First, let's start with TSA PreCheck.
Here is What it is.
TSA PreCheck is a government-sponsored program that began in October 2011 and grants approved passengers on domestic flights and some international flights expedited screening. More than four million members are enrolled. Nineteen airlines work in cooperation with TSA PreCheck, and the service can be found in more than 180 airports across the U.S. Unlike the regular security line, PreCheck passengers don't need to remove their shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, and light jackets, which means less time in line. Here's a fun fact: In November of 2016, 96 percent of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes in a security line.
How do I apply?
Submit an online application and then schedule an appointment at any of more than 380 enrollment centers across the country. At your in-person appointment, you'll have to give your fingerprints and undergo a brief background check. (Appointments usually take around ten minutes.) Applicants will typically receive written notification within two to three weeks after the in-person appointment; however, some individuals are approved mere days after completing the in-person appointment.
How much does it cost?
TSA PreCheck costs $85 for five years, and can be paid via credit card, money order, company check, or certified/cashier’s check. While the government itself offers no discounts or reimbursements for the fees, several credit cards and loyalty programs do: the Citi Prestige Card, Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard, and Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example. (A more complete list can be found here.)
Which airlines participate in TSA PreCheck?
In alphabetical order: Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Cape Air, Delta Air Lines, Etihad Airways, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Lufthansa, OneJet, Seaborne Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin America, and WestJet all participate in PreCheck, which means they meet the standardized system and checkpoint requirements.
How will I know if I can use a TSA PreCheck lane on my upcoming flight?
Participating airlines print a TSA PreCheck indicator on your boarding pass—such as TSAPRECHK, TSA PRE, or TSA Pre✓—and bury it in the barcode, too, so that once it's scanned at the checkpoint, you can be directed to a PreCheck security lane. Note: Travelers are checked for TSA PreCheck every time they fly, but the PreCheck indicator isn't limited to participating airports. This means you may still get a boarding pass printed with TSA PreCheck, even if you're at an airport that isn't outfitted with a PreCheck lane.
Will I be able to take my family through TSA PreCheck lanes?
Not necessarily. However, family members ages 12 and under traveling with an eligible PreCheck-approved parent or guardian are also able to participate in expedited screening. (The TSA notes that travelers 13 and older who do not have a TSA PreCheck boarding pass must go through standard security lanes, or apply.) There is no age restriction to apply for TSA PreCheck.
What's the difference between PreCheck and Global Entry? TSA PreCheck and Clear?
Global Entry costs slightly more ($100 for five years) but is also more comprehensive a program than PreCheck. In short, it allows travelers to bypass the lines at customs and immigration by checking in at a kiosk with an entry pin number—your “Trusted (Known) Traveler number”—and a fingerprint scan. It also includes TSA PreCheck eligibility in participating airports. Global Entry is best for travelers who fly internationally more than once or twice a year.
Another airport program Clear is available at some airports and helps travelers jump to the head of security lines. Clear bypasses another source of aggravation to fliers, the document check—you head to special kiosks to confirm your identity with the tap of a finger or the blink of an eye and jump the security line, but you still have to go through screening. Travelers who also have TSA PreCheck will go to the head of the PreCheck line; those not enrolled in PreCheck go to the front of the normal TSA screening line.