The Trick That Can Help You Skip Long TSA Lines

Airport security lines have been, well, out of control lately.

Last week, a video of an extremely long Transportation Security Administration line at Chicago’s Midway Airport went viral. A few days later, about 450 American Airlines passengers missed their flights out of O’Hare International Airport, also in Chicago, thanks to “longer than ever” lines. And it’s not just folks flying out of the Windy City experiencing problems. Reports of long wait times also surfaced out of Atlanta, New York and New Jersey.

How Can I Avoid the Wait? 

The backups are being attributed to an influx of summer travelers, more carry-on luggage and TSA staffing issues. Fortunately, there are a few ways to bypass long lines at the airport. The TSA does offer a Pre-Check program that provides eligible, low-risk travelers with expedited security screening. To take part in the program, you fill out an application, visit an enrollment center to provide proper documentation and pay a non-refundable $85 fee (valid for 5 years).

You could also apply for Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the U.S. The application process is similar and you have to pay a $100 non-refundable fee for the clearance (also valid for 5 years) whether you get it or not.

There is a chance, however, that the plastic in your wallet could cover your pre-approval. Some credit cards offer frequent flyers credits that can be put toward TSA Pre-Check and/or Global Entry (so long as you charge the fee to the card). Here are a few of them.

  • The Platinum Card From American ExpressAmex’s Platinum (see full review here) provides cardholders with one Global Entry ($100) statement credit or one TSA Pre-Check ($85) statement credit every 5 years for an application fee. This card has a $450 annual fee. American Express provides a similar credit for its corporate, consumer and business Centurion cardholders, corporate Gold cardholders, and corporate and business Platinum cardholders.
  • The Ritz Carlton Rewards Credit Card: This card from Chase offer cardholders a $300 annual travel credit that can put toward, among other things, Global Entry fees. The card has a $395 annual fee.
  • The Expedia + Voyager Card from CitiCardholders can use the $100 annual travel credit associated with this card to pay for either the Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check application fee. The card carries a $95 annual fee. (Full Disclosure: Citibank and American Express advertise on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
  • Citi Prestige CardCiti Prestige (see full review here) cardholders receive a $100 Global Entry application fee credit. The card has $450 annual fee.
  • Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard: This Citi card touts a $450 fee and a $100 statement credit every 5 years that can be used for your Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check application fee.

The Perks of Travel Credit Cards 

Many travel credit cards offer other amenities, like a free checked bag, priority boarding and/or airport lounge access that can make flying more enjoyable. (You can learn more about the best airline miles credit cards here.) Of course, you’ll want to read the terms and conditions of any credit card you are considering so you know exactly what you are getting before signing up. As you can see from the list above, many of these cards carry a high annual fee that might not be worth paying if you don’t travel often enough.

You should also check your credit, as a good credit score will help you qualify for the better plastic on the market. You can view two of your credit scores, updated each month, on Credit.com.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

At publishing time, the Platinum Card From American Expressthe Expedia + Voyager Card from CitiCiti Prestige Card and Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

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