Traveling can be a thrilling experience, but the long queues at the airport can be a huge downside. The thought of standing in a long line waiting for your turn to go through security can be frustrating and stressful, especially for families with young children. Fortunately, there are trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry, TSA Pre-check, and CLEAR that make traveling easier and less stressful. Since our family has all three trusted traveler program memberships, I’m discussing why families should invest in them and how to get them for free or at a discount.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a program created by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. It is designed to speed up the immigration and customs process for travelers entering the United States. With Global Entry, travelers can skip the long lines at customs and immigration and use automated kiosks to complete their entry into the US.
Related: Do you have Global Entry? Here’s why you should.
To participate in Global Entry, travelers must complete an online application, pay a $100 non-refundable fee, and undergo a background check. If approved, Global Entry membership is valid for five years. Members also have access to TSA Pre-check, which we’ll discuss later in this post.
What is TSA Pre-check?
TSA Pre-check is a trusted traveler program created by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It is designed to expedite the airport security process for travelers departing from US airports. With TSA Pre-check, travelers can skip the long lines at airport security checkpoints and move through security quickly.
To participate in TSA Pre-check, travelers must complete an online application, pay an $85 non-refundable fee, and undergo a background check. If approved, the TSA Pre-check membership is valid for five years.
What is CLEAR?
CLEAR is a private program that is available at select airports in the US. It is designed to expedite the airport security process by allowing members to skip the ID check and biometric scan lines. Instead, members can use a CLEAR kiosk to verify their identity and move directly to the TSA Pre-check or airport security checkpoint.
To participate in CLEAR, travelers must complete an online application, provide biometric data (such as fingerprints and iris scans), and pay an annual fee of $179. CLEAR membership is valid for one year and is renewable.
Which Trusted Traveler Program Membership is Best
While we have all three memberships, determining which is best to have depends on you and your family’s specific needs and travel patterns. But if I had to choose just one, it would be Global Entry because it is the most comprehensive of the three. It provides expedited clearance through U.S. Customs and Border Protection and enrollment in TSA Precheck. This means that families can avoid long lines and wait times both when entering the United States and when going through security at U.S. airports. With Global Entry, families can move quickly through the airport and avoid the stress and hassle of long lines and security screenings. While CLEAR can also be useful for families, it is limited to participating airports and stadiums, which may not always be convenient for families’ travel needs. But I do like that CLEAR allows you to skip lines entirely, which comes in handy when you have a fussy infant or toddler. Ultimately, the best program for a traveler will depend on their specific travel needs and preferences.
How to Get Membership for these Traveler Programs for Free or at a Discount
Investing in these traveler programs can save families a significant amount of time and hassle at the airport. However, the cost of these programs can be a concern for some families. Fortunately, there are ways to get Global Entry, TSA Precheck, and CLEAR for free or at a discount through credit card benefits.
Many credit cards offer reimbursement for the cost of Global Entry or TSA Precheck as part of their benefits package. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Platinum Card from American Express both offer up to $100 in statement credits for Global Entry or TSA Precheck every four or five years, respectively. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the United Explorer Card also offer reimbursement for the cost of Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
CLEAR is also available as a credit card benefit with some cards. The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card and the United Club Card both offer a discount on CLEAR membership, and the Platinum Card from American Express offers a statement credit for CLEAR membership.
Why families should invest in these Traveler Programs
Global Entry, TSA Pre-check, and CLEAR are programs designed to speed up the airport security process. They allow travelers to avoid long lines and move through security quickly. Here are some reasons why families should invest in these programs:
- Faster Security Screening: With Global Entry, TSA Pre-check, and CLEAR, families can enjoy expedited security screening. This means that they can bypass the long lines and get through security more quickly, which can be a huge time-saver. This is especially important when traveling with young children, who may become impatient or restless waiting in long lines.
- More Time for Other Activities: When families are traveling, there are often other things they would rather be doing than waiting in airport lines. By investing in these programs, families can free up time to enjoy other activities, such as shopping, dining, or exploring the airport.
- Reduced Stress: Traveling can be stressful, especially when dealing with long lines and airport security. By investing in Global Entry, TSA Pre-check, and CLEAR, families can reduce the stress and anxiety associated with airport travel. This can help make the trip more enjoyable and relaxing for everyone.
- Cost Savings: While there is a fee associated with these programs, families can save money in the long run. For example, TSA Pre-check is valid for five years and costs $85 per person, which works out to just $17 per year. For families that travel frequently, the time and stress savings can easily justify the cost.
- Better Travel Experience: Overall, investing in these programs can help families have a better travel experience. By making the airport process more efficient and less stressful, families can focus on enjoying their trip and making memories together.
Families should consider investing in traveler programs like Global Entry, TSA Precheck, or CLEAR to enhance their travel experience. These programs offer significant benefits and can save valuable time and hassle at the airport. Families should also look into credit card benefits that offer reimbursement or discounts for these programs to save on the cost of membership.