Have you ever walked up to the airport security line or immigration line and didn’t want to wait in line? Wish you could just skip it? Or at least mostly skip it – I can’t say you can skip lines altogether, without making anyone mad or getting in trouble. Fortunately, there are ways to make your airport experience much better. How? By getting a Known Traveler Number. There are several Trusted Traveler Programs that give you a known traveler number, but which one is the best for you?
A Known Traveler Number (KTN) is a number that is assigned to you by enrolling (and being accepted) into one of several programs facilitated by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The exact perks depend on which program you apply for, but once accepted it will be well worth it.
Even though the Trusted Traveler programs themselves vary, the steps are pretty much the same. There’s the application, then an interview after waiting some time for them to review your application.
As I mentioned, there are several different Trusted Traveler Programs. Each one has slightly different benefits, though they all help minimize the time you’ll spend waiting in lines while you travel. Benefits last for at least 5 years and you can renew them before they expire. The three main Trusted Traveler Programs that you will likely consider are PreCheck, Global Entry, and Nexus. There are other programs but they overlap or are for a very specific group of people.
This is the most basic of all of the programs, though oddly not the cheapest. PreCheck is amazing. I hate when I go to an airport that doesn’t have PreCheck which tends to only happen at small airports. PreCheck lines are separate from other airport security lines. You don’t have to take off your shoes or belt and you don’t have to take anything out of your bag. It really makes security a breeze.
PreCheck goes $85 and is perfect if you only travel within the United States. Interview locations are available at most airports and wait times for interviews are usually fairly minimal.
The next step up from PreCheck is Global Entry. This allows you quick entry into the United States when coming back via air, land or sea. You should consider this over PreCheck even if you only take a few international trips.
It’s $100 so it’s an incremental cost from PreCheck. Locations for interviews are typically only at international airports, though there may be off-airport locations that might be more convenient for you. It’s $100 so it’s an incremental cost from PreCheck.
Many credit cards offer a Global Entry credit. If you’re not sure if yours does, feel free to contact me – I’ll be happy to help.
This Trusted Traveler Program is very similar to Global Entry, but it also allows you quick entry into Canada as well. The TTP website doesn’t say that it allows quick entry into the US, like Global Entry, but it has been my experience that it does. It is also the cheapest Trusted Traveler Program at only $50. If there’s an interview location convenient to you or you go to Canada often, Nexus is the way to go.
There are a couple of caveats with Nexus. The interview is at locations near the US-Canda border, so they’re less numerous than Global Entry Locations. This means the wait to get an interview can be longer. Also, the interview is with a Canadian agent as well. While the interview is a bit more stringent than the Global Entry interview, Nexus can be very worthwhile as Canadian immigration can be tough sometimes.
While both Global Entry and Nexus allow you to breeze through customs and immigration, as long as you don’t have to declare anything, they come with an extra perk. They both include PreCheck. So you can skip lines when you get to the airport and when you get back. Travel has become so much easier for me.
Back to the bit about declaring goods when you enter. Honest mistakes won’t give you a pass if you have Global Entry or Nexus. The old adage “you should have known better” definitely applies here. Part of participating in these programs is that you should know the rules. If you get caught, then you most likely will have your membership revoked (or worse). Err on the side of caution, and ask if you need to declare something if you’re not 100% sure.
If you’re applying for Global Entry, don’t pay for it! Use a credit card that has a Global Entry credit. Unfortunately, those credits are only for Global Entry. There are so many cards that have this credit. Even if you don’t have one yourself, I’m sure you probably know someone that does. I know I already said this, but it’s easily overlooked.
Being in a Trusted Traveler Program is one of my top travel tips. Leave a comment below with your best travel tips.
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