TSA Security Line photo credit to Karl Baron.

Friends ask me all the time what my favorite travel accessories are. Maybe my Bose QuietComfort 35 Headphones? Or my Anker portable charger that ensures I never run out of juice? Or my Tumi messenger bag? Or my Rothco travel vest? Nope – turns out, it’s none of the above. My favorite travel tool? Hands down, it’s TSA Pre✓. The best part is you might even get it for free!

What is Pre✓?

Pre✓ is a trusted traveler sponsored by the United States government through the oft-maligned Transportation Security Administration. It allows US citizens and permanent residents to undergo an introductory screening process and, upon approval, use expedited airport security lanes that allow you to leave your shoes/belts/light jacket on and all of your belongings in your bag(s).  For more information on the program, TSA has written a comprehensive and easy to understand FAQ on their website.

Why is Pre✓ life changing?

In the year that I’ve had Pre✓, the average time I’ve spent in security lines is about 5 minutes. This includes my home airport of RDU (our last trip to Grand Cayman, we were through security in less than two) and some notoriously bad security lines at Atlanta, Newark, LaGuardia, and Dulles. In addition to being faster, it’s a lot less hassle in that you don’t have to remove shoes or take anything out of your bags. Even with a short wait, it’s a seamless experience.

How do you get Pre✓?

You can apply for Pre✓ on a standalone basis, or as part of another trusted traveler program like Global Entry (my second favorite travel tool!). By itself, Pre✓ is $85 for five years, and Global Entry is $100 for five years (Pro tip: Jump through the extra hoops and spend the extra $15 if you travel internationally AT ALL). With either program, once your application is preliminarily approved, you’ll make an in-person appointment to complete the process. After successfully completing the interview process, you’ll instantly have a Known Traveller Number (KTN) to attach to your airline reservations.

How do you use Pre✓?

Once you have your KTN, enter it into your frequently flyer profiles and make sure it’s attached to your reservation.

How do I get Pre✓ free?

Many premium credit cards offer one Global Entry or Pre✓ credit every five years. Pay for your application fee with one of these cards, and it will be refunded – usually within one statement cycle. Cards that currently offer this benefit include:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • American Express Platinum (personal and business)
  • Citi Prestige and AAdvantage Executive World Elite cards
  • Ritz Carlton Rewards
  • US Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express