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Which Credit Cards Speed You Through Airport Security?

Oct. 4, 2018
Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

For frequent flyers, the time spent in airport security lines can add up to several lost days a year. Trusted-traveler programs like TSA PreCheck and Global Entry get you through the process faster and with less hassle — you can leave your shoes on! — for a price. Several premium credit cards cover the fee for these programs, leaving more money in your pocket.

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry

The TSA PreCheck and Global Entry programs offer expedited clearance through airport security for people who have passed a background check.

TSA PRECHECK

This program, operated by the Transportation Security Administration, allows eligible U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents to use special security lines. Laptops, carry-on liquids and gels get to stay packed away, and travelers don’t have to remove their belts, shoes or light jackets. The application fee is $85; approved status lasts for five years.

GLOBAL ENTRY

This program, operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, includes the same benefits as TSA PreCheck but also offers expedited screening at customs when entering the country. It’s available to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and citizens of eligible countries who pass a background check. It costs $100 to apply, and it’s good for five years.

» MORE: TSA PreCheck or Global Entry: Which is right for you?

Credit cards that reimburse application fees

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a statement credit for the application fee for either program once every four years. It comes with a host of luxury travel benefits, including airport lounge access, concierge service and hotel upgrades. Its annual fee is a hefty $550, which is partially offset by a $200 annual credit for airline incidentals, such as checked-bag fees.

To get you started, the card comes with a sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.. After that, you’ll earn 5 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, 2 points per dollar spent on other travel booked through AmEx, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best travel credit cards

Citi Prestige® Card

The Citi Prestige® Card offers a fee credit of up to $100 every five years for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. It charges an annual fee of $450, but it also provides a $250 annual credit for airline expenses, including airfare.

The Citi Prestige® Card comes with a sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening* (This offer is no longer valid on our site) It earns 3 Citi ThankYou points for every dollar you spend on airfare and hotels, 2 ThankYou points per dollar on dining and entertainment, and 1 ThankYou point for every dollar spent elsewhere. This card also provides airport lounge access and 24/7 concierge service, among other perks.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a statement credit for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee once every four years. This card charges a $450 annual fee, but you get a $300 annual credit for travel expenses — not just airlines, but hotel stays, car rentals and more.

If you haven’t received a card member bonus in the past 24 months, you’ll be eligible for a standout sign-up bonus: Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® . The card offers airport lounge access and earns 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point on all other purchases. Points are usually worth a penny apiece, but when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you get 1.5 cents per point.

Another option

MasterCard offers an airport concierge service at more than 450 locations worldwide. In addition to the convenience of having an escort help you with airport check-in procedures or making connections, the service can help you get through security faster at some airports.

The cost of MasterCard Airport Concierge varies by location, but World MasterCard cardholders receive a 15% discount.

If you’re a frequent flyer, your credit card could give you the gift of time wrapped in perks — as long as you pass the required background check. Weigh your travel spending and consider whether the benefits offset the costs.

Melissa Lambarena is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mlambarena@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @LissaLambarena. Staff writer Lindsay Konsko contributed to this article.