Is TSA PreCheck Worth It?
Few things are as easy on the eyes as the following two magical words printed on your boarding pass: “TSA PreCheck.” The phrase means a smoother, and oftentimes faster, security procedure, which is usually one of the most painful airport experiences (besides buying the most expensive bottled water you’ve ever seen).
However, time is money, after all, and the option to save time doesn’t come for free. So, is it worth getting TSA PreCheck? Let’s find out.
What is TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck is a Trusted Traveler program that allows you to go through a dedicated security line at more than 200 U.S. airports. When going through this line, you can keep the following items in your carry-on bag or on your person:
The Transportation Security Administration, which runs the program, estimates that 95% of TSA PreCheck passengers wait less than five minutes in the security line.
Now that travelers are returning to the skies after pandemic lockdowns, TSA lines are getting longer, and many have decided that TSA PreCheck membership is worth paying money for. How much money? In the grand scheme of things, not that much.
How much does TSA PreCheck cost?
TSA PreCheck costs $85 and is valid for five years, which comes out to $17 per year. Children ages 12 and younger can join their parents in the PreCheck line at no cost.
Renewing your participation in the program after five years costs another $85 if you renew in person or $70 if you renew online. However, there are multiple ways to get the membership fee covered. (More on this below.)
If you’re a member of another trusted traveler program, such as Global Entry, Nexus or Sentri, TSA PreCheck is included in your membership, so you might already have access to it and don’t know it yet.
The best TSA PreCheck benefits
There are several TSA PreCheck benefits, and when combined, they’re quite valuable to a frequent traveler. Examples include:
Security lines are often shorter. As mentioned above, in most cases, no more than five minutes separate you from the back of the security line to the terminal, meaning the most useful benefit is, of course, saving time.
You can leave your shoes on. Having to take off footwear in a public space that hundreds of thousands of passengers go through is so … icky. With TSA PreCheck, you can keep your shoes on and your socks clean.
Your laptop and liquids don’t need separate security bins. You know how sometimes you pack your carry-on bag so flawlessly, any disturbance will mess up the entire Tetris-style order inside? Being a TSA PreCheck member allows you to keep your laptop and liquids perfectly packed.
How to know if TSA PreCheck is right for you
You can never predict your post-PreCheck future, but following these steps can help you make the best possible choice.
Step 1: Compare different Trusted Traveler programs versus skipping such services altogether
Familiarize yourself with what Trusted Traveler programs are and what they do.
They’re designed for different kinds of travelers, but many also include TSA PreCheck. Are you a globetrotter? Do you cross the border between the U.S. and Canada or Mexico often? It’s possible that one of these programs works better than the other for your personal travel patterns.
Step 2: Assess the upsides
What it comes down to is this — how much time are you willing to spend at the airport? The upside of having access to a PreCheck line is less time waiting and more time doing the things you actually enjoy (like kicking back in an airport lounge or sipping on your latte while people-watching at the gate).
If you take early morning flights, you also get more opportunities to hit the snooze button.
Step 3: Understand the costs
Although TSA PreCheck membership isn’t free, $85 for five years isn’t an outrageous sum of money. That comes out to $17 a year; if you fly every other month, you essentially pay $3 a pop for less stress and more convenience at security.
Make sure to calculate how many times per year you go to the airport and how important it is for you to be able to go through a shorter and quicker security line every trip.
Step 4: Make a plan for use
Do you travel domestically or internationally? Does your home airport have a TSA PreCheck line? How many trips per year do you think you’ll make?
Say you fly out of a U.S. airport four times per year. Is paying $4.25 to enter the PreCheck line worth it to you? The more you travel, the lower the per-trip cost of membership drops.
How can I get a TSA PreCheck fee credit?
If you hold certain travel cards, you can get reimbursed for TSA PreCheck. Simply use one of the cards below to pay for your application fee and receive a statement credit from the card issuer.
The following cards reimburse the cost of TSA PreCheck:
Travel cards that cover the cost of TSA PreCheck
Another option to get the $85 fee waived is to become an Orbitz Rewards Platinum member. If you have the top status in the Orbitz loyalty program and enroll in TSA PreCheck, Orbitz will cover the cost.
So, is TSA PreCheck worth it?
Yes, it is worth getting TSA PreCheck, especially if you can get it covered as part of a credit card or loyalty program benefit. Who doesn’t love saving time at the airport? For a frequent traveler, that extra free time adds up to minutes, days and months of sleeping in, remembering to pack the final items or spending more time at home with loved ones.
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