TSA Pre✓™: Is It Worth It?

Most people understand that the enhanced security measures put in place post-9/11 are necessary—even if they are a bit cumbersome. You know the drill: take off your shoes and coat (and maybe your belt), place your laptop in its own bin; and remove your “toiletry baggie” (liquid items of no more than 3 ounces) and anything in your pockets. Then, once your screening is complete, redress and repack before heading to your gate.

Unfortunately, this level of security is here to stay, but TSA has created a program for low-risk travelers to experience expedited, more efficient security screening at participating U.S. airports. I’ve had TSA Pre✓ a number of times—it just showed up on my boarding pass—and I can tell you it’s great. You simply place your carry-on bag(s) on the conveyor to be run through the x-ray machine and go through the Advanced Imaging Technology machine; no undressing or unpacking is required.

This less intrusive process really enhances the airport experience—but would I pay for it?

Probably not. While I enjoy the easier path through security, I’m not going to apply for enrollment, primarily because I only fly 2 or 3 times a year. I can certainly see how it would be worth it for frequent flyers to bypass the normal security line.

Here’s how it works:

  • Applicants must be U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents who have not been convicted of certain crimes. (A list is available in the eligibility requirements.)
  • Applicants must provide biographic information and identity documentation at an application center, where they will be fingerprinted and pay a nonrefundable processing fee of $85.
  • Successful applicants will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN), valid for five years.
  • This number must be entered in the KTN field when booking travel on any of the 10 participating airlines (Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America).

Interested in learning more? Visit tsa.gov/tsa-precheck.

Adrienne Moch is a freelance writer/editor based in San Diego who loves to travel.

Adrienne Moch is a freelance writer/editor based in San Diego who loves to travel.