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Business Travel Guides

The Definitive Guide To Choosing Between TSA Precheck, Global Entry or CLEAR

Do you know what’s worse than the long security lines at the airport? Standing in that long line, watching travelers with TSA Precheck or CLEAR breeze past and continue onto their gate. It’s like being stuck in gridlock rush hour traffic, as a commuter train speeds around the congestion and quickly disappears into the horizon. And whenever I encounter either, I quietly vow to be one of those lucky passengers or travelers next time.

Of course, what follows is diving into the different options available, and ultimately hitting a wall of choice paralysis. Which one do I choose? Which is the best option for my lifestyle and amount that I travel? Shouldn’t I be focusing on more important things, rather than researching expedited security screening services? Well, we’re putting an end to this indecision. We’ve completed a thorough investigation and laid it all out. Now, all you have to do is read these quick summaries and decide which service would benefit you the most.

 

TSA PreCheck

How it’s different

This short cut through the security line is run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which regulates the overall security line. Because it’s regulated from within TSA, you may have previously received free TSA PreCheck status in the past. It works by bypassing the long security lines, into the designated TSA PreCheck lines. The lines are usually smaller and faster because you don’t remove shoes, belts, laptops, or liquids.

What’s the application process?

Users subscribing to TSA PreCheck fill out a short online form. Then, one must schedule an interview with a TSA agent to finish the evaluation process. The interview is typically conducted at a TSA office, meaning you will likely need to drive to your closest airport to conduct the interview. Fortunately, TSA frequently promotes events outside of the airport to complete the process.

Cost

A $85 non-refundable fee that covers a 5 year membership. (That comes out to just $17 a year.)

Upside

  • Because it runs through the existing TSA, it has been implemented thoroughly throughout the U.S. It is currently in more than 200 airports and 53 airlines.
  • They are already rolling out new advanced technology in select TSA PreCheck security lines, like facial recognition technology, and only using your driver’s license.

Downside

  • There have been recent criticisms that TSA PreCheck is potentially the slowest of these advanced security screenings. Largely due to TSA PreCheck being run by the government, it is more likely to be understaffed with long lines during high use times.
  • The $85 application fee is non-refundable, even if you are not accepted into the program.
  • Having TSA PreCheck eligibility status is included in Global Entry, so paying for it individually may not be the most effective use of a membership.

Who should sign up

Any frequent business traveler who travels within the US. It is the best deal out of all of the services, but does have some potential drawbacks.

 

Global Entry – Trusted Traveler Programs

How it’s different

This is the only service that focuses on international travel by reducing the time spent in customs lines. Run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, its biggest advantage is it can be used in customs lines coming back into the U.S. Once flying back to the States and reaching customs, Global Entry members will pass to a designated kiosk, where they will scan their fingerprints and continue through the on-screen prompts.

Other Trusted Traveler Programs include Nexus and Sentri, expediting service between only the U.S. & Canada, and the U.S. and Mexico, respectively.

 Cost

$100 one-time fee for application. Includes a 5 year membership. (That comes out to $20 a year)

What’s the application process?

An online application, plus the fee. If your application is approved, an interview with a Customs & Border Protection agent will be scheduled at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Your fingerprints will be taken, which will later be used as identification when you use a Global Entry kiosk at customs.

Upside

  • The best option for international travel.
  • Includes TSA PreCheck membership

Downside

  • The wait time for your interview can be lengthy, sometimes six months out.
  • If you are denied entry into the program, your $100 application fee will not be returned.

Who should sign up

International travelers. Even one or two trips to another country could justify the price.

 

CLEAR

How it’s different

CLEAR is the only private service, not developed through the government. As a standalone service, it addresses the long security lines from a different angle. Rather than reducing the wait time in existing security lines, they instead created their own line. It scans your identity with a fingerprint scan and an eye scan.

Cost

$179 per year (that’s $15 per month)

What’s the application process?

A simple registration form, followed by a 5 minute set-up at an enrollment center. You will need your driver’s license to continue. CLEAR can be used through airport security that same day.

Upside

  • Easiest application process
  • Does not require any additional identification through the line process, just your boarding pass.
  • Can be used concurrently with TSA Pre-check Eligibility. Use CLEAR to verify your identity, then skip ahead to the Precheck line.
  • CLEAR is branching out into other avenues, like sports stadiums, arenas, and more. Potentially, you could use it in your everyday life.

Downside

  • The most expensive option, by far.
  • Limited availability in airports, though it is growing. Currently it’s in only 30 airports in the US.

Who should sign up

A very frequent business traveler, who knows that CLEAR is available in the airports he/she frequents.

 

 

 

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Travel News Travel Technology Travel Tips

How To Get Through U.S. Customs Faster

My last experience going through customs was pretty typical. I deplaned, walked endlessly through the airport, collected my bags and then madly ran to get a spot in line at customs. Sure, you can shorten your wait time if you bring only carry-on luggage or you are an extra fast runner, but overall the process definitely has room for improvement.

Global Entry

One option to speed through customs is signing up for the Global Entry program. Similar to TSA PreCheck, Global Entry expedites you through U.S. custom lines based on your pre-approved status. Offered through U.S. Customs and Border Protection, there is a multi-step approval process needed before your trip. It is available to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and accepted by a few other countries. It does have some restrictions for eligibility, including criminal convictions, outstanding warrants, or previous violations of immigration or custom regulations. If you are eligible, you can create an account on their Global Online Enrollment System (GOES), and complete the application. There is a  $100 non-refundable fee required for each applications. From there, your application will be reviewed. If it is conditionally approved, you will then be instructed to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Once fully approved, you can skip all processing lines, paperwork and significantly reduce your wait time!

Mobile Passport

The app Mobile Passport offers an alternative to the Global Entry program and is available at growing number of airports in the country. All you need to do is fill out the Customs and Border Protection form in the app on your mobile phone and enter your flight information and submit. Once this is complete, you will receive a electronic confirmation with a QR code and you can proceed to the line at customs indicated for “Mobile Passport Control”. Like the paper version of the form, the form in the app can be filled out for family members making traveling with kids just a tiny bit easier. As another benefit, it is free to use with no additional charges!

Whichever process you choose, you will make the customs process easier and less stressful. Use the comments below to tell us about your experiences using either Global Entry or Mobile Passport!

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Business Travel Guides

The Ultimate Airport Time-Saver: Tips for Enrolling in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

It’s not just your imagination: Airport security lines are getting longer and longer. And wait times will only get worse when travel peaks this summer, The New York Times reports.

Now is a better time than ever to consider the Trusted Traveler Programs like TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. More than four million people have already enrolled, saving valuable time and avoiding hassles at the airport like taking off shoes and removing laptops and liquids. This summer, it might even make the difference between catching and missing your next flight.

Wondering which one you should join? For most frequent travelers in the U.S., the choice comes down to the two biggest programs:

TSA Pre?

  • To apply: $85 fee for a five-year membership; requires in-person interview at one of 350+ enrollment centers (children 12 and under can use it free with a family member who is enrolled)
  • Who it’s for: U.S. citizens and permanent residents who mostly travel within the U.S.
  • What you get: You’ve seen these dedicated security lanes at the airport, often with just a handful of people in line. The program offers expedited airport screening; passengers don’t need to remove shoes, belts, laptops or liquids. It’s available with 12 participating airlines at more than 160 airports. (Some notable exceptions include low-fare carriers like Spirit and Frontier.)

Global Entry

  • To apply: $100 fee for a five-year membership; requires in-person interview at 80+ enrollment centers
  • Who it’s for: U.S. citizens, permanent residents and citizens of select other countries who travel internationally; requires a valid passport
  • What you get: Expedited clearance at Customs and Border Protection checkpoints at most U.S airports and select international airports. Travelers can skip these often lengthy queues and instead scan their fingerprints at automated machines without filling out any forms.
  • Here’s what’s key: With Global Entry, you’re automatically eligible for TSA PreCheck.

Which Should You Get?

For anyone planning to travel abroad in the next five years, the extra $15 for Global Entry is a no-brainer to get the benefits of both programs.

The biggest drawback: You’ll need to plan ahead. Since there are fewer enrollment centers for Global Entry than TSA PreCheck, the wait time for an appointment will generally be at least a few weeks, if not months. And if you frequently travel with family members, each person needs to apply and interview separately.

Tip: Global Entry’s related programs NEXUS or SENTRI can also add value for travelers across the Canadian and Mexican borders.

For those wanting to be even more speedy and efficient:

Also Consider CLEAR

  • To apply: The standard membership is $179 per year. Added family members (over 18) cost an additional $50. Children under 18 can use the CLEARlane for free (with a CLEAR member).
  • Who it’s for: U.S. citizens and permanent residents over 18; requires a valid passport or photo I.D.
  • Where can you use it? CLEAR lanes are currently in the following airports: Austin (AUS), Baltimore (BWI), Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH & HOU), Las Vegas (LAS), Miami (MIA), Orlando (MCO), San Antonio (SAT), San Francisco (SFO), San Jose (SJC) and Westchester, N.Y. (HPN)
    • More airports are coming: Delta Air Lines and CLEAR recently announced a partnership that will bring the program to all Delta U.S. hubs this year.
  • What you get: CLEAR uses your fingerprint instead of a license/passport to get you through the ID-checking portion of security. A CLEAR team member greets you at their lane, scans your boarding pass, taps your finger and escorts you straight to physical screening, skipping the long ID lines.
  • Here’s what’s key: For the fastest way to get through security, a CLEAR membership combined with TSA PreCheck means a quick fingerprint scan and then going straight through expedited security. These two programs address different pain points in security lane delays.

Time and Money-Saving Tips for TSA Pre? and Global Entry

  • Make sure you’re eligible before you apply: This seems like a no-brainer, but if you’re not approved, the application fee won’t be refunded.
  • Application fee reimbursement: Several credit cards – including the AmEx Platinum and Citi Prestige – will offer a statement credit for the application fee. Certain elite members of frequent flyer programs like Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus can also receive this benefit.
  • Plan around your travels: If you’re applying for Global Entry, many enrollment centers are located in major airports, including big connecting hubs like Chicago. I scheduled my interview about 2.5 hours before a flight I had already booked from JFK. So I just got to the airport earlier than I normally would.
  • Check for last-minute openings: As word gets out, the backlog of appointments is growing. I had to wait over a month for my appointment, but check once or twice a week. I noticed some last-minute appointments open up.
  • Know your Known Traveler Number: Once approved, you are assigned a Known Traveler Number. Enter this when you book a flight to be eligible for PreCheck on your boarding pass. If you’re a member of a frequent flyer program, you can just save the number to your profile to automatically apply to future bookings.
  • Double check before you fly: You might get use to the shorter lines, but PreCheck isn’t always guaranteed (especially for international flights on foreign carriers’ code-share partners). And remember: Not every airline and airport participates in PreCheck, so make sure to check the list here.

Read Next: TSA PreCheck: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

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Business Travel

Getting Through Airport Security

tsaIn order to test TSA airport security systems, undercover agents will try to get through undetected with hidden threats. When it was revealed that 95% of the time TSA security screeners and/or devices failed to detect the agents’ hidden threats, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, began considering additional measures to increase safety.

But what does that mean for you as a traveler? More than likely, it potentially means longer lines at security check points. To avoid this, especially if you are a frequent traveler, we recommend you sign up for Global Entry or TSA Pre?™. There is no time like the present.

For more information on these programs visit CBP.gov or TSA.gov. For additional information on which airlines and airports offer TSA Pre?™ click here.

Related Posts

  1. How to Enroll in TSA Pre?™
  2. Global Entry: Experienced Business Travelers’ #1 Travel Tip
  3. TSA Pre?™: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  4. How to Avoid Security Lines (or at least get through them faster)
Categories
Business Travel Travel Industry Travel News

TSA Pre? Update

TSA Pre?™ has recently undergone some positive changes. Due to complaints regarding slow lines, not enough personnel coverage, and too many non-Pre? members using the Pre? lanes, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has reduced the number of non-Pre? passengers using those lanes by 25%.

However, this doesn’t mean it is smooth sailing for TSA Pre? members. In 2014, Congress reduced funding for TSA by $530 million and the agency had to cut 3,500 screening positions. TSA’s reduction in personnel leaves TSA employees covering both the Pre? and the regular lines. This also allows for low risk travelers to go through the TSA Pre? lanes for faster screening.

Travelers may not like this, but TSA hopes the experience will encourage non-members to apply for the expedited service. In fact, TSA is hiring a private contractor to recruit people into the trusted-traveler status. In 2015, a marketing campaign will begin to recruit members and TSA will offer onsite sign-ups at business locations.

Currently 598,184 people are enrolled in PreCheck and more than 1.3 million through Global Entry. With the new campaign, TSA could sign up some 10 million people. In theory, more people, more money, more personnel, means faster screening. I least I hope so.

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Business Travel Travel Tips

Global Entry: Experienced Business Travelers’ #1 Travel Tip

According to Business Insider, the most recommended tip from experienced business travelers for surviving life on the road is to utilize Global Entry.

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Participants may enter the United States by using automated kiosks located at select airports. Program participants simply present their machine-readable passports, place their fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification, and make a customs declaration.

Global Entry applicants must undergo a rigorous background check and interview before enrollment. Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for more information and Global Entry enrollment center locations.

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Business Travel Travel Industry

TSA Precheck: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

TSA Pre?™ comes on the heels of other pre-approved security organizations similar to Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI. For those not familiar with TSA Pre?™, here is a quick overview:

What is TSA PreCheck?

For an $85 fee, a background check, and an interview, you have access to faster moving lines, and quicker security screening. There is no removal of belts, shoes, and lightweight jackets. Liquids and laptops stay in your carry-on bag. TSA Pre?™ began its program in December of 2013. Six months later, many wonder, “Is it worth the money?”

How I used TSA PreCheck

I used to travel to Canada quite a bit and signed up for a NEXUS card, background check and interview included. This allowed me to expedite my way through customs in a separate line. Because of my NEXUS card, I was automatically enrolled in the TSA Pre?™ program.

In the beginning, I was ecstatic over the ease and speed of going through the security lines. It was like having status with the TSA just like I had with my airline priority status. But soon, airlines began issuing random TSA Pre?™ clearance to random passengers, which may have been nice for the traveler receiving this random service, but not for the rest of us.

I found myself stuck behind people who still took off their jackets and shoes, and took out their laptop, and liquids. TSA agents would advise travelers to put their items back into their bags, and put their jackets back on. The lines were often slower because of the double duties of unpacking and repacking personal belongings. A couple of times, people said, “Wow, you were randomly chosen for TSA Pre?™–aren’t you lucky?” When in reality, I wanted to say, “I made my own luck by paying for this service.”

So back to my original question: Is it worth it? My opinion is yes!

The good: Most of the time, the TSA Pre?™ lines are faster than the regular lines. I have shortened my overall travel time knowing I can leave later from my home since the TSA line will be shorter.

The bad: There are inexperienced travelers in the TSA Pre?™ lines. If I need to wait for an inexperienced traveler, I figure they will soon learn the ropes and either sign up for this service on their own or know what to do the next time they are randomly chosen.

The ugly: The upcoming summer season is when travel is at its peak. It will be interesting to see if TSA will keep the Pre?™ lines moving quickly or if they will be used as overflow for the additional travelers. Either way, I will simply allow extra time just in case lines are longer than usual, and keep my fingers crossed I have a speedy security check.

For more information on the TSA Precheck program, you can visit their website at TSA.gov.

Categories
Travel Industry Travel News

Southwest Airlines joins TSA’s PreCheck Program

There are now eight airlines participating in TSA’s Pre-Check program. Southwest Airlines’ frequent travelers can now earn pre-approved status and enjoy the benefits and expedited services of the TSA Pre-Check program.

The other major carriers participating in the program are Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, Untied, US Airways, and Virgin America. All major airports offer this service, but not all terminals offer TSA Pre-Check lines and some terminals have limited hours of service, so be sure to check this information before you decide that it’s safe to run late for your flight. Remember also that TSA Pre-Check is airline specific so if you earn TSA Pre-Check on Delta you won’t qualify for TSA Pre-Check when you travel other airlines.

TSA plans to begin an open enrollment program for the general population later this year.  This program will allow qualified citizens and lawful permanent residents to enroll after submitting for a background check.  The cost of this program will be $85.00.  If you travel internationally the best program for you will be the Global Entry program managed by Customs Boarder Patrol and costs $100.00 for five years.

At participating airports with both TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry you will not be required to remove your shoes, belts, light jackets/outerwear and you can leave your laptop computers in their cases and your 3 ounce bottles of liquids and gels in your carry-on bags.

Read next: