a large crowd of people in a building

Traveling through US airports is always a fascinating adventure. Somehow, regardless of which airport I end up traveling through, I end up asking myself “what is wrong with people” as I pass through security.

No, it’s not because most people haven’t read my airport security etiquette guide.

The reason I often wonder what’s wrong with people, is because so many have access to a far better airport security experience, yet so few take it up.

Seeing news that TSA PreCheck enrollment had recently hit 15 million made me laugh because while an impressive milestone in a sense, it’s also so far off the mark.

I’m talking about the “free” TSA PreCheck credit that comes with an innumerable number of credit cards yet goes unredeemed, leaving people unnecessarily in snaking queues for miles. If you’re not already enrolled in TSA PreCheck or even better, Global Entry, it’s probably time to see if a card you already have gives it to you.

At the very least, it’ll save me from asking “what’s wrong with you?” if we ever travel together and you don’t have it, despite holding a card offering it!

a large crowd of people in a building

TSA PreCheck Via Credit Cards

If you have a rewards credit card, there’s a likelihood that you have a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck as a perk of your card.

I’d almost go as far as saying that “most” rewards credit cards in the United States offer a $100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. The former is notably more cumbersome to apply for, but is well worth it. Just to rattle off a few eligible cards…

Even lesser known rewards cards like Commerce Bank’s World Elite Mastercard, PenFed’s Pathfinder card and the Diners Club Carte Blanche Corporate Card offer the fee credit. It’s really just about everywhere, and you should read the TSA’s list! If your card offers PreCheck for free, it’s really a no brainer to at least have in your pocket.

Plus, new scanners should mean TSA PreCheck will actually get faster, further begging the question of why someone with access wouldn’t have it!

15 Million People May Have Free Access

Now, we know that many people pay for TSAPreCheck or Global Entry access out of pocket. We know that the TSA recently boasted about 15 million total members being enrolled.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a fair percentage of these 15,000,000 people eventually found out that a card in their wallet gives them complimentary access, if the fee is paid with that eligible card. I have “in family” experience with this, and have now made it my mission to get anyone in my orbit enrolled using a card that grants access, gratis.

What’s fascinating is that a multiple of 15 million people have rewards credit cards in the United States. Card companies are intentionally very vague on exact numbers but it’s safe to assume that millions more people who do travel at least once a year have access to TSA PreCheck without having enrolled.

Many cite infrequency of travel as a driver in not applying, but even a once a year journey can be transformed by the time savings and lack of hassle. Traveling around the world, you really come to see that despite its faults, TSA PreCheck is a pretty good product.

And when it’s likely free from a card in your wallet… what qualifies as a good reason for not having it?

Too Many People In The VIP Line?

Business travelers will lament instances where the PreCheck line is longer than the general security line.

I’ve seen it before at key hubs during peak business flights times, but it’s really not the norm. In almost all of my airport experiences the general line is much longer than PreCheck.

With the recent headline of 15 million people enrolled in TSA PreCheck, it lead some outlets to question whether the program was too big, or whether it was still worth it. In actuality, nearly double that number already have access to the lanes via a variety of federal programs.

Numbers don’t lie, and in 2022, a year not even at full capacity, the TSA screened 222 million travelers. Suddenly, 15 million doesn’t feel so large. Even if around 15 million more joined, a number which might be close to the total number of people eligible for free access, it’s still a huge differentiator.

And if you think that too many people in the “VIP” lane makes it not very VIP, i’d say CLEAR is the product for you. CLEAR allows people with TSA PreCheck to use facial recognition to verify their identity and skip directly to the front of the TSA line.

I’ve never spent more than 10 minutes going through US airport security with the combination of the two. Having both is a transformative airport experience. Having neither simply prompts the “what is wrong with people?” question.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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    1. These security schemes are a way for the government to make money. It puts people in a 2 class system. One that is less secure and one that is more secure. This is a form of a class system in society which is like being discriminated against. Only in America.

  1. It’s a combination of people who have no idea what it is (regardless of whether it’s a credit card benefit) or they don’t want to do the legwork of the online application. Their loss, I love Global Entry.

  2. this is great… if your airline and airport has clear in the terminal you fly.
    Based out of DFW and being AA the clear entrance is on another terminal, making a bit useless for AA flyers.

  3. I’m not allowed tsa precheck as an Aussie but never understand at ORD why there are soooooo many people in the priority line next to the empty tsa line. All these road warriors could just spend 20mins and get tsa!! Would pay them back in time after one departure!

  4. The problem is that Pre-Check is not a significantly faster process than regular security. What is needed is a screening for frequent flyers who know the rules and show up prepared. Not a pay-for-access program that allows the clueless flyer to clog up the system.

  5. What I find even more astounding is the almost unknown 100% free Mobile Passport Control App from the US Customs and Border Control. IMHO it’s even better than Global Entry. My experience using it when returning to the USA from abroad is that I often go past 20 or more waiting in a queue for Global Entry and straight to the dedicated agent with maybe one person ahead of me. Maybe I shouldn’t post this comment lol.

  6. I travel a fair bit.

    I do not claim to be business traveller, but I’ve one world emerald/advantage platinum ex.

    I am rarely in hurry anymore, have never paid for TSA PreCheck, etc.

    I never will.

    I now fly 6-8 legs a year, these extra taxes are great for people who are in such a hurry they show up late.

  7. Despite having gone through the preTSA/Global Entry interview process (waits of up to 8 months in 2021, travels to other airport offices, etc.), I was denied access to the preTSA line by the agent in charge on my next trip. This despite having my Global Entry ID card (which isn’t necessary for admittance) and was told that it’s (Global Entry) not a guarantee you’ll be allowed in. Bigger hassle than the author makes it out to be.

  8. The money has never been what’s stopping me from signing up for TSA pre-check, it’s having to schedule an appointment and get to the airport to get it.

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