If you’re a frequent flier, TSA PreCheck can make your airport security experience much less of a hassle. TSA PreCheck is a Trusted Traveler Program issued by the Department of Homeland Security. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for airport security in the U.S., and it uses PreCheck as a method of pre-approving travelers for a more streamlined security screening.
TSA PreCheck members don’t need to remove their shoes, belts, or light jackets, and laptops and liquids can stay in their bags when they go through airport security via a dedicated lane (though the liquids still need to comply with the 3-1-1 rule). This generally speeds up the process — 99 percent of TSA PreCheck travelers wait less than 10 minutes. As of right now, more than 200 airports across the U.S. offer TSA PreCheck security services, and more than 90 airlines participate in the program.
If your airport or airline does not participate in TSA PreCheck, you will have to go through standard airport security screening — you can find out where the program is valid on the TSA’s website. And keep in mind that TSA PreCheck lanes are usually not open 24/7, so you may have to go through regular security at certain times of the day. Additionally, membership does not guarantee that you’ll be able to use the TSA PreCheck lane every single time you’re at airport security — sometimes you’ll still have to use the regular security lane for no clear reason.
TSA PreCheck doesn’t last forever — your membership will expire.
How to Sign Up for TSA PreCheck
To apply for TSA PreCheck, you must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or a Canadian resident with NEXUS (another Trusted Traveler Program), according to the TSA’s website. The process is straightforward — after you apply online, you’ll be conditionally approved to visit an official enrollment center for photographing and fingerprinting. After that, you should receive your Known Traveler Number (KTN), which must be applied to your flight bookings in order for you to utilize a TSA PreCheck lane.
When does TSA PreCheck expire?
TSA PreCheck expires five years from your membership’s date of approval. If you’ve forgotten your expiration date, you can look it up online by providing your name and KTN. The TSA will also send you expiration notices via email and/or phone (if you’ve registered them with your account) six months, three months, one month, and two weeks before expiration.
Keep in mind that your TSA PreCheck membership must be active on the day you travel, not the day you book your flight. So if you book your plane tickets in June for an August travel date, but your TSA PreCheck expires in July, you will not be able to utilize the TSA PreCheck security lanes at the airport.
When should you renew your TSA PreCheck membership?
You can renew your TSA PreCheck membership up to six months before the expiration date. We recommend you do this as early as possible, as it can take up to 60 days for your renewal to be approved. (That said, most people are approved within three to five days.) If you are approved for renewal before your expiration date, the new membership will not begin until the old one expires, so the fee will cover a full five years.
How to Renew TSA PreCheck
The TSA partners with third-party companies for TSA PreCheck applications and renewals. The list of current partners can be found on the TSA PreCheck website. At the time of publication, two companies provide renewal services: IDEMIA and Telos. You can renew with either provider, no matter what company handled your original enrollment.
Most renewals simply require you to fill out an online form, but in some cases, you may need to visit an enrollment center in person. IDEMIA currently charges $70 for an online renewal and $78 for an in-person renewal, while Telos charges $70 for both online and in-person renewals. Many travel credit cards provide up to a $100 credit towards Trusted Traveler fees, and that includes renewals — you typically just need to pay the fee with that card, and the credit will automatically be added to your statement.
If you renew your TSA PreCheck membership before it expires or reapply within one year after expiration, you will receive the same KTN number, so you will not have to update any settings in your airline frequent flier accounts.