It seems like every time I go to the airport, at least one person in the security line claims “it never used to be like this.” “This,” of course, refers to lengthy wait we experience before reaching the front of the line. And, once there, we find ourselves greeted by metal detectors and a handful of underpaid, annoyed security workers.
Doesn't really set a great tone for your travel, does it?
Well, the good news is there's a way to avoid dealing with this. If you’re part of the elite Global Entry Program, going through security in the airport can be as easy as using a kiosk.The Global Entry Program allows you to move quickly through security both domestically, and internationally. And if you charge this expense to the right credit card, you can get it for free.
The Global Entry Program is a traveler's must-have. It saves frustration and gets you on your way without the wait. This post explains why you need it, what it does, and how you can gain access to it.
What Is The Global Entry Program?
According to the official website, the Global Entry Program is a “program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.” In other words, you don’t have to wait in a huge line at the airport to get through security.
For those who travel frequently, you know how nice this can be. Here’s how to gain access to this exclusive club.
How Does Global Entry Compare To TSA PreCheck?
When you apply for Global Entry, you’ll also receive TSA PreCheck. Both memberships cover a five-year period, but there are differences between the two.
TSA PreCheck members receive expedited security screening on most flights departing from the United States. You leave your shoes and light jackets on, and your laptops, iPads, and 3-1-1 liquids will stay in your carry-on bag. Members also go through a traditional metal detector instead of the more invasive “millimeter wave” full-body scanners.
But Global Entry adds on the feature of expedited screenings at Customs. This means you get the star treatment when you travel internationally as well.
Does Global Entry Include TSA PreCheck?
Yes. When you are approved for Global Entry, you automatically receive membership in TSA PreCheck.
What Does Global Entry Include?
Global Entry membership includes two things:
- TSA PreCheck membership
- Expedited screening at Customs upon arrival from international flights
The application fees are $100 for Global Entry and $85 for TSA PreCheck. In my opinion, the perks are worth the extra $15. The only difference in the application process is that there are fewer Global Entry interview locations compared to those for TSA PreCheck. Some people may need to travel to a Global Entry interview location or request an interview upon arrival when returning from an international trip.
Are There Any Requirements/Restrictions For The Global Entry Program?
Yes, there are several requirements and/or restrictions for the Global Entry Program. Let's explore some of them so you're not surprised during your application process.
You Must Be “Low Risk”
You can only qualify for the Global Entry Program if you’re a “low-risk” traveler. You’ll be ineligible for the program if you:
- Provide false or incomplete information on the application.
- Have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants (includes driving under the influence).
- Have been found in violation of any customs, immigration, or agriculture regulations or laws in any country.
- Are the subject of an ongoing investigation by any federal, state, or local law enforcement agency.
- Are inadmissible to the United States under immigration regulation, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation.
Only Certain Countries Participate
Unfortunately, you can’t use your Global Entry privileges everywhere. You must be a citizen of the following countries to be eligible:
- United States
- Canada (Canadian citizens and residents are eligible for Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program)
- Mexican nationals
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
To apply for the Global Entry Program, there’s a one-time entry fee of $100. If you aren’t accepted to the program, you will not be refunded.
In addition, you’ll need to renew your membership every five years. The same $100 fee applies to renewals.
How To Apply For The Global Entry Program
The process isn’t very complicated, and you can find the official application here. In summary, here are the steps:
- Create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP).
- Complete the application.
- Pay your $100 non-refundable application fee via debit or credit card.
- Upon approval, schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Bring your valid passport(s) and one other form of identification. At the end of the interview, you will find out if you’ve been accepted.
If accepted, your Global Entry membership is valid for five years. After five years, you’ll need to reapply.
You can begin using your Global Entry and TSA PreCheck benefits right away. Within two weeks, you'll receive your membership card and related materials in the mail.
How Do I Renew Global Entry?
You can reapply up to one year before expiration. The renewal process is the same as the initial application. Some applicants are required to interview before their renewal is approved.
I set calendar reminders for six months before my family's Global Entry memberships expires. This way we remember to reapply and get renewed in plenty of time. Don't worry; you're not shortchanging yourself. Your next five years starts at the end of the previous five years, not from the date of renewal.
Where Can I Schedule My Global Entry Interview?
Most Global Entry interview locations are in international airport terminals. However, there are some exceptions. For example, the Port of Long Beach (California) is a hidden gem for those in Southern California who didn’t want to wait for an opening at LAX.
Do I Need An Appointment For My Global Entry Interview?
You are supposed to schedule a Global Entry interview to complete your application.
However, I have seen situations where applicants have walked in and been interviewed after a reasonable wait. Understand that the Global Entry officers are under no obligation to interview walk-in applications. You may be turned away if there are no openings that day.
Do Children Need To Sign Up For Global Entry?
With TSA PreCheck, children ages 12 and under do not need their own membership.
However, that is not the case with Global Entry. And I know this from firsthand experience.
My family was traveling back from Cancun when Scarlett was only six months old. As we proceeded through the Global Entry line at customs, a U.S. customs agents questioned why Scarlett didn’t have a membership. Luckily for us, he let us continue on rather than go to the end of the normal customs line.
We learned the hard way that all passport holders need to have their own Global Entry membership. And as soon as we returned home, we signed up Scarlett for her own using one of my credit card application reimbursements.
Don't make the same mistake. If you have children who travel with you, get them their own membership.
Should Travelers Get CLEAR Instead?
Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are designed to save you time at the airport while traveling. However, if you’ve traveled recently, you might have noticed that the TSA PreCheck lines are getting longer. You might even find that frustrating.
One way to combat this is by signing up for CLEAR. CLEAR uses biometric markers in your eyes and fingerprints to identify you. There are over 50 airports, stadiums, and other venues nationwide where CLEAR is available.
You don’t have to pick between Global Entry and CLEAR. Although they are similar, these two memberships offer different benefits. For instance, CLEAR allows you to skip the airport security lines entirely, allowing you to even pass other TSA PreCheck and Global Entry members! Then Global Entry expedites the process as you and your bags go through security screening.
If you sign up for CLEAR without having TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, you can skip the airport security lines. However, you will still need to go through the normal security screening. This means removing laptops and liquids from your bag, taking off your shoes, and undergoing the full body scan.
With a CLEAR membership, you can add up to three additional family members for $50 each per year. Children under 18 years old are free and do not need to be added to your membership.
How Does The Global Entry Program Work?
When you become a member of the Global Entry Program, your information is stored in a database. Upon arrival at an airport that offers Global Entry, simply scan your passport and fingerprints, take a picture, and digitally complete a quick customs form at the kiosk.
The form prints out and you'll hand it and your passport to the customs agent. Then you're off to baggage claim.
The entire process takes just a few minutes.
Which Credit Cards Offer The Global Entry Program Reimbursement?
Membership reimbursement for Global Entry and TSA PreChecks has become a popular perk of travel credit cards. At latest count, I found 18 credit cards that will reimburse your Global Entry application fee.
Using a travel rewards credit card is the best way to avoid the Global Entry fee, as many of them offer full reimbursement. Here are some top credit cards to check out.
The Platinum Card From American Express
With the Platinum Card from American Express, if you apply for Global Entry, you will get a credit for the application fees. Plus, you’ll get one statement credit every four years.
Here are a few other reasons you may want to check out the Platinum Card from American Express:
- 60,000 rewards points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
- $15 in Uber credits each month.
- 5X points on flights and hotels booked with airlines or amextravel.com.
- $200 airline fee credit each year.
There is a $550 annual fee, but all the benefits and credits you get may be worth it.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase offers a statement credit of $100 every four years to reimburse you for the Global Entry application fee.
Plus, they offer the following:
- $300 in statement credits each year to reimburse you for travel purchases.
- 3X points per dollar spent on travel. This includes: flights, cruise lines, hotels, car rentals, trains, and taxis.
- One point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has a significantly lower annual fee of just $95 (which is waived the first year) and also offers $100 every four years to reimburse you for the Global Entry application fee.
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers the following for rewards:
- 50,000 bonus miles when you open your card.
- 2X miles per dollar on all your purchases
While this card doesn’t offer as many rewards as the previous two, it’s better for those who want to avoid a high annual fee.
Citi/Aadvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard card offers $100 every five years for Global Entry reimbursement. They also offer the following:
- 50,000 American Airlines bonus miles after you spend $5,00 within the first three months of opening your account.
- 10,000 more miles after you spend $40,000 within the year.
- Two miles for every dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.
- One mile for every dollar spent on all other purchases.
The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is best for those who use American Airlines. Also, know that it has an annual fee of $450.
Additional Credit Cards Offering Global Entry Reimbursement
There are other credit cards that offer Global Entry reimbursement. Depending upon your eligibility based on credit card rules (e.g. Chase 5/24) and what additional perks and spending rewards are important to you, one of these might be a better option.
- The Business Platinum Card From American Express
- Capital One Spark Miles For Business
- IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
- United Explorer Card
- Citi Prestige Card
- First National Bank TravElite American Express Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card
- Navy Federal Credit Union Flagship Rewards Visa Signature
- PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card
- SunTrust Travel Rewards Credit Card
- US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card
- US Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express Card
- US Bank SKYPASS Select Visa Signature
How To Get Expedited Airport Screening Without A New Credit Card
You can get Global Entry for free from your credit card, but if you're not ready for a new credit card, there are other options. Here are several other ways to receive CLEAR or TSA PreCheck for free without getting a new credit card:
- Delta Airlines: Diamond members receive CLEAR for free
- IHG Club Rewards: 30k for TSA PreCheck
- Marriott Bonvoy: 25k for TSA PreCheck
- Orbitz Rewards: Platinum members can choose TSA PreCheck
- Radisson Rewards: 65k points for TSA PreCheck
- Southwest Airlines: used to offer TSA PreCheck for 9k points, but this offer is no longer available
- United Airlines: 10k miles for TSA PreCheck
Unfortunately, none of these options provide Global Entry for free. There is no way to get TSA PreCheck for free, then pay the extra $15 yourself to upgrade to Global Entry. To upgrade from TSA PreCheck to Global Entry, you will have to pay the $100 application fee and start the process again.
Why You Should (Or Shouldn’t) Use The Global Entry Program
If you plan on flying at least once a year, I recommend signing up for Global Entry. TSA PreCheck is $15 less, but the benefits when traveling internationally are worth the extra money and effort. In fact, I strongly believe that you’ll take at least one international vacation in the next five years. When you take that trip, that is when the Global Entry membership’s value will shine.
For people who are still uncertain about traveling internationally, I recommend that you register for TSA PreCheck. You’ll get familiar with the process and enjoy skipping the more invasive airport security searches that other travelers have to deal with.
- How To Save Money On Travel With The Right Credit Card
- Travel Rewards Vs. Cash Back: How To Choose
- Should You Pay An Annual Fee On A Credit Card
If you really want to maximize your travel rewards check out ChooseFI's free travel rewards course.