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If you travel a lot, or even a few times a year, you might find TSA Pre-Check well worth the $85 you’ll have to pay for a five year membership. If you strongly dislike having to stand in line and go through the strange dance of taking off your shoes and peeling your laptop from its sleeve, only to watch your contact lense solution get the 3rd degree, Pre-Check just might be well worth the dough.

Zip Through Line in 5 Minutes, Hopefully

TSA Pre-Check is a paid-for security screening program that enables pre-approved travelers to get through an expedited screening process, currently, at more than 180 airports within the U.S. for both domestic and international flights originating in the United States. What this means is TSA Pre-Check travelers (and their children, under 12) do not need to remove their shoes, laptops, belts or light jackets, or to remove their zipped up bag of 3-1-1 liquids, i.e. that the quart-sized bag of creams, pastes, and solutions passengers are allowed to pack in their suitcases. Items containing significant amounts of metal may still need to be removed. A recent press release by the Transportation Security Administration stated that a full “97 percent of TSA Pre-Check passengers got through an expedited screening lane in less than 5 minutes” during late December 2016, early January 2017.

Perhaps the greatest factors to consider when determining whether the TSA Pre-Check is good for you, come down to: What airports do you fly on? And which airlines do you use? If you fly Delta airlines from MIA (Miami National Airport) to JFK in New York 3-4 times a year, Pre-Check might just be your saving grace. Same holds even if you fly Los Angeles (LAX) to Paris (CDG). But fly Qantas from LAX to Auckland, New Zealand (ACK)? Forget about it! It just isn’t available yet. Check and see if the program is available at your airline and airport here.

Who’s Eligible for TSA Pre-Check

In order to be eligible for Pre-Check you must be a law-abiding U.S. citizen, US national, or Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States. All applicants fingerprints will be collected during the screening process which takes place at one of the 370 enrollment centers across the nation. The TSA will then run applicant’s fingerprints through law enforcement, immigration, and intelligence databases as well as the CDC (Center for Disease Control).

Furthermore, in order to be eligible for TSA Pre-Check you must have a “Known Traveler Number” (KTN). Now here’s where it gets confusing. Your KTN may be assigned through other trusted traveler programs, namely, Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI which together, make up the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler programs. The long and short of it is this: if you do not belong to any of those other aforementioned programs, you most likely do not have a KTN. If you do belong to one of them, then your Known Traveler Number will be associated with your TSA Pre-Check upon membership. Therefore, all TSA Pre-Check members will have a Known Member Number but not all persons with KTN’s will have TSA Pre-Check. Besides having a KTN, Pre-Check members will have their Pre-Check status printed on their boarding passes; this is what allows them to go through the TSA Pre-Check line.

Not Perfect, Yet

TSA Pre-Check is not perfect. Once, solely a domestic program, it’s currently undergoing rapid expansion and as such, waiting in lines during peak travel times like major holidays is sometimes a reality due to their being insufficient staff at certain airports. Nevertheless, many frequent travelers think highly of the program. In a recent LA Times article about TSA’s Pre-Check, Rob Britton, adjunct professor of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University said, “I travel three or four times a month. Even if I were to only go once a month, it would be worth every penny. It’s just a great program.”

If you travel frequently or simply dread the ordeal of having to go through the “airport security dance,” consider Pre-Check. It could make travelling to-and-fro a generally less cumbersome experience, and just might make you a happier, more well-adjusted traveller.

 

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