A friend of mine, Tony just spent three months working on a television show being filmed in South East Asia. When he got back, he was raving about how quickly he got through customs and how he practically cheated, avoiding long lines. When he told me it was totally FREE to get into this “exclusive” line, I had to know more!
But first, let’s get into the different types of TSA or Customs programs — what each of them is, who the program is for, and how much it will cost you!
What it is: This allows you to go through a special line at More than 200 airports and 54 airlines TSA screening points, and allows you to keep your shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, and light jackets on your person or packed, making for a quicker and less stressful screening process!
Who is it for: Ideal for domestic air travel. U.S. Citizens and U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents can apply.
How Much: a 5 year membership costs $85 OR Many credit card loyalty programs will cover the TSA Pre✓® application fee as a member benefit, provide a statement credit towards the application fee, or allow members to use rewards points to pay for the TSA Pre✓® application fee.
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
- Capital One® Venture® Card
- Certain American Express® Credit Cards
- Chase Sapphire ReserveSM
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World EliteTM MasterCard®
- Citi Prestige® Card
- Club Carlson
- Diners Club® Carte Blanche® Corporate Card
- Expedia®+ Voyager Card from Citi
- IHG® Rewards Club
- Marriott Rewards®
- MasterCard® Black Card™
- MasterCard® Gold Card™
- Orbitz Rewards®
- SunTrust Travel Rewards World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card
- UnitedSM Explorer Card
- United MileagePlus®
- US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
- US Bank FlexPerks® Gold American Express® Card
How to get TSA Pre✓®: Typical Enrollment Time is up to 3 weeks, Apply Online , Schedule a Background Check (A 10 minute, in person appointment that includes a background check and fingerprinting), Enjoy Speeding through TSA!
What it is: This allows you to expedite your entry into the United States at Major US Airports from international travel. No processing lines, No paperwork, Access to expedited entry benefits in other countries, Reduced wait times and BONUS, TSA Pre✓® is included!
Who is it for: Ideal for arriving in the United States from international destinations. U.S. Citizens and U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents along with select other nationalities are eligible to apply.
How Much: a 5 year membership costs $100 USD OR some credit cards have Global Entry reimbursement (see below for which ones!)
- AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite
- American Express Platinum
- American Express Business Platinum
- Bank of America Premium Rewards
- Barclay Arrival Premier
- Capital One Venture Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Crystal Visa Infinite
- Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite
- Citi Prestige Card
- Expedia + Voyager Card
- IHG Premier Card
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card
- SunTrust Travel Rewards World Elite Mastercard
- United Explorer Card
- US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite
- US Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express
How to get Global Entry: Create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account and complete the application. If your application is conditionally approved, then your TTP account will instruct you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Enjoy dancing your way through US Customs!
What it is: At the U.S.-Mexico border, members can use the expedited SENTRI lanes for quicker vehicle or pedestrian entry into the United States. BONUS, TSA Pre✓® is included!
Who is it for: Ideal for frequent travel into the U.S. from Mexico. Citizens of any nationality can apply for SENTRI. Foreign Nationals must also obtain any applicable documentation or visas necessary for entry into the U.S.
How Much: a 5 year membership costs $122.50 USD (TIP: If you register your vehicle in SENTRI as part of your initial Global Entry application, there is no fee. If you wish to register your vehicle after your initial application, you must pay a $42 registration fee.)
How to get SENTRI: Create a Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) System account and complete the application. If your application is conditionally approved, then your TTP account will instruct you to schedule an interview at a SENTRI Enrollment Center.
What it is: Self-report customs forms when entering U.S. or Canada via air, Greatly reduces typical time spent in U.S. and Canadian processing, Expedited processing into U.S. and Canada by vehicle. BONUS: Includes TSA Pre✓®
Who is it for: Ideal for frequent travel between the U.S. and Canada. U.S. and Canadian citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) can apply.
How Much: a 5 year membership costs $50USD. (Tip: Global Entry members may use the NEXUS lanes when entering the U.S. via land from Canada if they are in possession of a Global Entry card. However, Global Entry members (who are not members of NEXUS) may not enter Canada through a NEXUS lane.)
How to get Nexus: You have two ways to submit your completed application.
- Global Online Enrollment System (GOES). Create a TTP account and complete the application. A $50 (USD) non-refundable fee is required with each completed application. If your application is conditionally approved, then your GOES account will instruct you to schedule an interview at a NEXUS Enrollment Center.
- Mail. Send your completed application, $50 (CAD) non-refundable fee and photocopies of supporting documentation to your designated Canadian Processing Center. If your application is conditionally approved, you will receive a letter that will instruct you to schedule an interview at a NEXUS Enrollment Center.
What it is: With just a touch of your finger, you can speed through the long lines for ID check, and guides you to the screening line. Enrolled inTSA Pre✓®? CLEAR will provide you with fast access to TSA Pre✓® screening for eligible flights. Please note that CLEAR is NOT a government “Trusted Traveler Program”, but it is worth mentioning for some of the major US cities and airports!
Who is it for: Not just for travel – CLEAR is located at over 35 airports and sport stadiums nationwide.
How Much: Monthly fee of $15, billed annually at $179. (Under 18 is free!)
How to get CLEAR: Apply Online, visit one of their locations (no appointments necessary), and complete your enrollment in 5-10 minutes!
And now for the Super Secret (Totally Free) Fast Pass
Ok, so you’ve patiently waited to find out how to utilize this cheat of cutting the line when coming through U.S. customs, totally free, and really doesn’t take much set up time at all! I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard of this, so I had to share this hot tip with you!
Mobile Passport App
What it is: The Mobile Passport app speeds you through U.S. Customs and Border Protection at 2 cruise ports and 25 airports. This app replaces the white and blue piece of paper that you have to fill out when returning to the US.
Who is it for: The Mobile Passport app may be used by U.S. citizens with a valid U.S. passport and Canadian citizens with both a valid Canadian passport and B1 or B2 visa status. Unfortunately, at this time, it won’t work for U.S. Legal Permanent Residents. (Tip: If you use Global Entry, you don’t need this app)
How Much: FREE. NADA. ZILCH. ZERO.
How to get Mobile Pass: Download the app on your iPhone or Android device, set up your profile, answer a few questions about your trip, once you are at your port of entry (airport or sea port), connect to wireless or wi-fi and submit your data to CBP. Within a few seconds, you will receive a CBP receipt with an encrypted barcode. Your receipt will be valid for 4 hours. Follow the Mobile Passport Control signs to the designated Mobile Passport Control line. Show your passport to the CBP officer and scan the barcode on the CBP receipt. And that’s it!
Depending on how often you travel and how much you’re willing to pay to save some time in lines through U.S. Customs or TSA, there are different options and combinations for everyone! There is a search on the HomeLand Security website that can help you determine which program(s) fit your needs (excluding CLEAR, which is not a government program).
What are some tips that you have for getting through security lines quickly while traveling?