The Difference Between Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck

By A.J. Andrews

Learn which is best for your international travel

The Difference Between Global Entry vs. TSA Precheck

Global Entry provides international travelers with expedited processing through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from flights returning to the U.S. from abroad, and TSA PreCheck doesn't. If you travel just once a year, Global Entry proves its value. Global Entry travelers can bypass CBP officials and instead check in electronically at a Global Entry kiosk, provided the airport has one.

The best deal

Global Entry, at $100, offers both domestic and international travelers the best deal – when you sign up for Global Entry, you receive TSA PreCheck membership, which costs $85 on its own, automatically. TSA PreCheck provides expedited boarding by allowing you to pass through security with your shoes and belt in place and your liquids and laptop unmolested (if in a TSA-compliant carry-on bag).

According to the TSA, 97 percent of PreCheck members waited less than five minutes to board their flights. However, TSA PreCheck membership doesn't guarantee that security officials won't select you for a secondary screening. In fact, some passengers might even get PreCheck privileges without applying. Sometimes, airlines reward frequent low-risk flyers with PreCheck status good for one flight. Check your boarding pass for confirmation.

If you don't travel internationally, think of the $15 price difference between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck as insurance in the event you ever do. Both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry fees cover the same membership duration.

Membership period

You can enjoy both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck membership for five years before you have to renew. You can renew your Global Entry membership online up to six months prior to your expiration date, and you may not have to go through the application process a second time. With TSA PreCheck, on the other hand, you have to repeat the application process, including the background check and interview.

TSA and CBP requirements

Both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck fall under the Trusted Traveler umbrella, but the TSA administers the PreCheck program, and the Department of Homeland Security administers Global Entry. TSA makes PreCheck available to U.S. citizens with or without passports and lawful permanent residents, whereas the CBP offers Global Entry to U.S. citizens with passports, permanent residents and citizens of the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Colombia
  • Germany
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Panama
  • Republic of Korea
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

The application process for both programs is essentially the same: Apply online, schedule and attend an interview, verify ID, submit your fingerprints, and pass a background check. Neither program accepts applicants with prior criminal convictions.

How to use PreCheck and Global Entry

When approved for PreCheck, the TSA provides you with a government-issued ID card and a Known Traveler Number (KTN), which you provide when booking your flight. You gain entry to the PreCheck line when you show your boarding pass, not your PreCheck ID.

With Global Entry, you scan your passport, fingerprints and declarations form at a designated kiosk instead of passport control.

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.