TSA PreCheck Surpassed 2 Major Records. Here’s How to Join

The TSA PreCheck application fee is $78, but some credit cards cover the cost as a benefit.
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The number of people enrolled in TSA PreCheck just set a record high — as did the number of people applying to join.

The Transportation Security Administration said in March that TSA PreCheck surpassed 15 million active members, marking an all-time high since the program launched in December 2013.

And the number of people applying seems to be growing. The TSA said that on Feb. 21, 2023, a record 19,200 people applied for TSA PreCheck membership on a single day.

TSA PreCheck is one of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Programs, which includes others like Global Entry and Nexus. If approved for TSA PreCheck, travelers can pass through airport security without taking off their shoes or belts. They can also leave electronics and compliant liquids inside their bags.

And without all that fumbling around of clothes, shoes and laptops, TSA PreCheck tends to improve security wait times. Across airports that have separate PreCheck lanes, the TSA says, 92% of members wait less than five minutes for security screening.

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Why more TSA PreCheck members could be good news for all

“If everyone had TSA PreCheck, overall wait times would be shorter because travelers wouldn't be required to take off shoes or remove electronics,” Scott Keyes, founder of travel deals site Going, said in an email.

TSA PreCheck enables more people to funnel through security in the same period of time.

“If there are 20 people in the regular line and even 30 in the PreCheck lane, those 30 are probably still getting through faster,” says Daniel Green, co-founder of Faye Travel Insurance.

It’s not unlike the express checkout at the grocery store, reserved for people with, say, 10 items or fewer. Thirty shoppers with just five items almost always check out faster than 20 customers each with a cart full of groceries.

But if more people end up with TSA PreCheck, will that just shift those long queues to the TSA PreCheck line?

Harriet Baskas, who runs a blog called Stuck at the Airport, has that exact worry.

“Now that more people have PreCheck … the PreCheck lines at many airports are getting longer,” she says. “Sometimes it feels as if — and in some cases it really is the case — that PreCheck lanes are longer than regular lines.”

But this concern assumes that airports will continue to maintain the same number of PreCheck lines as they have had, even as enrollment figures grow.

“My guess is, if more people had PreCheck, they would convert more lanes to PreCheck lanes,” Green says.

His theory is founded on one of the strongest motivations of them all: money.

“Let's not forget that there's an incentive for having more people in PreCheck, as travelers pay for this perk,” he says, in reference to the fee needed to apply for membership.

How to apply for TSA PreCheck (and skip paying the application fee)

Apply for TSA PreCheck by filling out an online application on the TSA website. It takes about five minutes to complete and requires you to enter personal information such as name, gender, email address and phone number. After that, you’ll schedule an in-person interview at an enrollment center where you’ll go through a background check and fingerprinting.

The application fee is $78. If approved, you’ll get TSA PreCheck membership for five years, upon which you must pay $70 to renew your membership online.

But you might not even need to pay the fee out of pocket. Many travel credit cards cover TSA PreCheck application and renewal fees. While some credit cards with TSA PreCheck perks charge annual fees, there are a few that have none.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-5%

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

Up to $300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy $250 to use on Capital One Travel in your first cardholder year, plus earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening - that’s equal to $1,000 in travel.

Miles
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