You’re standing in the long TSA Precheck line, waiting for an invasive pat-down when a group of travelers confidently stride towards the proverbial velvet rope. There is no line and the TSA agent waves them through a metal detector with their shoes still on. There’s nothing special about these folks: They signed up for TSA Precheck, paid the $85 fee (or got it free with a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve) and will be speeding through airport security like this for the next five years. 

Whether you’re a globetrotter or domestic traveler, trusted traveler programs like TSA Precheck and Global Entry can make your trip through the airport much more pleasant. If you’ve ever been curious about joining one of these programs, in this guide we’ll cover everything from cost to benefits and which one makes the most sense for you. 

TSA Precheck

TSA Precheck is the most commonly visible trusted traveler program at airports these days. As the name denotes, Precheck is administered by the TSA and is open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Precheck applicants must submit an online application and complete an in-person interview. A background check and fingerprinting will be conducted as part of the vetting process. Once approved, you can skip the long security lines at the airport and breeze through the Precheck line with your shoes on. The Precheck application fee is $85 and several credit cards offer credits to off-set this fee, including the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (read more), Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the American Express Platinum card (more on those below).

Global Entry 

Global Entry is administered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the application fee is very similar to TSA Prechecks. Applicants must pay a $100 fee as part of the online application process and then conduct an in-person interview, background check and fingerprinting. 

Global Entry membership is also open to citizens of other countries, including:

  • Argentina 
  • Colombia
  • Germany 
  • India 
  • Mexico
  • Panama 
  • Singapore 
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan 
  • United Kingdom

Upon approval, travelers get access to expedited entry into the U.S. and other participating countries. This is ideal for frequent international travelers who want to skip the paperwork and crazy long processing times at customs and immigration. Another benefit? Automatic enrollment in TSA Precheck. 

This makes enrolling in Global Entry a no-brainer, since a $15 upcharge gets you enrolled in two programs. It’s also worth noting the same rewards credit cards that offer application fee credits for TSA Precheck also allow you to opt for the $100 Global Entry fee credit instead. These cards include the Capital One Venture Rewards card (read more), Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the American Express Platinum card as outlined below.

CLEAR

CLEAR is a technologically advanced service that is complementary to TSA Precheck. CLEAR members get to use their biometric data (i.e. iris scan, fingerprints) at automated kiosks in lieu of an I.D. when passing through participating U.S. airports and venues. While TSA Precheck saves you time at physical security, CLEAR gives you shorter wait times at the first stage of departure when getting your I.D. checked.

CLEAR is available at 52 airports and venues in the U.S. Membership usually costs $179 per year, but you can get a discount to $149 per year using coupon code AFF149. Want to try before you buy? Get a 2 month free trial for both you and your family members with coupon code 2FREE. Finally, you can also get $100 in CLEAR fees reimbursed per year with the new American Express Green Card, with a great sign-up bonus of 30,000 membership rewards points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

One major advantage CLEAR has over Precheck is the ability to add up to three family members to your CLEAR plan for a $50 annual fee, per person.

Below is a comparison chart of Global Entry, TSA Precheck and CLEAR.

 Global EntryTSA PrecheckCLEAR
Cost$100 every five years, includes TSA Precheck $85 every five years $179 per year/$15 per month ($149 per year with coupon AFF149), $50/year for additional family members
EligibilityU.S. citizens / permanent residents, citizens of 10 other countries (see above) U.S. citizens / permanent residents and select foreign U.S. citizens / permanent residents aged 18 and over
Valid for5 years5 years1 year or monthly
Locations served75 airports worldwide200 U.S. airports52 U.S. airports, stadiums and venues
BenefitsExpedited customs / immigration clearance upon arrival to the U.S. Expedited physical screening for departure at U.S. airports. Expedited identity verification for departure at U.S. airports, as well as admission to stadiums and other venues.
DiscountsAvailable free with the Capital One Venture Rewards card (read more), Chase Sapphire Reserve, and American Express Platinum cardAvailable free with the Capital One Venture Rewards card (read more), Chase Sapphire Reserve, and American Express Platinum cardAvailable free with the American Express Green Card.

2 month free trial with coupon code 2FREE or 1 year for $149 (usually $179) with coupon code AFF149
How to apply1. Apply online
2. In-person interview that includes fingerprinting and background check.
1. Apply online
2. In-person interview that includes fingerprinting and background check.
1. Apply online
2. Finish at any CLEAR location in 5 minutes, no appointment required

Which program is best?

Global Entry is by far the best program in terms of benefits for both international and domestic travelers. That’s largely because enrollment in Global Entry automatically gets you approved for TSA PreCheck, for only a nominal upcharge. Meanwhile, CLEAR can be a supplement to TSA Precheck by speeding up the time spent getting your I.D. checked. If you travel a lot, combining all three programs provides the most opportunities for expedited screening.

The only rewards credit card offering a $100 CLEAR membership fee credit is the new American Express Green Card. This and the program’s higher cost is why you may notice excessively long Precheck lines, while CLEAR is… well, clear. Of course, this will vary by airport but it’s something that’s worth bearing in mind, especially since the TSA plans to expand the Precheck program further.

Overall, Global Entry offers the most value with its automatic Precheck membership. The fact that several rewards credit cards will credit the application fee is just icing on the cake.

How to get TSA Precheck, Global Entry, or CLEAR free with a credit card 

Many rewards credit cards offer TSA Precheck or Global Entry fee credits. Usually, the credit is $85 for TSA Precheck and $100 for Global Entry. Since approval for Global Entry also gets you TSA Precheck, it makes more sense to use your credit for Global Entry.

All you have to do to claim your credit is charge the application fee to your eligible credit card. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll see a credit on your statement within 24 hours. Other cards can take up to 8 weeks to post.

Capital One Venture Rewards

If you’re looking for a great travel rewards credit card with a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, the Capital One Venture Rewards card (read more) is probably the best choice. While most credit cards with a TSA PreCheck credit carry annual fees upwards of $595, the Capital One Venture Rewards card has $0 fee the first year and $95 thereafter. Cardholders can choose between an $85 TSA Precheck or $100 Global Entry fee credit every four years.

The card also comes with a 50,000 mile welcome bonus, which is equal to $500 worth of travel credits. It earns 2 miles per $1 spent on all spending and has no foreign transaction fees (usually 2.5% of your purchase). The great thing about the miles earned with this card is that they can be used towards direct travel purchases at 1 cent each or they can be transferred to 15 airline frequent flyer programs like Air Canada Aeroplan and JetBlue TrueBlue at a 2:1.5 ratio. Learn how to apply here.

Capital One Venture Rewards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • 50,000 bonus miles (worth $500) once you spend $3,000 within 3 months from account opening
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Miles don't expire, no blackout dates, fly any airline, stay at any hotel
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, $95 after that
  • Learn how to apply

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA Precheck credit every four years . At $550, the card has a higher annual fee than the Capital One Venture, but it also offers a welcome bonus worth $750, along with other impressive perks. 

Cardholders receive an annual $300 travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership (for free airport lounge access), and 3 points per $1 spent on travel and dining worldwide. Throw in $0 foreign transaction fees and the Sapphire Reserve becomes a great contender for travel purchases made abroad.

This is also one of the few credit cards that offers primary collision coverage on rental cars, which is something you normally have to pay extra for at the rental desk. Learn how to apply here.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • 50,000 reward points (worth $750) after meeting the minimum spend of $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • 3x points when you spend on travel or dining worldwide
  • Free access to 1000+ airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass Select
  • Can transfer your reward points to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $550
  • Learn how to apply

Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit, available every four years. This card is loaded with annual credits, including $200 airline fee credits, $200 from Uber and $100 from Saks Fifth Avenue.

Additionally, cardholders receive complimentary access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide (one of the best lounge memberships in the world), Gold elite status with Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy, along with 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on direct airfare bookings and hotel reservations made through Amex Travel. No foreign transaction fees make this a great card to use abroad. Learn how to apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express

  • 60,000 bonus Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on your card in the first 3 months
  • Up to $15 in free Uber rides per month and Uber VIP status
  • 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines, or on flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel
  • Unlimited access to 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide through the American Express Global Lounge Collection (including Priority Pass Select lounges)
  • $200 airline fee credit per year (applied to checked bags, in-flight refreshments, and other incidental fees)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $550 (waived for active military personnel - read more). Terms apply.
  • Learn how to apply

The Thrifty Gist

  • Global Entry is ideal for international travelers who want an expedited immigration screening upon return, while TSA Precheck provides faster security lanes for domestic travelers. 
  • Since Global Entry members also receive TSA Precheck membership for just $15 more, Global Entry is the way to go.  
  • CLEAR provides speeds up the identification process with a designated line to provide biometric data before continuing to security.

Our top credit card picks for covering Global Entry and TSA Precheck fees are the Capital One Venture (read more), Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum Card. If you’re interested in CLEAR, you can get a $100 credit with the American Express Green Card.

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