OK, fellow travelers (myself included), we have officially run out of excuses for not having the security expediting service known as TSA PreCheck. On Friday, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced it has reduced the enrollment fee for a five-year TSA PreCheck membership from $85 to $78.
The price drop comes as the number of passengers traveling through the country’s airports has been nearing—and occasionally topping—prepandemic levels for the first time since March 2020. It also comes just as we are about to embark on the busy holiday travel season, one during which there are likely to be long lines at the country’s airports as staffing shortages continue to plague the air travel industry’s rocky pandemic rebound.
While reports of hours-long waits in airport lines have made headlines this year, 93 percent of TSA PreCheck passengers wait less than five minutes to be screened at TSA security checkpoints, according to the agency. For anyone who has ever stood sweating and stressing in a longer line as your boarding time gets too close for comfort (raises hand), that condensed wait time could prove priceless.
TSA is hoping to encourage enrollment in its TSA PreCheck program and reduce airport congestion (and missed flight stress) with its new lower sign-up fee. As of November 4, the cost to enroll in TSA PreCheck is now $78, and in-person renewal has also dropped from $85 to $78. Last year, TSA reduced the price for online membership renewal from $85 to $70.
No matter the price, frequent fliers attest that the five-year membership is worth every penny. Last month, personal finance site FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,500 of its members who indicated they were TSA PreCheck members, and 92 percent said the cost ($85 at the time of the survey) is worth it for the benefits. In fact, they said would pay an average of $224 for a TSA PreCheck membership and reported that they experienced shorter lines at the airport 65 percent of the time.
TSA PreCheck members have access to shorter and (typically) quicker security lanes, where prescreened travelers are not required to remove their shoes, belts, or light jackets or take their laptops and 3.4-ounce liquid containers out of their bags and backpacks (another major perk). Additionally, parents and guardians with TSA PreCheck membership can bring kids 12 and under through the TSA PreCheck lanes with them.
How to enroll
Travelers who would like to enroll in the TSA PreCheck program can do so online or in person. They will then need to complete an in-person interview at one of more than 500 enrollment centers, which are located at airports, office buildings, and numerous Staples stores throughout the country. Applicants provide their fingerprints at the enrollment center, and once approved (following a background check), they will be assigned a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that confirms their TSA PreCheck status.
TSA notes that travelers can expect to get their Known Traveler Number within three to five days after the in-person appointment. That’s worth highlighting because TSA’s Global Entry program, which expedites the customs re-entry process into the United States and includes automatic enrollment in the TSA PreCheck program (at $100 for a five-year membership) is currently experiencing a major processing backlog.
Once TSA PreCheck members receive their Known Traveler Number, they must add it to their reservation when booking a flight, which will give them access to the TSA PreCheck lanes at more than 200 domestic and international airports throughout the United States.
When renewing TSA PreCheck enrollment, travelers may or may not be asked to conduct another interview—TSA will inform applicants if an interview is required for their renewal.
Michelle Baran Michelle Baran is the senior travel news editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, pandemic coverage, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.