TSA's PreCheck Initiative: Clarifying Questions about 'Paying for Faster Security'

In the past couple of days, we’ve seen headlines reading, “Pay the TSA $100” for PreCheck, which is the Transportation Security Administration’s quicker and easier security experience – you get to keep your shoes on – but such headlines can be misleading.

So far (and as far as is known for the future), participants in the faster security lines don’t pay the the TSA a dime. However, some participants do pay a fee – to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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Who Pays, Who Does Not Pay for Quicker Security

To understand who pays and why, you need to know that there are two ways to get in on the PreCheck experience. First, anyone who aspires to PreCheck must be a U.S. citizen. After that, there are two categories of participants.

1. Elite miles members: If you are a member of either American or Delta’s frequent flyer miles program and fly a lot, you may receive an invitation to join PreCheck. Invitations are sent based on the information volunteered when signing up for the miles program. These participants pay nothing.

Note: The TSA says Alaska, United and US Airways will also sign on with the PreCheck initiative for their frequent flyers, but no date has been set yet.

2. Members of a Customs and Border Protection trusted traveler program. There is a single application process for these “Global Entry” programs with a fee of $100, which includes an interview as part of a vetting process. The fee is good for five years’ worth of quicker security access, and many say, it’s worth it.

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Why PreCheck is a Quicker Experience

Several airports already have lanes set aside for PreCheck passengers and there will be 35 participating airports across the country by the end of 2012.

In general, those who participant in PreCheck do not have to remove the following items:

  • Shoes
  • 3-1-1 compliant bag from carry-on
  • Laptop from bag
  • Light outerwear or jackets
  • Belt

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PreCheck Does Not Guarantee Faster Security

However, it’s important to note that PreCheck does not mean all participants will get a quicker security experience.

According to the TSA, the agency “will always incorporate random and unpredictable security measures throughout the airport and no individual will be guaranteed expedited screening.”


Published: March 15, 2012