What does TSA PreCheck do?

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What does TSA PreCheck do?
Published on Nov 01, 2023
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In 2021, an average of more than 1.5 million people boarded flights throughout the United States, and they all had one thing in common—they had to pass through airport security.

But, a small portion of travelers secured shorter physical security screenings by enrolling in the expedited screening of  TSA PreCheck.

So, what does TSA PreCheck do and what are the differences between TSA Precheck vs Clear? In short, it significantly reduces travelers’ time in international airport security lines. In this article, we’ll explore the nitty-gritty of TSA PreCheck benefits, the policy’s fine print, and why it just might be the answer to all of your international airport security woes.

TSA PreCheck: Big benefits, low price

What’s TSA PreCheck?

Travelers enrolled in TSA PreCheck take three easy steps to skip long security lines forever—or at least until the five-year enrollment period ends:

  1. They complete an online application.
  1. They schedule an appointment at a nearby enrollment center for in-person identity verification.
  1. They pay an $85 enrollment fee, followed by a $70 TSA PreCheck renewal process fee if they choose to sign up for another five years.

PreCheck travelers can use a designated security checkpoint at every major airport, but a shorter security line isn’t the only perk. Travelers must undergo a brief document screening like every other traveler—when a TSA PreCheck indicator checks their boarding pass and ID—but the physical screening is much less time-consuming.

PreCheck travelers can:

  • Leave their shoes and belt on when passing through the metal detector
  • Keep their laptops and large electronics inside their carry-on luggage
  • Leave their liquids inside their bags

Whether you’re a frequent flier for business, pleasure, or both, the TSA PreCheck Lane is guaranteed to speed up the security process and get you to your terminal lickety-split.

The combination of a shorter line and an expedited screening process renders TSA Pre a nearly-priceless asset for travelers.

The fine print

The TSA PreCheck program might sound too good to be true, but travelers should be aware of some fine print. Let’s explore how the program impacts travelers with small children, how to use the Known Traveler Number, and whether or not PreCheck is available in every airport.

PreCheck for kids

One of many TSA PreCheck benefits is that children 12 and under traveling with a PreCheck-enrolled adult don’t need to complete the application process.

Since the application process requires a photo ID for identity verification, which most children don’t have until their late teens, the inclusion of supervised children 12 and under makes using the designated TSA PreCheck line even more convenient for travelers with young children.

But, if parents plan to send a child 12 and under on a whirlwind adventure as an unaccompanied minor, the child will have to complete the application process to reap the benefits of TSA PreCheck while traveling alone. In addition, they’ll have to enroll once they turn 13 to continue using PreCheck with their parents.

So, while you may be able to delay enrolling children under 12 in PreCheck for a few years, it’s recommended that you enroll your entire family simultaneously.

Known traveler numbers

Once your application is approved by TSA, you can begin using PreCheck right away. But, to proceed past the document inspection phase of airport security, you must have a Known Traveler Number (KTN) listed on your boarding pass.

Some quick facts about the KTN include:

  • The TSA assigns the KTN as soon as a traveler’s PreCheck application is approved.
  • The KTN is unique to the traveler, like a Social Security Number.
  • A traveler’s KTN is valid for the duration of their enrollment period and stays the same when travelers complete the renewal application at the end of their first five-year term.

But, to reap the benefits of PreCheck, and prove that you’re an authorized participant in the program, you must enter your KTN when purchasing tickets from your airline.

Airport availability

TSA PreCheck is available at more than 200 airports nationwide, and more than 80 airlines ask for a KTN during ticket purchases. So, it’s incredibly unlikely to find an airport without a designated PreCheck security checkpoint. Even small regional airports—like Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) in Wyoming and Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) in North Carolina—have them.

Even if you stumble upon an airport without a designated PreCheck line, you can still enjoy the luxury of expedited service. Most security checkpoints have a TSA agent or airline staff at the end of a security line to take a cursory glance at travelers’ boarding passes. Simply show your boarding pass and point out your KTN to the agent, and you’ll be directed to the front of the line for the usual star treatment.

To avoid the hustle and bustle of getting a TSA PreCheck in person, simply fill out this TSA PreCheck® form to apply for TSA PreCheck online right now.


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