After my husband and I ended up in the fray of long security waits one May in San Diego, right at the moment when everyone was tweeting pictures of security lines, we decided we had had enough and planned to investigate TSA PreCheck, especially since my family usually flies 6 or more times each year thanks to the Southwest Companion Pass!

After looking into it, we felt like it was a good deal for us, considering how much we travel.

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What Is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck is a program that essentially pre-screens you — and this screening is good for 5 years — before arriving at the airport, allowing you to go through an expedited screening line.

You also do not have to take off your shoes, remove your laptop from its bag or take off light jackets. Lines SHOULD be shorter there and the time and hassle saved from removing shoes, etc. is incredibly valuable.

The cost is $78 per person and gets you a “known traveler number.” You can add that into your Southwest Rapid Rewards or other airline account, and it will automatically populate on your boarding pass each time.

Can Kids Go Through With Parents?

I had to call and add them to our flights that are already booked once we got our numbers for the first time. Children 12 and younger do not need their own “known traveler number” and can go with parents.

Once my older son turned 13, we used the TSA PreCheck credit that comes with Chase Sapphire Reserve, so he could have his own Known Traveler Number.

TSA PreCheck does not work with all airlines, especially some of the low-cost carriers, but it does work with most of the major airlines, including Southwest.

Here is a complete list of TSA PreCheck airline partners.

Credit Cards That Reimburse for TSA PreCheck

There are also some credit cards that will reimburse you for TSA PreCheck, but most come with a hefty annual fee, so essentially you’re paying it as part of the annual fee.

Here are some of our top recommended options:


The Approval Process

Once we decided to get TSA Pre-Check in the spring, we were afraid we would not be able to secure approval before going on our New York City trip in June. And it seems like security at LaGuardia is just a nightmare waiting to happen.

But the TSA PreCheck process went incredibly quickly and was super simple!

You start online and fill out a form with basic questions. Because I have a passport, I had to answer more questions than my husband online.

After filling out the form, you select a facility where you want to have your in-person appointment. We scheduled our appointments online, within a week from the day we began the process, and it noted which documents we needed to bring to prove our identity.

I only had to bring my passport, while my husband had to bring multiple documents, but he had to answer more online questions ahead of time.

The in-person appointment took less than 10 minutes for me and 15 minutes for my husband. Again, mine was shorter due to the fact I’d already gone through checks to get my passport.

They ask you a few simple questions, look at your identification and take fingerprints. Then you pay your $78 and are told you will be notified within 4 weeks if you are approved.

It took about four to five days for us each to receive our Known Traveler Numbers — in plenty of time for our New York City trip. 

For International Flyers

Should I get TSA Precheck
Customs line in Turks & Caicos, a good reason to get Global Entry!

If you are planning to fly internationally soon, you will probably want to instead apply for Global Entry, which is a pre-screening process for entrance back into the United States, which is when you have to go through customs to declare anything you purchased.

It allows you to expedite the customs process, which can have lengthy lines when you’re returning from a foreign country.

It costs more – $100 – but also allows you to apply for TSA PreCheck as part of that fee. The process is similar to TSA PreCheck.

CLEAR is another option and Scenic Suitcase weighs in on both CLEAR and Global Entry.

What do you think? Are you considering TSA PreCheck? Is the fee worth it to save hassles while traveling over the next five years?

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  • Lyn Mettler

    Lyn Mettler is a longtime travel writer for US News & World Report, USA Today 10Best and The TODAY Show who created Families Fly Free, a program which teaches families her simple system to use travel rewards to fly for free.

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