Traveling during the holidays can mean long lines and, especially if traveling with kids, stressful situations. Most people focus on the front end of lines, getting through security and to the gate. That is where TSA PreCheck and CLEAR become helpful, in order to get through security in a rush. Check out our guide to PreCheck and CLEAR here. But, focusing on security is only one half of the time saving, line shortening procedure. On international travel, the other half is going through customs after you land. I have spent hours waiting in long customs lines, but not anymore. After signing up for Global Entry, getting from the plane out to the street has never been easier. If you’re finished waiting in long customs lines, this is your guide.
Signing up for Global Entry is the best advice I can give. It is located close to 75 airports and includes a number of preclearance airports. Preclearance allows you to go through customs before your flight takes off for the US, so you do not have to clear customs when you land. A number of international airports, including Aruba (AUA), now have this. Signing up costs $100 for a five year membership (learn how to get it for free later on) and comes with TSA PreCheck for free. After you sign up online and are conditionally approved, you can schedule your interview at one of their locations. Many of the interview locations are at the airports that have Global Entry. A few days later you will get your Global Entry card in the mail and will be ready to go. There is no need to carry the physical card with you when coming into the country by air; however, if you ever need it, your Global Entry card is a federal ID.
After going on an international trip, and you return to the US, you can walk right past the long security waits and get in line (or lack thereof) for Global Entry. After an almost nonexistent wait, you just use the kiosk to scan your fingerprints and answer a few questions. Then you take your slip to the border agent, and you’re finished. It is actually quite easy. When you want to use your Global Entry membership for TSA PreCheck, just put your trusted traveler’s number (the number you get when signing up for Global Entry) where indicated on the airline’s website, and there you go; that simple. Yes, the application process can be tedious and annoying, but it is most definitely worth your time in the long run.
Unlike TSA PreCheck where kids under 12 can go with you for free, Global Entry is a different story. Everyone traveling must have his/her own Global Entry account and go through his/her own application process. Unfortunately, “everyone” includes your baby, so do not forget to make an account for him/her. If using Global Entry with young kids, make sure to hold their fingers as still as possible for the scan to work.
There are a number of ways to get Global Entry for free. The main way is to get it through credit cards. There are a number of tier 3, low annual fee credit cards that come with a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, the credit for which normally covers, if not exceeds, the cost of the annual fee. Some low annual fee cards that have a credit include:
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
United Explorer Card
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
Bank of America Premium Rewards Visa credit card
In addition to low annual fee tier 3 cards, many tier 4 cards include a credit as well. Tier 4 cards are top of the line, travel rewards cards, so it would make sense that these cards would include such a travel benefit. Although tier 4 cards have the Global Entry, as do the tier 3 cards, don’t be fooled. Tier 4 cards have many other amazing benefits. Some premium travel rewards cards that have a credit include:
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
The Platinum Card from American Express
The Business Platinum Card from American Express
Citi Prestige Card
Take note that if you add an authorized user to some of these cards, that person may be eligible for the credit as well. This is yet another great reason to give your teenager a credit card and add him/her as an authorized user. Check out here why you should add you kid as an authorized user. Personally, my family used four Global Entry credits that we got from the American Express Platinum Card by adding three authorized users to that card. This allows our family of four to breeze through customs entirely for free.
If you have more Global Entry credits to use than you or your family need, then you could give the credit to your friend. For example, we have both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the AMEX Platinum Card with three authorized users. We have five credits to use but only four people to apply them to, so we gave our grandparents one of the credits. The credit is a credit card statement credit, so it doesn’t matter who signs up for the card as long as the cost of application is applied to that card. Please note that the statement credits may take multiple weeks to show up.
I would always recommend traveling internationally with Global Entry. It is most definitely worth the time that it takes to first apply and then drive to an enrollment center. If you are traveling with family and want to get everyone Global Entry, then I would recommend scheduling all your interviews at once to prevent having to drive to the enrollment center multiple times.
Overall, get Global Entry. It is that simple. It will save you time, and you will not regret it. Make sure to use a free credit that you have, or sign up for one of the credit cards listed above to get one. The credit often says TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, so make sure to use it on Global Entry, as it gives you both, and you will not have to sign up for two programs individually, at twice the cost. I hope that Global Entry will help you this holiday season and make sure to comment below if you have any other questions.
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