What Does TSA Precheck Mean?

By A.J. Andrews

What does Precheck mean, anyways?

What Does TSA Precheck Mean?

Striding through abbreviated security checkpoints with your shoes, belt and light jacket in place and keeping your laptop and liquids inside your carry-on bag during screening – the benefits of traveling with TSA Precheck status are sweet. After approving your application, the Transportation Security Administration assigns you a known traveler number (KTN), which affords you the perks of the TSA Precheck Trusted Traveler program.

Known travelers

You receive your KTN when you receive your TSA Precheck card. You won’t use the card itself in the airport, but you'll enter the KTN, located on the back of the card, when you fill out your traveler profile with a participating airline. As of March 2017, 30 carriers and over 180 U.S. airports participate in the TSA Precheck Trusted Traveler program.

You need proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status and a clean customs and immigration record to receive a KTN and TSA Precheck card. To apply for a TSA Precheck card – which also doubles as a government-issued ID – complete the following steps:

  1. Fill out the online application. The application takes just a few minutes to fill out. Expect to answer questions relating to your employment history and every country you've visited in the past five years.
  2. Schedule an appointment for an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. You can find a center in most international U.S. airports and in Qatar and Canada.
  3. Complete the interview. Interviews last about 10 minutes and include a background check and fingerprinting.

Cost and membership term

A five-year membership in the TSA Precheck program costs $85, as of March 2017, due at the time of your interview. The fee does not include the cost of enrollment in related Trusted Traveler programs.

Other Trusted Traveler programs

The Department of Homeland Security offers three Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler programs to expedite reentry to the United States after traveling abroad: Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI. Each program includes TSA Precheck benefits and, depending on the program, can extend to citizens of other countries.

Boarding pass

Your boarding pass will reflect your TSA Precheck status and allow you to enter the special line for the expedited security checkpoint. Depending on your carrier, "TSAPRECHK," "TSA PRE" or the trademarked TSA Precheck logo will appear on your boarding pass. If you have children ages 12 and under, they can share your TSA Precheck benefits. Children 13 and over, spouses and other family members need their own TSA Precheck membership to go through expedited security screening.

As part of a move toward a more versatile approach to airport security, TSA behavior-detection officers sometimes select passengers from standard security screening lines and invite them to Precheck. Airlines take a similar approach with frequent flyers. Check your boarding pass before you get to security; you might find you've been chosen to use Precheck for this flight even if you haven't applied.

At the airport

At the airport, you'll find the TSA Precheck area close to but cordoned off from the standard security line and clearly marked with a sign bearing the TSA Precheck logo. You enter the Precheck line, show your ID and boarding pass to TSA personnel and, keeping your light coat and shoes on and your laptop and liquids in your carry-on the whole time, proceed through the checkpoint and to your gate. It's that simple.

About the Author

A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.