Global Entry and Company: Worth the Price?

Programs like Global Entry, T.S.A. PreCheck and CLEAR can save you time at the airport — for a cost. The Frugal Traveler looks at whether paying that price truly pays off.

Comments: 48

  1. Even if you have to wait for a bag, Global Entry may still be useful. For example, at Washington Dulles (at least) there is a much shorter line for customs check for Global Entry than for everyone else.

  2. Any idea how to get a duplicate global entry card sent to me? It has been 2 months since I was approved and no card. Getting a hold of the global entry office is impossible and the people at he airport where I had my interview won't even speak to me.

  3. I have been using Global Entry for a few years and really enjoy it. On a recent trip back home from Europe I arrived in EWR with very long lines and skipped right through. Yes I had checked a bag but you forgot to mention that you also get priority status to leave the customs zone with your bag, on that day the wait was probably 30 minutes or so. With the added bonus that it also came with Pre Check, it is pretty worth it. Though Pre-Check is issued at random you never really know if you will get it, unless of course you print your boarding pass at home or via an airline app 24 hours prior to flying and you will then know.

  4. Apparently age has reduced my fingerprint ridges and my fingerprints could not be scanned. Despite this, I was still approved for Global Entry but cannot use the kiosks since there are no fingerprints on file for me. I have usually been instructed to go to the front of the line or the diplomats' line with my Global Entry card and have never spent more than a few minutes upon my return to the US from trips abroad. However I wish Global Entry would use iris scans or other more modern technology so that everyone has an electronic ID and there is not this security glitch in the program as well as the inconvenience of us fingerprint challenged travelers not being able to use the kiosks.

  5. I. too, have Global Entry but no fingerprints on file. They tried for over an hour to take my fingerprints and said "This happens a lot," but my older fingers are too smooth for the machines to register any proper fingerprints. So I have to go to the kiosk, get the paper (with a big X on it) and then turn to the nearest officer in a cage to get through.

  6. I flew a couple of times last year and was a bit puzzled when my boarding pass was marked "TSA Pre Check". I had not signed up for anything. I was told I was approved because of my past travel history, whatever that means. Later this year I will be traveling to Europe and it will be interesting to see if I'm still cleared for "TSA Pre Check". I have to admit it was nice going through security without having to my belt or shoes off, take my laptop out of my computer bag. I have usually found the hold up at security is caused by fliers that don't bother to get ready for the walk through until the last moment.

  7. For non residents, I would say it saves you much more than 70%. Usually the lines are much longer than for US residents. Definitely worth it

  8. Did you look at NEXUS or any of the other Trusted Traveler programs? It appears that if you get NEXUS (the joint Canada/US trusted traveler program), it seems to come with Global Entry benefits and Pre-Check, but at half the cost. Are there any credit cards that reimburse you for program costs? I know some American Express cards used to, but don't know if that is still in effect.

    Another benefit would be using the Global Entry or NEXUS card as acceptable ID when traveling, so you don't necessarily have to give the TSA document checker something with your address on it (or have them flip through your passport, as they've done to me on several occasions, while refusing to answer questions about what exactly they're searching for.)

  9. We could solve multiple problems at once with a little imagination. For instance, suppose we set up special security checkpoints at downtown train or bus stations all over the country. After screening, passengers and their baggage would ride special trains or buses directly into the secured area of the airport. Best feature of this service: a firm guarantee that if you showed up there a specified number of minutes before scheduled departure and missed your flight for any reason, you would get a same-day flight to your destination. People would be willing to pay quite a bit for such a service -- AND it might finally pry more travelers out of their cars.

  10. two points on Global Entry. First good - at some airports (eg DFW), the Global Entry Pass allows you to go through a quicker customs/baggage line after immigration, so you save time here as well. Second, not so good - on departure, you should be able to use the TSA Pre-Check, but it is up to the airline to be in the system (the Pre-check is printed on your boarding pass). Currently foreign airlines such as BA and Lufthansa are not in the system, so if you are flying with them you go thru with everybody else (eg taking off shoes) and can't use the Pre-Check based on your Global Entry status).

  11. I fly every month between Albany, NY and Chicago. For the past 6 months or so, I've received the TSA PreCheck on at least 6 flights, and on 2 occasions, each way! I have no idea why I've caught the brass ring so many times. I'm glad I saved the $100 I might have considered spending for Global Entry! BTW, I have two friends who have Global Entry; they fly 4-6 times a year to Europe, and they like it.

  12. Airline travel has become so unpleasant that anything you can do to reduce the hassle is worth doing. It seems that Global Entry is the way to go even for those of us who travel only occasionally out of the country, since they throw in TSA Pre-Check.

  13. I have been part of the Global Entry program and TSA Pre-Check for at least 4 years. I fly about 100,000 miles per year both domestically and internationally. Let me tell you, it is well worth the $100 (amortized to $20 a year) to go quickly through places like that customs disaster in Miami. While others are waiting in line for about 30 minutes at DFW to go through security, I breeze through in less than 30 seconds sometimes with TSA Pre-Check without having to take off my shoes, take my laptop out, or remove my belt.

    Of course there are occasional glitches, but for me, not many.

    Steve
    www.travelingprofessor.com

  14. Great article! The answer to the question of what proportion of passengers would be interested in paying for services to speed up processing is: approximately 17%. This figure will vary between airports, but looking forward, is set to grow. The growth of this "Efficiency Lover" sector will stem from an increase in global traveller proficiency. Traveller proficiency is directly related to a desire for processing speed, and an inverse desire for airport terminal engagement.
    More about Efficiency Lover passenger segment:
    http://inplaneterms.com/2013/05/20/segmentation-based-on-core-values/

  15. Despite having global entry, and being a frequent flyer membership with two major airlines that are signed up with the TSA for their 'pre-check' I am regularly subjected to full body scans and all of the rest of the security theatre that abounds in US airports. Plus the spotty nature of the system means that unless you travel to only major hubs, you have to expect to be delayed in wait lines.
    My favorite US experience: having id's checked by a very elderly security woman wearing eyeglasses that truly were as thick as bottle bottoms. I'm not certain if she could even see the writing on the id's, much less match faces to photos.

  16. In my experience, TSA precheck becomes a lot more valuable and useful if you (1) do whatever you can to not check baggage and (2) don't fly business or first class. You mentioned the first one and in my experience it is accurate to say that waiting at the carousel cancels a lot of the benefits out, but so does sitting near the front of the plane -- those passengers are more likely to get to the customs line first and thus have less of a wait time than those in coach who get off the plane later.

  17. Interestingly about TSA precheck in MSP, the line for precheck can be much longer than the line for the 'priority' security (i.e. first class and elite flyers). In those cases, I bypass precheck, as I can get through regular security pulling everything out and taking off my shoes faster than the people in the precheck line. As precheck popularity grows, unless there are more precheck lines, it is going to be a slower option.

  18. I've been using Global Entry for about a year and really appreciate it, but when calculating the cost/benefit, you should also consider adding in the time it takes to find the kiosks in certain airports, since they're not always clearly marked, nor are staff necessarily readily available to direct you to them. At JFK recently, I saw three people with Global Entry cards waiting in the regular line because they couldn't tell if there was a kiosk available.

  19. My husband and I, both retired and seasoned international travelers find the Global Entry system very helpful at our home airport, DFW, which often has lines as long as three hours. However, the pre-check doesn't work well for my husband with his two new hips -- he has to be scanned. As he's over 75, he can keep his shoes on no matter which line he takes. I, however, love the pre-check line.

  20. We have found Global Entry and PreCheck to be very helpful. Key is for name to match exactly between Global Entry, PreCheck and airlines including middle names or initials. Another benefit not noted in the article is that in addition to skipping longer passport control lines, once bags are in hand there is a separate line, at least at Dulles, to exit the baggage control area with the printed receipt from the kiosk as opposed to the longer lines collecting the paper Customs forms. Letting non-paying fliers use PreCheck is annoying.

  21. The exact name thing has been a real challenge for me. Airline keeps adding on my middle name to my first name so it's not matching.

  22. On my last flight I was randomly selcted for TSA PreCheck. It was a wonderful to skirt the long line at Tampa International. Not sure why I was chosen.

  23. If you get the Nexus card, you only pay 50.00 and you get Global Entry that is accepted at all TSA Pre-checks. And because you get Global Entry, American Express Platinum, reimburses you for this expense.
    When my family wants to spend a few days in Toronto, we have a designated bridge (Whirlpool) were there is seldom a line. All the other bridges to Canada have a designated Nexus lane. Nexus can also be used at the border with Mexico.

  24. I got TSA Pre-Check for free--how did I do that? I think it must have been through my platinum status on Delta, but I really have no idea. I'm sure I didn't pay for it. Well, 99% sure. And it's rare that my checked bags arrive before I get through immigration, but I'm usually sitting near the front of the plane (though, sadly, not in business).

  25. The problem with Nexus is the interviews are only at certain airports and border checkpoints and the system to schedule an interview has no flexibility. in my case, this meant flying from NYC to Toronto just for the interview! No chance to customize the interview with a preexisting business or personal trip to the city where the interviews take place. Huge mostly dealbreaking problem.

  26. Nexus is the way to go - only $50 for five years and it gets me expedited processing entering Canada by land, sea or air and the same for the USA, plus TSA pre-check. Global Entry is only for entry by air in the USA. We sometimes fly in or out of Montreal, so it helps there as well. $10 per year is worth it for even one trip per year. We just returned from Peru, landing in Houston. Not only was there no wait for Immigration, once we got our baggage, there were three lines at Customs - no one was in the line for Trusted Travelers (includes both Global Entry and Nexus), and that put us through Customs before all those people in the other two lines. I would have paid $200 or more, but only $50. You are correct that you have to go to a Canadian Port of Entry - we did everything except the iris scan at the American port in Champlain NY, then took the 30 second drive to the Canadian side for the iris scan. I am a happy camper!!

  27. Terrorists can't afford the $179 Clear fee? Somehow, after reading all of this, I don't immediately feel safer but I am reassured that the world of buying into privilege is alive and well in America.

  28. If most of your international arrivals are through O'Hare, Midway, Vancouver or Miami don't bother with Global Entry. O'Hare's new :"kiosk entry" system is quite fast -- a couple of minutes really. Timing is perfect regarding luggage arrival.

  29. Dude,
    I travel nearly every week, most of the time internationally. I never check bags. Global Entry and TSA Pre have never failed to work well. Travel would be a lot more painful without them.

  30. My home airport is EWR and I fly on business fairly frequently. The PreCheck lines used to be a godsend; they were never busy and I'd breeze right through. These days the PreCheck lines are longer than the regular lines at certain hours and many of those using them don't know the drill, thus slowing everything up. At least in Newark it pays to check on which line is shortest, regardless of PreCheck, and use that! It's also ironic to note that in the year or so since I enrolled in Global Entry the lines at immigration have been non-existent when I've returned from overseas, but I'm still glad I have it.

  31. So choosing from 4 different systems will make my life easier? Seriously, 4 separate systems?

  32. I enrolled in Global Entry primarily for the TSA Pre-Check feature and recently discovered another glitch. Not all airlines are part of the program and if you're flying with one of those (in my case, Frontier), you won't be issued a Pre-Check boarding pass, Global Entry enrollee or not.

  33. We have Global entry & used it last year to go abroad. We're getting ready to use it again in 3 weeks when we go abroad again. The program worked beautifully at Dulles. We didn't have to wait in any lines & got through the airport as fast as we could walk through it. There was a separate line to clear customs & a separate one when we got our baggage & could clear through this separately with our Global entry. It was well worth the $100 price. The only drawback is most foreign airlines don't have TSA precheck so we have to go through the security lines. I still feel it's worth it. To disclose, I am a Federal employee & used to work for DHS & have secret clearance so my getting Global entry was very easy. I would highly recommend the program but note you don't get your money back if CBP doesn't give you the clearance.

  34. After waiting in a crowded, stuffy, smelly small area for 3 1/2 hours one night at JFK after an 11 hour flight, I immediately signed up for GOES on the agents suggestion. Process went smoothly, card arrived promptly. Will check back after it's first use. Cost isn't a factor when driver and dog sitter's clicks were ticking.

  35. When we were working, we were CLEAR members. CLEAR went out of business then resurfaced in fewer locations. As we were retiring, paying the annual fee seemed unnecessary. We have been Global Entry members for several years, after an agent inadvertantly pressed a wrong button upon my return from Europe to JFK, and I was placed in the NO FLY listing. After 5 months of communication, a note from Customs and Border Patrol relieved me of that designation, but unable to guarantee that it wouldn't happen again. Along came Global Entry: answer to my prayers! For me, it would be worth it at twice rhe price.

  36. I believe American Express Platinum card reimburses customers for the cost of Global Entry. Worth it for sure, if it's free! We've been using global entry for several months now both internationally and domestically. Totally worth it!

  37. Contrary to their website, it is NOT possible to correct an error by contacting a supervisor at the interview location where the error took place. Sending documented proof of the error to the so-called ombudsman only elicits a response that the decision was made at the interview office. The interview office then explains that their hands are tied because the matter was already referred to the ombudsman. The only recourse is to make a $1 million contribution to one's congressman to get the attention to have the problem addressed. Even amortized over 5 years, it's probably not worth it. Better to arrive early and take your sweet time going through security to ensure that the process is a lose-lose proposition for all concerned.

  38. We enrolled in the GOES system as soon as it started. I made an error on my form. It took over a year to clear the problem and several nasty immigration officials. The system works well. However, even when I have my baggage checked via "Sky Priority" I wait for at least 15 minutes. If there is a connection in the US and time is very tight it may be a beneficial program but I am not sure. The TSA pre-check is nice, however, its lines are getting longer by the day. At times they are longer than other lines. But your socks stay clean.

  39. Note to Gastonb: thick eyeglasses do not necessarily mean bad corrected vision. Post-cataract glasses (rarely used now) are very thick convex lenses and highly near-sighted glasses are very think concave lenses. In both cases wearers can have 20/20 or even better vision. Persons wearing such lenses would find your comment as offensive as it is ignorant. Your comment was also age-insensitive, offensive, and ignorant.

  40. What is needed is a program called, "forgetabouti". To sign up you go to Tony's pizza parlor in Raritan, NJ and they shake you down for two or three hundred dollars and send you home with a small cold pie.

  41. I enter the US at Houston Bush airport several times a year. I have had Global Entry for two years and now average 17 minutes from the time the wheels of the plane touch the tarmac to the time I am in my wife's car at the curb. Of course it helps I check no bags.

  42. Global Entry does have a number of time saving/less waiting advantages, however there are other glitches that can occur. Recently, we returned to the U.S. and bypassed a huge waiting line at immigration only to go to the baggage area and find that the baggage carrousels were stopped because people were not there to claim/remove their luggage off the line and the airline (a well known carrier) did not provide enough assistance to remove baggage to keep the flow going. So, when GOES works- great, but be prepared for the usual frustrations. However, for airlines and locations that use it, the TSA Pre Check is worth it.

  43. Besides a sketchy trip to San Ysidro (practically Tijuana) I am very happy with my Global Entry. I used it coming back from South America this winter and skipped a 1 hour immigration line and a 20 minute customs line. LAX also has a separate customs line for GE. My boyfriend didn't get GE in time for our trip and I got to wait for him outside in the coffee shop, much to his despair...he never listens to me.

    Also, American Express Platinum card reimburses you for Global Entry.

  44. I am a retired flight attendant with three joint replacements, probably due to my former job. I used to be responsible for the safety of passengers and now they have to be kept safe from me! Vast amounts of time are wasted thoroughly checking elderly people with medical devices. This means the rest of you will wait while this is done. PreCheck does nothing to address this issue.

  45. LOVE Global Entry. Recently flew into JFK from Rome. The lines were very long, even leaving after collecting luggage. We were out of there in less than 5 minutes. Worth every cent.

  46. I got NEXXUS this summer and have only gotten TSA precheck once out of 10 flights I have taken since. I suspect it is because my NEXXUS ID came out Elizabeth Middle Name Last Name while my id is Elizabeth Maiden Name Last Name as is my passport. My Global Entry two weeks ago went fine except my fingerprints are unreadable- but I got to go in a very short line to have that taken. I have a full background investigation every 5 years as a Federal employee and I have to wonder why that is not sufficient for expedited screening.

  47. I am a road warrior and practically live on planes. I dont have George Clooney's looks, but am "Up in the Air" all the time. Clear and TSA Precheck are great time savers.

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  48. I got global entry after a flight from Mexico with a change in Dulles. The line was so long I missed my connection despite allowing two hours. The next flght was five hours later. If there had not been a next flight I would have needed a hotel. I have used it three times since then and have been delighted although the timing does depend on how fast your luggage comes off.