TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Credit Cards: What You Need to Know

Prescreening programs that let you speed through airport security come with a fee. These cards will cover it.

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Maneuvering through airport security is brutal. At best, you have to take off your shoes and trudge through the metal detector in stockinged feet. You hurriedly stuff your laptop into your backpack and move on.

At worst, you’re already running late for your flight, only to encounter a giant line. You finally pass through, and then realize you forgot to empty your water bottle. The unsympathetic Transportation Security Administration agent makes you go through the entire process again.

Even if you travel just a few times a year, membership in the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry trusted traveler programs is a must. These programs allow members to use expedited lanes at U.S. airports. With TSA PreCheck, you can whisk through security without having to remove your shoes, laptop, belt or jacket. In August 2021, 96% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes, according to the TSA.

Even better is Global Entry, where you have expedited access when entering the U.S. from abroad. TSA PreCheck benefits are included.

There’s pretty much one reason you might skip applying for either of these programs: the application fee, which is typically $85 for TSA PreCheck or $100 for Global Entry, both good for five years. After the initial application fee, PreCheck renewal only costs $70 if completed online.

But even that isn’t much of an excuse these days. That’s because many credit cards will reimburse you for the cost of applying to either program. And in some cases, the credit card’s annual fee is even lower than the Global Entry application fee. So with that, here are some of the best credit cards that pay for your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee:

Credit cards that pay for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry

Which credit cards reimburse your TSA PreCheck fee? There are dozens that cover this cost as a member benefit, either by providing a statement credit toward the application fee, or by allowing members to use rewards points to pay the application fee.

Here are some of the most popular credit cards with a TSA PreCheck benefit. And many of these will also cover Global Entry:

GENERAL TRAVEL CARDS

How often does the credit renew?

Every 4 years.

Every 4 years.

Every 4 years.

Citi Prestige® Card (this offer isn't currently available through NerdWallet)

Every 5 years.

Every 4 years.

Every 5 years.

Every 5 years.

Every 4 years when used for a Global Entry application fee; every 4.5 years when used for a TSA PreCheck application fee. Terms apply (see rates and fees).

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card (this offer isn't currently available through NerdWallet)

Every 4 years.

AIRLINE CARDS

How often does the credit renew?

Every 5 years.

Every 4 years.

HOTEL CARDS

How often does the credit renew?

Every 4 years.

Every 4 years when used for a Global Entry application fee; every 4.5 years when used for a TSA PreCheck application fee. Terms apply (see rates and fees).

Current as of September 2021.

The best credit cards for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

Credit cards that offer TSA PreCheck or Global Entry will typically reimburse you for either your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fees, but not both. You’ll likely be reimbursed for whichever one is charged first.

Since Global Entry includes all the benefits of TSA PreCheck, applying for Global Entry is generally the better bet — especially if you ever travel internationally.

Here are the best credit cards for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (For flat-rate travel rewards)

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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Annual fee of $95. Every four years, the card offers a statement credit of up to $100 to cover either a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee charged to the account.

Benefits of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card:

  • Simple rewards: No need to wonder if that coffee shop counts as a restaurant or if your local grocery store counts as a supermarket, as is the challenge with many credit cards that offer bonus category rewards. With this card, you’ll earn a straightforward 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases.

  • Flexible redemption: Capital One Miles are worth 1 cent apiece when redeemed for credit against travel purchases.

  • Opportunity for high-value redemptions: Miles are transferable to certain loyalty programs.

  • A sizable sign-up bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

Drawbacks of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card:

  • An annual fee: While it’s relatively low (and can be offset by your TSA PreCheck application fee), the annual fee of $95 still stings.

  • Few luxury benefits: And despite that annual fee, this card doesn’t have many perks to show for it. Upgrade to an even slightly better travel card if you’re seeking benefits like free checked bags, which some general travel cards offer.

The Platinum Card® from American Express (For premium benefits)

American Express Platinum Credit Card
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Annual fee of $695. Comes with a credit of either $100 for a Global Entry application fee (renews every four years) or $85 for a TSA PreCheck application fee (renews every 4.5 years) when the fees are charged to the card. Terms apply.

Benefits of The Platinum Card® from American Express:

  • Luxury benefits have you traveling in style: Some of the luxury benefits are simply money back in your pocket, like a $200 airline credit for incidentals such as checked bags and in-flight purchases for one qualifying airline you select, as well as monthly Uber ride credits. Other benefits are less tangible, like elite status in certain hotel programs. And among the best benefits: access to several airport lounges including Centurion and Priority Pass lounges. Enrollment required. Terms apply.

  • Potential for high-value redemptions: Points are transferable to certain loyalty programs.

  • A tempting welcome offer: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

Terms apply (see rates and fees).

Drawbacks of The Platinum Card® from American Express:

  • That annual fee hurts: $695 is a hefty sum to fork over all at once, especially if you’re not regularly traveling through airports with lounges or staying at hotels that acknowledge your elite status.

  • Not great for everyday spending: Given the high annual fee, the ongoing rewards could be richer. It offers 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, 5 points per $1 spent on prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel and 1 point per $1 spent on most other purchases. Terms apply.

  • Might not work for international travel: Happily, this card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. However, you still might not want to bring it abroad, as AmEx isn't accepted as widely outside of the U.S. as Visa and Mastercard.

United℠ Explorer Card (If you fly United)

Chase United Airlines Mileage Plus Credit Card
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Annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95. Every four years, the card offers a statement credit of up to $100 to cover either a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee charged to the account.

Benefits of the United℠ Explorer Card:

  • Good rewards beyond just with United: Especially compared to other rewards, the earnings rate on this one is solid. You’ll get 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and United purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. Miles are worth 1 cent apiece on average when redeemed for flights on United, according to NerdWallet’s valuations.

  • A nice sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

  • Free checked bags: If you fly often, this perk alone could be highly lucrative. Every time you fly on United, you and one companion get your first checked bag free, which amounts to savings of up to $140 per roundtrip.

Drawbacks of the United℠ Explorer Card:

  • Eventually, you’ll owe an annual fee if you keep the card. Annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95.

  • You’re committed to United and its partners: You limit where you can fly, because United miles just aren't as versatile as the ones you might earn on a general travel card.

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (If you’re seeking a hotel credit card)

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
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Annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $89. Every four years, the card offers a statement credit of up to $100 to cover either a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee charged to the account.

Benefits of the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card:

  • Decent ongoing rewards: Earn up to 25 points per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel; 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants; and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

  • An excellent signup bonus: Earn 150,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

  • A free anniversary hotel room night every year: If the TSA PreCheck application fee wasn’t enough to outweigh the card’s annual fee, then this one should certainly do it. You’ll receive a reward night after each account anniversary year to use at participating IHG hotels with a current point redemption level of 40,000 points or less. But given that most of those rooms would otherwise cost at least $100 (and many can cost many hundreds of dollars), that’s a deal assuming you stay at an IHG hotel just one night per year.

Drawbacks of the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card:

  • There’s an annual fee: There’s an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $89. The perks more often than not easily outweigh the annual fee. But still, that’s money upfront out of your pocket.

  • You’re committed to IHG: You limit where you can stay, because IHG points just aren't as versatile as the ones you might earn on a general travel card.

How to apply

For TSA PreCheck

Getting a credit card that reimburses your application fee is the easy first step. Once you have your card, submit your online application for TSA PreCheck. Then, you’ll be directed to schedule an in-person appointment at a TSA Enrollment Center, where you’ll spend about 10 minutes undergoing a background check and fingerprinting. You can expect a decision on your application within about 3-5 days, though some applications can take up to 60 days.

Upon approval, you'll receive a “known traveler” number, which you’ll need to enter when you book a flight. Using your “known traveler” number will likely earn you the coveted TSA PreCheck logo on your boarding pass. And with that, you can enter the expedited TSA PreCheck line.

Note that TSA uses unpredictable security measures, and having TSA PreCheck approval is not a guarantee that you can access the PreCheck line.

“All travelers will be screened, and no individual is guaranteed expedited screening,” according to a statement from the TSA.

For Global Entry

Global Entry includes the perks of TSA PreCheck — plus a bit more. You get an expedited customs line upon landing in the U.S. In most cases, you’ll simply scan your passport or U.S. permanent resident card at a Global Entry kiosk, complete the customs declaration form, scan your fingerprints and move along.

To get started, apply for Global Entry online; you’ll likely receive conditional approval. After that, you’ll need to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center (typically located at a U.S. international airport, though some virtual appointments are available, too).

It can be tough to find available appointments, so be flexible with your schedule — and check back often if there’s no availability.

What else you need to know

How does payment work?

You need to pay the application fee with your qualifying credit card if you want the cost to be covered as a member benefit. The charge to your card will later be reimbursed to you in the form of a statement credit.

If you use a form of payment other than your qualifying credit card, you won’t be reimbursed for the fee.

How often do you get the credit?

Upon approval, membership in these trusted traveler programs lasts for five years and then must be renewed (for another fee). The frequency with which credit cards will reimburse you for fees varies from one card to another. Happily, many of these credit cards offer the benefit every four years, giving you plenty of time to renew before your membership expires. Other cards only reimburse the fee every five years. Pay close attention to how your membership expiration date lines up with your card benefits. In some cases, you may need to delay renewal or use a different credit card with these benefits to avoid paying the fee.

Even if you pay the fee, approval isn’t a guarantee

Using the benefit on your credit card when you apply for this status means the cost of the application fee will be refunded to you on a later statement. But it doesn't guarantee that you'll be approved for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. As is the case for anyone applying for these expedited security clearance programs, you could pay the money for your application, only to be rejected.

If you want a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit card …

Applying for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry isn’t the easiest process — and it can be expensive. To avoid the fee, you’ll have to first apply for a credit card that offers a statement credit. From there, you’ll be able to apply to the government’s expedited security clearance programs for free.

While the whole process can certainly feel painful, you’ll be grateful once you see that giant standard security line and realize you can bypass it thanks to the work you did upfront.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

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