: 

  • You can keep your shoes, belt, and light jacket on
  • There’s no need to put your laptop or 3-1-1 liquids in a separate bin
  • Shorter security line and wait time

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

What’s the Price Tag for TSA PreCheck? 

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: 

  • $85 for the first five years, or $17 per year
  • $70 for five years thereafter, or $14 per year 

Can You Get TSA PreCheck for Free?

You may be able to receive TSA PreCheck status at no cost or at a discount. Consider: 

  • Military status – Active members of the United States Armed Forces, including the Reserves and National Guard, can use TSA PreCheck program’s priority pass for free for themselves and accompanying family members through age 12. So, if you are wondering “can my child go through TSA precheck with me” or “can my spouse use my TSA PreCheck with me,” then the answer is yes if you are an active member of the U.S Armed Forces.
  • Credit cards – There are currently 34 credit card programs that cover the cost of TSA PreCheck program either directly, as a credit against statement charges, or through point redemption.4
  • Travel loyalty programs – There are also four loyalty programs (IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, Orbitz Rewards, Radisson Rewards Americas), which similarly cover the TSA Pre Check fee.

Are There Other Costs for TSA PreCheck?

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: 

  • Government no-fly watch lists
  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC) no-fly watch lists (due to health concerns)
  • Law enforcement, immigration, and intelligence agency data

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. 

Is TSA PreCheck Worth the Cost? 

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. 

If you decide to apply, make sure to prepare all the TSA PreCheck requirements and familiarize yourself with the possible TSA interview questions.

Save Time Two Ways: Fast Application to TSA PreCheck

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.

Sources: 

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

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