Your AAA Network

TSA PreCheck: TSA Questions and Answers

What it is, how to use it and when to take your shoes off. Your TSA questions answered.

tsa questions

At times, an airport can feel like a pressure cooker, filled with thousands of harried travelers on deadlines. When you’re stuck in a never-ending TSA line, it can be even worse, especially if you’ve ever looked over at the security line labeled “TSA PreCheck” and watched the travelers breeze through.

TSA PreCheck envy is real, but you too can be on that shorter, faster line. Here are some TSA questions you might have about PreCheck, what it is and how you can get in on it.

What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck functions as a fast lane through the security line. By using background checks, Precheck can expedite the screening process.

What are the benefits of TSA PreCheck?

According to TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein, TSA PreCheck “allows participants to leave their jackets, shoes and belts on when they go through a checkpoint and it allows them to keep electronics in their carry-on bags. So it’s a great passenger convenience.”

Who is eligible for TSA PreCheck?

All U.S. citizens, nationals and lawful permanent residents can apply for TSA PreCheck.

“The application process includes providing some personal information, plus fingerprints,” Farbstein said. “That’s the key – TSA runs a background check, thus knows more about whether the individual should be in the program and deemed a trusted traveler.”

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How do I apply?

You can submit an online application to become a TSA PreCheck member on the Transportation Security Administration website. Then you can schedule an appointment for a background check and fingerprinting at a TSA PreCheck enrollment center. Within about two or three weeks, you will receive notification of your TSA PreCheck status. Afterward, your airline boarding passes will be marked with a TSA PreCheck emblem and barcode.

How much does it cost?

TSA PreCheck costs $85 and is valid for five years.

“That’s about $17 a year,” said Farbstein. “The cost of a few lattes.”

You can pay the TSA PreCheck application program fee with a credit card, money order or check.

Is TSA PreCheck available at all airports in the U.S.?

PreCheck is available at many U.S. airports, but not all of them. According to the TSA, PreCheck is currently available at over 200 airports and 80 participating airlines. Head on over to the website to find out if your airport participates.

tsa questions

Can families of PreCheck members use the PreCheck lane with them?

Although it is tempting to keep your travel party together through the security lines, everyone in the TSA PreCheck line must be a PreCheck member. You can either meet up with the rest of your party at the end of the screening process or join them in the regular security lane.

However, family members aged 12 and under can accompany an eligible parent or guardian with TSA PreCheck through the PreCheck lane.

What type of traveler is TSA PreCheck ideal for?

PreCheck is a great program for those who fly frequently and are tired of dealing with the regular security lanes. From the businessperson who doesn’t want to take off his expensive shoes, to the college student continually traveling between her school and hometown. It’s also ideal for those who travel with their electronics, since they don’t have to take them out of their carry-on bags for screening.

How does TSA PreCheck differ from other trusted traveler programs?

TSA and the Department of Homeland Security offer a few different trusted traveler programs for a variety of different types of travel needs.

TSA PreCheck is best for domestic air travel. It requires a valid U.S. photo identification and proof of citizenship.

Global Entry is $100 for a five-year membership, and it is primarily for arriving in the United States from abroad. It includes TSA PreCheck, and requires either a passport or a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident Card.

SENTRI is best for frequent travel between the U.S. and Mexico. SENTRI members can use expedited lanes for vehicle or pedestrian entry into the U.S. It’s $122.50 for a five-year membership and requires proof of citizenship.

NEXUS is like SENTRI, but for frequent travel between the U.S. and Canada. It is $50 for a five-year membership and includes TSA PreCheck. It requires proof of citizenship.

How does TSA PreCheck help to keep airports safe?

“For TSA, it’s an enhancement of security because it allows TSA officers to pay more attention to the passengers we know less about,” Farbstein said.

Do you have a TSA PreCheck membership? Do you want one? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!

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Comments
  • Marklein@optonline.net

    If you go thru security as a handicapped person how different is TSA? Is there an advantage and will they check my camera backpack ????

    Reply
    • Dana L.

      Hi there!
      That’s a great question. This is from the Transportation Security Administration’s website: “If you are approved to use TSA Pre✓® lane at a participating airport, you do not need to remove shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts, or light jackets during the screening process. You are required to undergo screening at the checkpoint by technology or a pat-down. Also, TSA officers may swab your hands, mobility aids, equipment and other external medical devices to test for explosives using explosives trace detection technology.”
      You can find more information on the TSA site by clicking here. I hope this was helpful, and thanks for reading!
      -Dana

      Reply
  • THOMAS F.

    AAA sponsored TSA “mobile” is a great idea, especially for seniors. When and where will it be available in Bergen County, N.J., or the Rockland County area? Tried to apply but closest interview was Kennedy Airport!!

    Reply
    • Dana L.

      Hi Thomas!
      We have a TSA Precheck mobile event going on at the Florham Park, N.J., branch through Aug. 30. (I believe that’s the next county over from Morris County?) Right now, we don’t have one scheduled for Morris or Rockland counties, but we’re always adding more dates!
      Check back often at AAA.com/TSA for updates.
      I hope this was helpful!
      -Dana 😉

      Reply
  • GORDON S.

    Well sometimes you still have to take off your shoes when using Precheck. More people are using Precheck so the lines are getting longer. That’s my experience at Newark anyway.

    Reply
  • LILIAN D.

    Where is the TSA enrollment center in Bergen County or the closest one to my home?

    Reply
    • Hi Lilian!

      If you click here, you’ll be able to enter your ZIP code and find the center closest to you.

      Thanks!
      -Dana

      Reply
  • SHARON L.

    Will you have AAA sponsored TSA “mobiles” available in the MA or RI AAA branches? It would be really really helpful and convenient – especially for seniors.
    Thanks so much,
    Sharon

    Reply
    • Hi Sharon!

      The TSA Mobile PreCheck vehicle will be back in branches in the spring. We don’t have dates right now, but we’ll be sure to let members know in Your AAA and on the Your AAA Network when dates are available.

      Thanks for reading!
      -Dana 😉

      Reply
  • Dean C.

    I have Global Entry but never get offered TSA-Pre. Should I advise the ticket agent if I but thru one? If I buy on-line how do I get that information to the website selling the ticket?

    Reply
    • Sarah H.

      Hi Dean! According to the TSA website, if you have Global Entry you “must include your known traveler number in the appropriate field of your airline reservation, and the TSA PreCheck indicator must be visible on your boarding pass and embedded in the barcode.” So I would say that you should advise your agent of your Global Entry status. When you’re buying online, there should be an option to enter your Global Entry information. Thanks for reading!
      -Sarah

      Reply
  • William N.

    Im flying in the next two weeks and was wondering what number off my TWIC card do I give the airlines for Precheck? There are so many different numbers on the back of my card? Can you help?

    Reply
    • Dana L.

      Hi there!
      I’ve forwarded your question to our Travel team, and a Travel Advisor should be reaching out to you shortly! In the meantime, I found this TWIC/TSA PreCheck FAQ that may be helpful.
      Thanks for reading!
      -Dana L.

      Reply
  • JODY L.

    After doing some research, I would rather get a Global Entry. Can I apply for it at the AAA/TSA event? Thanks, Jody

    Reply
  • I am trying to enroll my 14 year old grand daughter in pre check but the dropdown choices for id don’t apply to her as she doesn;t have a DL, etc. All she has is her school picture id and birth certificate. How do I get past the id drop down since it is a mandatory field?

    Reply
    • Hi there!
      You may have some help looking through the TSA PreCheck’s FAQ section. You can also call TSA’s application hotline at 855-347-8371.
      Hope this helps. Thanks for reading!
      -Dana L.

      Reply

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