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How to get TSA PreCheck

You found a great deal for your upcoming flight. Now, let’s make the airport security experience even better with the TSA PreCheck program which gives its members a designated, PreCheck-only line where shoes and light jackets stay on, the bag of toiletries stays in the carry-on and the laptop stays in its case. What follows is a first-person account by a FareCompare employee who recently joined PreCheck and called it, “One of the smartest travel moves I ever made.”

Step 1 – Online application

I went online to the TSA PreCheck Apply page to sign-up and answer a series of mostly yes-or-no questions, like these:

  • Have you ever used a maiden/previous name?
  • Have you ever used an alias?
  • Is your mailing address the same as your residential address?
  • Have you lived at your current residential address for more than five (5) years?

I was also asked to describe myself including hair color (the usual shades as well as “bald, blue, green, pink, purple”). Then there were more serious questions:

  • “Excluding juvenile cases unless convicted as an adult, have you been convicted, pled guilty including “no contest” (nolo contendere), or found not guilty by reason of insanity, of any disqualifying felony listed in TSA Eligibility Requirements, Part A, in any jurisdiction, military or civilian?”

After filling this out, I was then told to make an appointment for an in-person interview. You may be given a variety of location options. I was, and selected the one closest to me and set up an appointment for the interview (some locations allow walk-ins). This happened to be a busy time for the TSA, so I had to wait about two weeks for an appointment.

Step 2 – The interview

My interview took place at the office of a small tax business, which leased space to the TSA. It lasted about five minutes. I was shown my online application and asked to verify my answers (“Yes, that’s what I wrote”). Then I placed my hands on an electronic gizmo to record my fingerprints (no ink, no mess). Finally, I handed over a credit card and was charged $85 for a five-year PreCheck membership. Quick and easy.

Step 3 – Acceptance

About a week later, I received an email telling me I’d been accepted into PreCheck. The final step was to click a link in the email to get a Known Traveler Number or KTN. From now on, anytime I book tickets, I put my KTN in a clearly marked section for it and that’s how airlines know I’m in PreCheck. When it’s time to print out my boarding pass, the word PreCheck (or an abbreviation) will appear on the pass.

Step 4 – Benefits of PreCheck

With PreCheck on my boarding pass, I get to skip the long line at the checkpoint and go directly to the shorter, faster PreCheck line. I am allowed to keep my shoes and jacket on, while my toiletries stay in my carry-on and my laptop stays in its bag. Was PreCheck worth joining? Absolutely.