Do you hear that noise? It’s the sound of thousands of blue-shirted government employees patting each other on the back. That’s because TSA Pre✓® just hit the 1,000,000 traveler mark. A million people! Woo hoo! That’s actually a staggering number when you think about it. A million people have now been screened and passed the security checks to get into the special Pre-Check lanes at 31 airports across the United States — either that or they were automatically given Pre-Check designation for having elite status on an airline. No matter how they got it, a million people are now qualified to keep their shoes and light jackets on. What a world we live in!
Truth be told, I love TSA Pre-Check. It makes my life so much easier at the airport. In fact, I timed it at DFW a year ago and I got through security in under a minute while it took my non-Pre-Check friend eighteen minutes to make it past the security conveyor belt. So why is applying for TSA Pre-Check a terrible decision?
The TSA Pre-Check Value Proposition
It all comes down to value. TSA Pre✓® is $85 for five years. That’s $17 a year. A deal, right? Technically, the answer is yes. In reality, though, it’s no deal at all. That’s because you can get Global Entry for a mere $100 for a five years. At $20/year versus $17/year, it’s a much better value. Global Entry INCLUDES TSA Pre✓® and for only $3 more a year, you also get an expedited customs experience every time you fly back to the US when you’re traveling internationally. Heck, I’d pay $3 each time for that privilege.
Paying for TSA Pre-Check without also getting Global Entry is like buying a car without a trunk. Sure, it works just like a car should, but wouldn’t you rather pay a little more for the convenience of a place to put your
dead bodies groceries?
TSA Pre-Check < Global Entry < NEXUS???
The application process for each is similar, although you do need a passport for Global Entry and you don’t for Pre-Check. Here’s a comparison chart here. If you look closely on the chart, though, there’s another program that seems even better than Global Entry. It’s the NEXUS program and it’s only $50 for five years, but comes with both Global Entry privileges AND TSA Pre-Check. WHAT?!?!? I’m not as familiar with NEXUS, but it seems like it has all of the benefits of Global Entry and Pre-Check but for less money AND with additional border crossing privileges into Canada. Am I missing something here? Is NEXUS the best Customs & Border Protection Program out there? If you’ve tried it, let me know your experience down in the comments.
The Bottom Line
So, if you came here wondering if you should apply for TSA Pre-Check, the answer is no. Apply for Global Entry instead. While I’m not personally familiar with NEXUS, you should explore that as an option, too, especially if it’s the same as Global Entry, but cheaper. Why would the government run a program with all of the benefits of the other programs but for half the price? I don’t know. I bet they don’t either.
UPDATE: Thanks to @eprowten on Twitter for pointing out that the enrollment centers for NEXUS are all based in Canada or the northern US. That means if you live in a US/Canada border state, you can get your NEXUS discount. For the rest of us, Global Entry seems to be the best value for your $$$.