Beyond a passport, two of the most essential tools for frequent travelers are Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. They’re each a Trusted Traveler Program offered by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and they’re designed to make the travel process easier for low-risk individuals. If you’re considering Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck and aren’t sure which one is best for you, here’s what you need to know.

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is issued by US Customs and Border Protection (CPB). It allows its members to utilize expedited entry lanes at the US border at most major international airports, as well as land borders and some seaports. The most important thing to note about Global Entry is that it includes TSA PreCheck for its members.

How does it work?

When you arrive at a US airport from an international flight, follow the signs for the Global Entry lane at immigration. You’ll take your photo at a kiosk, which processes your information, then you’ll see a CBP officer for a final check. This line is usually much faster than the standard line.

Expert tip: You don’t typically need to show your Global Entry card at airport immigration, but some CBP agents might ask to see it. Keep it in your wallet while you travel.

Who is it made for?

Global Entry is best for those who travel internationally at least once a year. The program is open to US citizens and lawful permanent residents, as well as citizens of the following countries:

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Bahrain
  • India
  • Colombia
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • The Netherlands
  • Panama
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Mexico
A smiling young backpacking couple eagerly checks their passports while waiting in a queue.

How to Apply for Global Entry?

To apply for Global Entry, you must first submit an application online via the Trusted Traveler Program website. Once your application is conditionally approved, you must go to a Global Entry enrollment center for an in-person interview, at which your biometric data will be taken. And as part of the process, you’ll undergo a background check. After the interview, you’ll receive full approval, and your Global Entry card will be mailed to you.

What is a Trusted Traveler Program?

The US Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Programs are a series of programs designed to make travel into and within the United States easier for low-risk individuals. Between the five programs, they provide expedited entry into the US, as well as a simplified airport security experience.

What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck is issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and provides expedited airport security services to low-risk travelers. With TSA PreCheck, you can keep your liquids and electronics in your carry-on bag, and your shoes, belts and light jackets on during security screening.

Expert tip: Not all airlines participate in the TSA PreCheck program, so you might not be able to use TSA PreCheck on every flight. Additionally, the TSA can choose not to give you TSA PreCheck benefits on individual flights, so you are not always guaranteed access to the TSA PreCheck lanes.

How does it work?

To use TSA PreCheck, you must add your Known Traveler Number (KTN) to your airline reservation, which you can do when you book your flight, any time after you book your flight via the airline website or customer service line or at the check-in desk. A TSA PreCheck logo should be on your boarding pass, which provides access to the TSA PreCheck lane.

Expert tip: TSA PreCheck lanes have specific hours, so it’s possible the lanes may be closed before your flight.

Who is it made for?

TSA PreCheck is for any US citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident who flies either domestically or internationally. Given its cost, it might be best for those who fly at least a few times per year.

Travellers with their luggage lined up at the check-in counters in the airport hall.

How to apply to TSA PreCheck?

To apply for TSA PreCheck you must first submit an application online via the TSA website. You will have to choose between two third-party providers: Telos and Idemia. After you apply online, you will need to visit an enrollment center in-person to be fingerprinted and have your photo taken.

Expert tip: Pick the provider that has an enrollment location near you; there are more than 600 locations between the companies across the country.

Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck?

If you’re deciding between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, know that they are two entirely separate programs, and they work well in tandem for frequent travelers. And, perhaps most importantly, Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck. But there are cases in which you might prefer TSA PreCheck alone.

TSA vs Global Entry: the costs

TSA PreCheck costs either $78 or $85, depending on which company you use for your application. Global Entry costs $100, and it includes TSA PreCheck. Both memberships last for five years.

Two different application processes

Both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck start with online applications but via different websites. Global Entry takes applications via the Trusted Traveler Program website, while TSA PreCheck uses third-party companies for applications.

Both programs also require in-person appointments to complete the application process, at which your biometric data will be recorded. But there are only 88 Global Entry enrollment centers, while there are more than 600 TSA PreCheck enrollment centers. As such, it’s far easier to make a TSA PreCheck enrollment appointment than it is a Global Entry enrollment appointment.

Additionally, TSA PreCheck has a much shorter processing time than Global Entry. TSA PreCheck processing times are usually 3 to 5 days, but up to 60 days. Global Entry processing times are four to six months.

An airplane in flight passing by the large glass windows of the terminal.
Three travellers pass through airport security with one attendant checking their belongings. A boy balancing on one foot and another on the glass window looking at the airplane in the airport.

How does it work for kids?

With TSA PreCheck, children 12 and under can use the TSA PreCheck lane with their parent or guardian who is enrolled in the program. Children 13 to 17 can use TSA PreCheck if they are traveling with enrolled adults on the same reservation (the TSA PreCheck logo must show up on the child’s boarding pass). Children can also sign up for their own TSA PreCheck membership.

With Global Entry, children are only permitted to use the Global Entry lane at immigration if they have their own membership. Those without memberships cannot accompany a parent, guardian or other adult with Global Entry.

Tips to save some money on the application fees

Many premium credit cards offer credits for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. If you use an eligible card to pay for your application fee, it will automatically be reimbursed to your account. The perk typically renews every four to five years, which means you can use it to renew your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership. A few popular travel credit cards that include this perk are:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • The Platinum Card from American Express
  • IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
  • United Explorer Card
  • Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
  • Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card

Some airline and hotel loyalty programs also allow you to spend points for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, including:

  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • United MileagePlus
The right hand types on a laptop while the left hand holds a credit card.

Make the final decision between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are two different Trusted Traveler Programs, and each performs a different service: TSA PreCheck is for airport security and Global Entry is for immigration.

Because Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck, it is likely the better option for most travelers, especially if they plan to travel internationally. Plus, it only costs between $15 to $22 more than TSA PreCheck alone.

But if you only travel domestically, or you don’t have time to wait for the lengthy Global Entry application process, TSA PreCheck might be the better option for you.

Expert tip: If you choose TSA PreCheck only, you can pair it with Mobile Passport Control, a free way to expedite airport immigration at certain airports. This essentially combines the best of both worlds without the long processing time of Global Entry.

Frequent questions about TSA PreCheck vs Global Entry

Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are different programs with different purposes: the former deals with immigration, and the latter deals with airport security. Global Entry, however, includes TSA PreCheck with its membership, so it’s frequently the better choice for travelers.

Global Entry is only worth it if you travel internationally. 

The downside to Global Entry is its cost (it’s more expensive than TSA PreCheck) and its lengthy application processing times of 4 to 6 months.

It’s faster to get TSA PreCheck than Global Entry. TSA PreCheck processing times are often just 3 to 5 days, whereas Global Entry processing times are 4 to 6 months.

How KAYAK knows what to put in this guide

As a travel writer, I have both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, and they have significantly improved my airport experience. For this guide, I researched both programs on their respective government websites and distilled the most important information for travelers deciding between the two programs. Based on my personal experience paired with my research, I recommend signing up for both TTP programs if you plan on traveling internationally at least once every year or two.

Young Asian business woman going on a business trip. Business and leisure travel.

The foregoing article was last updated on the 28th of November 2023. It does not contain legal advice and is for informational purposes only. KAYAK does not guarantee, and accepts no legal liability arising from or connected to, the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any of the information contained in this article and/or any of the content linked to within it. Always check the official government website of your departure and arrival destinations prior to travel for up-to-date information.

About the author

Stefanie WaldekStefanie Waldek is a freelance space, travel, and design writer based in Saratoga Springs, NY. Her words have appeared in, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest, and House Beautiful, among other publications. An expert in aviation and expedition cruising, Stefanie is frequently up in the air or on the sea, likely en route to Antarctica or the Arctic.

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