Summer is coming and for most that means sunshine and some vacation time, for others it can be a nightmare. All those increased travelers can cause long airport wait times, affecting business travelers trying to make it to an important meeting.
Last year, airports across the country were making headlines when passengers began missing flights due to lengthy security lines. So much so that the Travel Security Administration was suggesting travelers arrive as early as 3 hours prior to their departure time. You can always check security wait times at any airport here.
As the busy months approach, there are a few ways to avoid long airport lines and frequent business travelers rely on these programs.
Ideal for: business travelers
Cost: $15/month or $179/year
Clear allows travelers to keep the security line by moving through a separate lane for Clear members only. To get through this lane, members visit one of their stands in the Clear line and scan their fingerprint. If you are already enrolled in TSA PreCheck, security will provide you a fast track lane to the PreCheck screening lane after you’ve passed the ID check to ideally speed up the physical screening process.
To apply, travelers complete the application online and then visit one of the Clear locations with or without an appointment. Members are given an identity card that is backed up by iris scans and fingerprints.
In the past Visa and a few other companies offered discount codes applicable to the membership costs. The best way to try Clear is to sign up online for their one month free trial or find a friend that uses Clear who can give you a code a two month free trial.
For those with children, Clear can be a big time saver for family and personal vacations because travelers who enroll in Clear can also use the service with their children under 18. Clear is currently available in 18 airport locations.
2. Global Entry:
Ideal for: International travelers
Cost: $100 for 5 years
Global Entry allows US citizens expedited immigration back into the US as well as entry into certain partner countries such as the UK and AU. This also provides travelers a separate line to move through customs, essentially speeding up the entire process of re-entering the country.
To apply, travelers simply visit the main website, fill out a questionnaire that took us about 10 minutes) and pay a non-refundable (even if denied) $100 fee to submit the application. The application only took us about 10 minutes to fill out. For some the $100 fee might seem large but it does come with the best benefits and there are many ways to get the $100 covered. Here are a few:
- Amex Platinum Card – If you use this card when paying the $100, Amex will automatically reimburse you.
- Citi/AAdvantage Executive Card – Members receive an application fee credit for Global Entry up to $100 every 5 years when using the card upon payment.
- Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card – While this card is limiting because it mainly benefits loyal Ritz Carlton members, they do cover the $100 fee for their card holders.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – Card holders receive a $300 travel credit upon sign up that can be used towards this $100 fee. The remaining can be used for future travel costs.
- U.S. Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express Card
- AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard – This card is not open to new applicants but if you are one of the few remaining card holders, the $100 fee can be waived with you annual card fee of $195.
While the credit cards listed above offer various deals and benefits to travelers, most do have an annual fee. It is important to weigh all factors and when selecting a credit card.
- Delta Platinum Medallion – Members of this loyalty status with Delta receive one voucher of $100 to supplements for the fee.
- Delta Diamond Medallion – These Delta loyalty members get two, $100 vouchers for themselves and a guest.
If all your information passes through the US Customs and Border Protection, your application will be conditionally approved as early as one week upon completion up to a month. Then the next step is to schedule a short interview at an enrollment center. Seems simple, right? Here’s the catch. Appointments are currently so backlogged, the next available appointment is likely at least six months out.
There are two hopeful options for travelers who need an appointment earlier than available.
- Check the scheduling website consistently. On occasion, someone will cancel their appointment and if you’re on the website watching you might be able to catch the open window.
- Walk into one of the enrollment centers. The US Customs and Border Protection does not recommend doing this but there is a chance that some centers might take you if there is a no show.
Inside sources say that some companies, usually larger enterprise size organizations like Google, can request TSA officers to come onsite to conduct interviews for employees. While this is not confirmed or common, it is worth contacting an enrollment center.
The biggest benefit of applying for Global Entry versus an alternative is that TSA PreCheck comes with Global Entry acceptance, the opposite is not the case.
3. TSA PreCheck
Ideal for: Domestic travelers
Cost: $85 for 5 years
PreCheck is the Transportation Security Administration’s trusted travel program and gives you access to a special TSA security line in most US airports as well as for most flights operated by US airline carriers. Unlike Global Entry which is available to citizens of the US, Colombia, United Kingdom, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and Mexican nationals – only US citizens and permanent residents are eligible for PreCheck.
This PreCheck status allows travelers to keep shoes and jackets as well as belts on, leave liquids and gels in your carry on, and laptops in your bag.
The signup process is extremely similar to that of Global Entry with an application, interview and approval. While TSA PreCheck costs $85, thus $15 less than Global Entry, this program comes with less benefits. You can get the $85 fee waived by many of the options listed above just like Global Entry.
Overall, PreCheck is a great option for domestic travelers but when it comes to best value travelers should consider Global Entry.
Beyond these programs, it’s also important to be prepared for your trip before arriving to the airport. This includes having real time notifications about any travel updates, access to an incredible support team for last minutes changes, and a live itinerary with all your trip information in one spot.
For both Global Entry and TSA Pre you are provided a Known Traveler Number. Use this number when booking travel through the TripActions app to ensure you are flagged for benefits when at the airport.
TripActions is an all in one, modern travel solution that allows travelers to book and manage trips on their mobile devices. Travelers get choice over their travel plans with access to a massive collection of direct, consumer, and corporate inventory. While on the go, travelers receive real time travel alerts about delays, cancellation, and can get complimentary early check-in. Above all, travelers can earn rewards redeemable for gift cards, upgrades, or personal travel when their companies use TripActions as their sole business travel management solution. To learn how you can start earning and benefiting from TripActions visit tripactions.com/learn.
Disclaimer: TripActions did not receive any compensation for any references to programs and services mentioned. All brands and services named in this post were included for the benefit of our readers. Opinions expressed here are the authors of this post and are not reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any other entity.