What's the Difference Between Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck?

Understanding Whether Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Is Right For You

Flying can be a lot less stressful when you're enrolled in a traveler program like Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. But understanding the differences between the two programs can be tricky. TSA PreCheck helps get you through security lines faster, while Global Entry offers expedited entry into the United States when returning from international travel. Each deals with kids differently. Here's the rundown on each so you can decide the best choice for your family.

TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck is a membership program that allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers access to expedited security screening at participating airports. Travelers are not required to remove shoes or unpack bags when going through security, meaning that the lines are often much shorter, and it's easier for families with kids. This program allows kids under 12 to accompany parents without being a member themselves, which can be a benefit to frequently traveling families. Here are the details:

  • TSA PreCheck is available at over 180 airports and with 37 airlines. 
  • U.S. citizens and legal U.S. residents are eligible to apply. 
  • The application process is easy. The application consists of a short online application and an in-person interview at one of the TSA PreCheck Enrollment Centers. Each application requires a non-refundable $85 application fee. 
  • Children under age 12 traveling with a parent who is enrolled in TSA PreCheck can participate in the parent's expedited security screening. Children over the age of 12 need to apply for their own membership at the same fee of $85. 
  • After a traveler is approved for TSA PreCheck, she receives a Known Traveler Number. That number must be put into future airline reservations to receive TSA PreCheck benefits.
  • A TSA PreCheck membership lasts three years. After that time, a member may reapply using the same process. 
  • TSA PreCheck is best for frequent travelers who want to get through security faster and more efficiently. It's great for families with young children because it means waiting in shorter lines and not being required to unpack any luggage or remove any clothing. It's also budget-friendly since children under 12 don't need their own membership. 

Global Entry

Global Entry is a membership program run by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. It makes it faster to get through customs when returning from an international destination. Kids need to have their own membership, which can be more costly than TSA PreCheck. Here are the details:

  • When a Global Entry member arrives at a U.S. airport from a foreign destination, he may use the Global Entry kiosks, which require the traveler to scan his machine-readable passport, use the fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. 
  • U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and citizens of Colombia, United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland are eligible to apply for Global Entry. 
  • Applications are fairly simple. Every applicant must create a Global Online Enrollment System account. After creating the account, the applicant completes the online application form and pays the $100 non-refundable fee. Each applicant needs to book an in-person interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. A valid passport, as well as one other form of ID, is required for the appointment. 
  • Children under 18 may apply for Global Entry, but need consent from a parent or legal guardian who must be present for the in-person interview. The cost for children is also $100, and each child needs her own membership. 
  • If the application is approved, the applicant receives a Global Entry Card and a Trusted Traveler membership number. 
  • Global Entry membership lasts for five years. A member is allowed to renew his membership up to one year before it expires. 
  • TSA PreCheck is included in a Global Entry membership. All members can put their membership number into an airline reservation for access to TSA PreCheck at participating airports. 
  • Global Entry membership is best for travelers who leave the country several times per year. It is probably not worth it for families who travel infrequently to international destinations. It's a good deal budget-wise, however, since it includes TSA PreCheck and lasts for five years. 

the nest