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These 4 TSA PreCheck Perks Changed My Whole Travel Experience

Updated: Aug 14

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I hate just about everything about the air travel experience. The uncomfortable airports, the long security lines, and the overpriced food are just the start of the experience.

Then, you'll have the luxury to spend hours crammed into a narrow airplane surrounded by up to 200 of your closest friends, or even more if you're travelling between continents.

Luckily, this year, I finally signed up for TSA PreCheck. And it changed my entire travel experience!

Here are my favorite TSA PreCheck perks and how they can change your entire travel experience too!

What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck is a program sponsored by the United States Transportation Security Administration that allows credentialed travelers to bypass long security screening queues at many of the nation's largest and medium sized airports.

Beyond saving time in line for security screening, the TSA PreCheck program also allows enrollees to leave their shoes on, leave their large technology items in their bags, and also provides other conveniences.

Who is eligible for TSA PreCheck?

The TSA PreCheck program is available to United States citizens, nationals, and lawful residents with a permanent status, also known as green card holders. Further requirements include:

  • The completion of a background check: Your criminal history, immigration status, and other aspects of your past will be reviewed. Certain criminal and other history could be treated as disqualifying for the program.

  • No age requirements: There is technically not an age requirement to receive PreCheck. But your children and dependents may not be able to gain access to shortened security lines off your PreCheck status. The exception to this rule is if your children are aged 12 and under, so long as they accompany a parent or guardian with PreCheck.

Finally, it is worth noting that just because you are TSA PreCheck eligible does not guarantee that you will be approved.

How to apply for TSA PreCheck

I'll go into more detail in a minute or two, but the TSA PreCheck process has gotten much easier over the past few years.

Currently, to take advantage of the service, you'll need to follow these steps:

  1. Complete the pre-enrollment process

  2. Make an in-person appointment

  3. Wait on a background check

  4. Receive your Known Traveler Number

1. Complete the pre-enrollment process

Your first step to flying stress-free is to complete the TSA's pre-enrollment process online. The PreCheck program now costs $78 per year and is active for five years, which I think is a great value for the price!

You'll fill out some online documentation using the link above, which will ask you for a lot of information, such as:

  • Your legal name

  • Any former aliases

  • Date of birth

  • Email address

After a few pages worth of information, you'll be asked to schedule an appointment for the next step in the process.

2. Make and attend an in-person appointment

After you make an appointment, you can relax until it is time to attend your in-person appointment. Over the past few years, the TSA has made these appointments more flexible.

My wife and I were actually able to complete our meeting at our local Staples store.

The meetings were really brief and took less than 10 minutes each. We were photographed, fingerprinted, asked to answer a couple of basic questions, and were told about the looming background check.

With that, we paid our $78 each and went on our way.

3. Wait on a background check

After your appointment is complete, you'll once again be in a waiting game as you wait for your background check to come back. On the TSA PreCheck website, it does mention that your fingerprints will be checked against an FBI database.

4. Receive your Known Traveler Number (KTN)

With your background check behind you, you'll receive your Known Traveler Number, KTN for short. With your KTN, you will now be able to schedule your flights and enter your number to receive TSA PreCheck screening.

My first experience with TSA PreCheck

I used TSA PreCheck for the first time in May of this year. My parents have had it seemingly for ages, and for some reason, my wife and I just never got around to completing the application process.

My application process

Part of the reason why we finally did was because you no longer have to go to an airport to complete fingerprinting and the other technical parts of your application. We were actually able to complete all of the required steps at our local Staples.

The even more amazing part was that we were approved in less than thirty hours. We both received email confirmations, just minutes apart, that contained our KTNs. These numbers are the alphanumeric code that you'll use when booking flights.

Once you do so, your boarding passes will contain the TSA PreCheck logo to denote that you are eligible for expedited security screening.

My first PreCheck experience

When I arrived to the airport in May, ready to use expedited screening for the first time, I was nervous that there would be something wrong with the way I registered. But I calmly entered the five-person PreCheck line like I belonged and was pleasantly surprised when the entire screening process took less than three minutes.

As advertised, I didn't have to take my shoes off, or remove toiletries or technology from my bag, which was huge for me since I tend to travel with two laptops and an iPad.

I was impressed with the experience, but I did not want to draw conclusions based on just one favorable screening.

I enjoyed my trip, and when it came time to come home, I was a little shocked when I once again waited less than three minutes for screening.

This is not to say that every experience will always be this smooth. Of course, there will be times when even the expedited screening lines get backed up. And I've also heard that lines can sometimes be closed or cut off due to randomized security measures across the nation's airports.

But more times than not, TSA PreCheck will save you some serious time as you navigate airports and try to catch flights.

TSA PreCheck perks

As I've alluded to a few times, I am a huge fan of the PreCheck program. The reasons for this are numerous and plentiful, even beyond the expedited security screening process and special dedicated lane at the airport.

Some of my other favorite perks of the TSA PreCheck program include:

  • It is cost-effective

  • Less stressful travel

  • Reduced chances of additional screening

1. Cost-effective

Like I mentioned, the TSA PreCheck program is a highly cost-effective way to travel around the country. Currently, it costs $78 for five years of coverage, so even if you travel one time per year (roundtrip), the program will only cost you between $7-$8 each time you decide to use it.

Of course, many of us fly more than this, bringing even more value to the program's low cost.

Compare these prices to certain airlines allowing you to buy access to expedited security lanes. JetBlue charges $15 or so per person each way here in 2023.

2. Less stressful travel

For me, one of the biggest pros of having PreCheck is making my travel less stressful. I still tend to arrive at the airport two hours before my scheduled departure, since I'd rather just sit at my gate or visit a lounge and relax.

And for those trips when I don't need to check a bag, I can potentially get through the airport without waiting in any substantial lines at all.

It truly is one of those win-wins!

3. Reduced chances of further screening

Finally, having TSA PreCheck will also limit the chances of you being selected for any additional screening protocols, such as pat downs or bag searches. And while these things are more of a minor inconvenience than anything else, it can still be annoying to have to slow down in the checkpoint for any reason, particularly when you're scrambling to make a flight.

4. Eligibility for Global Entry

Many travelers don't realize that TSA PreCheck does provide eligibility for the United States Customs and Border Protection program called Global Entry. Global Entry is a real perk for those that do a fair amount of international travel, and it helps American citizens re-entering the country to spend less time waiting in customs lines.

In fact, in many airports, participants can even use automated kiosks.

Make travel easier without TSA PreCheck

Even if you've decided to not join the TSA PreCheck program at this time, there are other ways to make your travel through the airport easier. Among my top travel tips for people in this scenario include:

  • Arrive at the airport nice and early to avoid stress

  • Join airline frequent flier programs, which will allow you to board early and take advantage of other perks

  • Try not checking a bag to save waiting in the ticketing line


TSA PreCheck can be an amazing way to streamline your travel and make it easier to get in and around airports. Now, I want to hear from you.

Do you have TSA PreCheck? And if so, do you find that it saves you as much time as it saves me? Tell me in the comments below?

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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and worked for one of the world's largest asset management firms before starting his own consulting practice.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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