If you’re planning on traveling, be prepared for crowded airports. A quick look at the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) website shows that the number of daily air travelers routinely tops two million people. This inevitably means long lines and longer wait times at TSA security checkpoints, making your travel experience extremely frustrating.
Want to avoid the hassle of the TSA’s standard security line and all the fumbling with your shoes, belts and jackets? You might want to consider applying for TSA PreCheck®.
What is TSA PreCheck®?
In 2013, the TSA introduced PreCheck®. This program allows eligible travelers who have successfully completed the application process and received a Known Traveler Number (KTN) from the TSA to go through an expedited airport security screening. According to the TSA, the program is honored at over 200 airports and by more than 85 airlines, including the major carriers.
Who’s eligible for TSA PreCheck®?
Anyone in the following categories is eligible to apply for TSA PreCheck®:
- S. citizens
- S. nationals
- Lawful permanent residents
How do you apply for your KTN?
You must complete the following steps to receive a KTN and be approved for TSA PreCheck®:
- Go to tsa.gov/precheck or tsaenrollmentbyidemia.tsa.dhs.gov and fill out the short online application.
- Follow the instructions on the application and schedule your in-person appointment at a TSA enrollment center, noting the documents you’ll need to verify your identity during that session.
- Arrive as scheduled and present your verifying documents at your appointment, which should last about 10 minutes and will include fingerprinting and a background check.
- Pay the $85 membership fee at the enrollment center during your appointment. The TSA accepts credit cards, debit cards, money orders, company checks and certified or cashier’s checks. Some credit cards and loyalty programs cover all or part of this fee.
According to the TSA, most applicants receive their KTN in three to five days, and all TSA PreCheck® memberships are good for five years. You can check the status of a pending application or an existing membership on the TSA website.
How do you use PreCheck®?
To use your PreCheck® status, provide a participating airline with your KTN when booking your flight. Your subsequent boarding pass will include a PreCheck® indicator, typically TSAPRECHK, TSA PRE or TSA PreCheck®. Once you’ve checked any bags at the airport ticket counter, you can proceed directly to the TSA lane dedicated to PreCheck® passengers. If that lane isn’t open, just show your boarding pass to the TSA official in the standard line and your screening should be expedited.
Children 12 and under traveling with a parent or legal guardian with a KTN don’t need to apply for their own number. They’re allowed to pass through PreCheck® based on the accompanying adult’s boarding pass. Typically, kids between 13 and 17 can do the same, but the TSA’s FAQ says sometimes these older children are randomly excluded from this exemption and have to go through the standard line.
When traveling alone, children 17 and younger need their own KTN to enjoy the expedited security process.
What’s different in the PreCheck® lane?
Unlike passengers in the standard TSA lane, when you go through the PreCheck® one, you’re allowed to keep the following items as is:
- Your shoes, belt and a light jacket on your person
- Your laptop in a carry-on bag
- Your one-quart clear plastic bag with only 3.4-ounce bottles per the 3-1-1 liquids rule in a carry-on bag
This significantly cuts down on the time you spend going through security. For example, “In October 2022, 91% of TSA PreCheck® passengers waited less than 5 minutes,” the agency says.
What else should you know?
Keep in mind that the name and date of birth you use to book flight reservations must match the ones used to apply for your KTN. If for some reason, your boarding pass doesn’t show the PreCheck® indicator, call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673, submit its online form or contact @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger.
Here are a few other important things to know about the program:
- Renewal: You can apply to renew your membership starting six months prior to its expiration for which you’ll receive multiple notices by phone or email. Online renewals cost $70 and in-person renewals at enrollment centers cost $85.
- Expiration: The TSA blog says you can renew your membership and keep the same KTN up to one year after it has expired.
- Disqualification: Violating federal security regulations, such as assaulting or interfering with a flight crew or making a bomb threat, can disqualify you from getting a KTN through PreCheck® or lead to the suspension of an existing membership.
TSA PreCheck® is one of several ways to make traveling less stressful. Others include understanding the keys for traveling with your pet, remembering to stay cybersafe on the road and knowing when and why travel insurance makes sense.
Editor’s note: Quorum is not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this article and derives no benefit from these businesses for placement in this article.