How I got Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check for Free

There is an old saying that says time is money. If you agree that your time is more valuable than your money then you will want to look into getting Global Entry. After missing a flight last year due to being held up by TSA I decided that I would find a way to get Global Entry and TSA Pre✓. A year later I have both and I was able to get them for free! Let me explain how I did it and how you can do it too.

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What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows faster entry for pre-approved, low-risk travelers arriving in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports  rather than standing in long lines to be processed by an agent. Global Entry applicants must qualify for the program by passing a background check, being interviewed, and finally being fingerprinted. Your status is valid for 5 years. As a bonus Global Entry includes TSA Pre✓ which expedites screenings through TSA security checkpoints.

Why should you get Global Entry?

There are several reasons someone might want to sign up for Global Entry:

  • If you travel internationally and hate standing in long lines when you return from your travel abroad.
  • If you like getting 2 for 1 offers. Global Entry comes with TSA Pre✓.
  • If you hate getting half undressed and being subjected to pat downs when you travel.
  • If you like getting things for free (more on that below.)

How do you apply? 

To apply for Global Entry go onto the official website at Trusted Traveler Programs and complete the application for Global Entry. The cost is $100 and if you are approved your status is valid for 5 years. However you can get Global Entry for free every 4 years as a benefit of using some credit cards. If you pay for Global Entry using an eligible credit card then the credit card company will reimburse your account for the full cost of Global Entry. I used my American Express card to get Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ for free and within days my $100 payment showed up as a credit on my statement.

What happens next?

After you have submitted your paperwork then wait to be notified that your application has been conditionally approved. You might be expecting an email informing you of your status and you probably won’t receive it. It is my understanding that some people get an email telling them to check the portal and others don’t. I didn’t receive the email but my application was conditionally approved within a week. Log into the TTP portal to check your status about 7 business days after submitting your application. Once your application has been conditionally approved you can make an appointment for an in person interview.

Source: #Twitter

How do I schedule the interview?

Scheduling the interview was probably the trickiest part of the whole process. Once you receive your conditional approval click the link to schedule an interview near you. Unfortunately due to a number of unavoidable factors your location might not have any interviews available for the rest of the year, or your interview might get canceled like mine. Find an interview location and time that works best for you and lock it in. If you can’t find an interview location or time then you can interview upon arrival as long as you have received conditional approval.

What are they going to ask me?

Some agents are more serious than others. I was fortunate to get a relaxed agent who made conversation so it was less of an interview and more of a chat. She asked me to confirm the same questions that were on the application such as:

  • Address
  • Occupation and location of my job
  • Where have a traveled in the past couple of years
  • Have I been in trouble with the law
  • Have I violated any customs laws
  • Do I have any upcoming trips planned

We chatted about the places I’ve visited, my job, and how she decided to become a Customs Officer. She entered the information while we chatted, took my picture and fingerprints, and just like that I was approved on the spot. The interview took probably about 15 minutes.

How long does it take to be approved?

Ideally the entire process shouldn’t take more than 3 weeks from start to finish but my process was more like 2 months. Delays can be caused by increasing enrollment numbers (especially during the peak travel months,) a backlog from this year’s government shutdown, and the reassignment of officials to the southern border. My initial interview was canceled the week that I was supposed to go due to the humanitarian and security crisis at the Mexican Border back in June. Fortunately I was able to reschedule a later interview in a neighboring city. The other option is to interview at an airport upon returning from traveling abroad. You must complete enrollment within 365 days of receiving your conditional approval. Not scheduling and completing the interview will result in cancelation of the application and no refunds will be granted.

Here is my timeline of events for reference:

  • May 13 – applied online
  • May 19 – received notice of being conditionally approved
  • June 26 – interview scheduled (then cancelled)
  • July 18 – interview rescheduled in another location
  • July 22 – notified that I was approved!

Are there options to Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ ?

  • Clear is a privately owned biometric security company.

A few important reminders:

  • When you get your passport updated remember to add your Global Entry number to the new passport.
  • Remember to add your trusted traveler number to your airline reservations. Your card is not going to give you access to the Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ lines in the airport. They are to be used when driving across borders in North America.
  • Your names must match on everything. If your middle name is used on your passport it will also be used for Global Entry. You should book your airline tickets using first, middle, and last as well if that is what is on your Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ . The easiest way to ensure that you remember to do this is by changing the profile of your favorite airlines to match your TTP information.
  • Your Global Entry expires on your birthday, not the date that you were approved. Plan accordingly.

Do you have Global Entry? What is the best part of having it? Share your comments below. Be sure to like, share, and subscribe to She Jaunts!


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