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Check-in, baggage drops, and security wait times at the airport have gotten so bad lately that they can feel torturous for some travelers.
However, you could avoid long airport queues by investing in TSA PreCheck. Start spending less time in airport lines and more time with your friends and loved ones by enrolling in the program, which requires a few steps and patience.
What is TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck is a trusted traveler program run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that helps 32 million travelers save time at more than 200 airports in the United States.
When you go through TSA PreCheck, you don't have to take your shoes, belts or light jackets off and are allowed to keep liquids and laptops in your carry-on luggage when you send it through an X-ray machine.
Because of the quicker screening procedures, the PreCheck line is usually shorter than a standard security screening line. More often than not, you'll get through in less than five minutes.
More than 85 domestic and international airlines participate in the program. Once you enroll, you'll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN). Include it with your traveler information and save time before your flight.
» Learn more: What is TSA PreCheck and how do I get it?
How long does it take to get TSA PreCheck?
The application process isn't long but requires an in-person appointment. To get TSA PreCheck, you must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or a lawful permanent resident.
Enrollment costs $78 and lasts five years, after which you must pay another $78 if you wish to renew your membership in person or $70 if you renew online.
To begin the multi-step enrollment process, visit the TSA PreCheck website and complete the online form. The questions, which ask for information about your personal data, shouldn't take you more than a few minutes to complete.
You'll be presented with a list of enrollment centers and available dates and times for an in-person appointment, ultimately determining your enrollment time frame. The sooner you schedule an appointment, the sooner you can get approved and start breezing through security at the airport.
Remember that after receiving the pre-enrollment email, you must schedule an appointment within 120 days to complete your TSA PreCheck enrollment.
The appointment shouldn't take more than 10 minutes, but you could wait longer than usual if it's crowded.
During the in-person appointment, an agent will take your fingerprints and ask some questions concerning the application — such as whether you've gone by other names in the past or how often you travel. If you have a criminal record, be prepared to provide details if asked.
Once you complete enrollment and are deemed eligible for the program, wait three to five days for a Known Traveler Number. However, keep in mind that it can take up to 60 days to be approved in some cases.
After approval, return to the TSA PreCheck website and click the "Check My Service Status" link to find your KTN. Once you have your KTN, add it to your next flight booking or save it in your frequent-flyer profile to automatically populate whenever you book a flight.
» Learn more: How to add TSA PreCheck to your airline ticket
How to get TSA PreCheck for free
Select travel credit cards reimburse the TSA PreCheck enrollment fee as a statement credit. This benefit may apply to you or someone you know. If you're covering a friend or family member's fee, you have to invest a little time and visit the enrollment center with them to pay the fee at their appointment.
You can pay for TSA PreCheck with one of the following travel cards and have your statement credit offset the cost:
» Learn more: Credit cards with TSA Precheck or Global Entry credits
TSA PreCheck enrollment timeframe recapped
Even though the individual steps to apply for TSA PreCheck don't take long, it can take a couple of months from the application date to receiving a KTN. If you've got upcoming travel plans, we recommend applying sooner rather than later to get ahead of the backlog. Don't forget to check whether your credit card reimburses the enrollment fee.
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 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card