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Effective Oct. 1, 2021, the Transportation Security Administration lowered the online renewal fee for TSA PreCheck to $70 from the previous cost of $85. That's great news for travelers who plan to pay for an upcoming PreCheck renewal.
But, there are ways to avoid paying out-of-pocket for TSA PreCheck at all.
Travelers can use points or miles from certain loyalty programs to cover the application fee. Alternatively, and usually a better deal, you can use a credit card benefit to get your application fee — or renewal fee — reimbursed.
Here's how to get TSA PreCheck for free, whether it’s your first time applying or you’re reupping your membership.
Tactic 1: Use loyalty program points or miles
A handful of loyalty programs let members redeem their points to cover the application fee for TSA PreCheck. Note that these redemption options generally provide a poor value; however, if you're looking to reduce your out-of-pocket cost — and don't have a qualifying credit card — these redemptions could make sense for your situation.
United flyers can redeem 11,000 MileagePlus miles to cover the cost of TSA PreCheck. For economy redemptions, NerdWallet finds a base value of 1 cent per United MileagePlus mile. So, you're giving up around $110 in value to cover the $85 initial application fee or $70 renewal fee.
That's not the best use of your United miles, but it's one of the better redemption options for TSA PreCheck with points and miles.
To get started, visit the United MileagePlus security fees page to sign in and redeem your miles for a redemption code.
Marriott members need to redeem 25,000 Bonvoy points to get a voucher code for free TSA PreCheck. Due to these points' wide-ranging uses, NerdWallet values Bonvoy points at 0.7 cent each. So, you'd be using $175 worth of points to cover the $85 initial application fee.
» Learn more: Questions to ask before joining a hotel loyalty program
IHG Rewards members can redeem 30,000 points to cover the application fee for TSA PreCheck.
NerdWallet values IHG Rewards points at 0.8 cent per point, which means you'd be using $240 worth of points to cover the $85 application fee or $70 renewal fee.
By far, the worst points and miles redemption for TSA PreCheck goes to Radisson Rewards Americas and Radisson Rewards. Members need to redeem 65,000 points to cover the application fee on TSA PreCheck.
NerdWallet values Radisson Rewards points at 0.6 cent apiece, so you'd give up a whopping $390 in value for this redemption.
In short: We don’t recommend getting TSA PreCheck for free with your Radisson points unless you have zero intentions of redeeming these points elsewhere.
» Learn more: Beginner’s guide to points and miles
Tactic 2: Get a credit card with a TSA PreCheck credit
The best way to get TSA PreCheck for free is by carrying an eligible credit card. Dozens of credit cards reimburse the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee if you use that card to pay upfront. Here's a quick overview of some of these cards.
Credit cards with no annual fee
Two credit cards offer a statement credit for TSA PreCheck application or renewal fee despite charging no annual fee. But, both are lesser-known cards.
The Arvest Visa Signature® Credit Card reimburses up to $100 for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees.
U.S.-based HSBC Premier checking account holders can hold a HSBC Premier Credit Card for $0 annual fee. One of the card's perks: Up to a $85 statement credit every five years to reimburse TSA PreCheck application fee.
This high-dollar perk immediately puts cardholders in the green for outsized value from card membership.
» Learn more: How travel credit cards work
Credit cards with an annual fee less than $100
Additionally, several travel credit cards offer a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee credit despite charging less than a $100 annual fee. Even better, some of these cards currently waive the annual fee for the first year. So, you'll truly pay $0 out-of-pocket to get TSA PreCheck.
Low-annual-fee credit cards with free TSA PreCheck include:
Premium credit cards
Not surprisingly, several premium travel cards offer a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee reimbursement as a perk of holding the card.
These cards include:
Premium business cards that offer TSA PreCheck application fee credits include:
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: $595 (10/14-1/12/22). Terms apply.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: $250. Terms apply.
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: $550. Terms apply.
When to consider Global Entry instead
Most of the credit cards that offer a statement credit for TSA PreCheck will also cover the application fee for Global Entry. So, even though the application fee for Global Entry is $100, it won't cost you anything extra to sign up for Global Entry instead of TSA PreCheck.
So, which one is best for you: TSA PreCheck or Global Entry? In short, it comes down to two factors. If you travel overseas, Global Entry will save you time when reentering the U.S.; plus, it automatically includes TSA PreCheck benefits. However, there are fewer Global Entry enrollment sites, and interview availability can be harder to find compared with TSA PreCheck.
» Learn more: A guide to travel credit cards for beginners
If you don't want to pay to get or renew TSA PreCheck
For those paying for TSA PreCheck out of pocket, the reduced $70 online renewal fee is great news. However, travelers can sign up or renew TSA PreCheck for nothing out-of-pocket by using the right credit cards or certain loyalty program points and miles. Just consider which option is best for your situation and whether you should upgrade to Global Entry instead of TSA PreCheck.
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:
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