Is TSA Precheck Worth It?

Shoshana Lewin

If you are a frequent flyer (or even a few-times-a-year flyer) and stare longingly at those who seem to pass right through the security line … there is good news: You can join them. These folks have TSA Precheck, which means for $85 and a background check they can go through security faster without having to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, and light jackets.

More than 5 million people are TSA Precheck passengers, and use the program at 200 airports around the United States, according to the TSA website.

1. Fill Out the Form

The first part of the process is filling out the online application. Make sure the name on your application is an exact match to the name on the identification and proof of citizenship/immigration documents you bring to your enrollment interview. It takes five minutes to fill out the application and schedule an in-person appointment, which includes a background check and fingerprinting at an enrollment center.

There is no minimum age to apply, however, passengers who are 12 and younger, and traveling with a parent or guardian who has TSA Precheck, can use it at no extra cost. TSA Precheck is only open to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and lawful permanent residents.

2. Find a Location for the Background Check

The TSA site has a search page to find the closest location (there are more than 350) to do your background check and fingerprints (in some cities, however, "close" is a relative term). More than 40 airports have enrollment centers, or you might decide to go to a place like Identogo. At the enrollment center, you will have your fingerprints taken and be asked some background questions. This is also where you will pay the $85 enrollment fee –- remember, it's good for five years.

3. Get Approved

Those who apply for TSA Precheck will receive written notification within two to three weeks after the in-person appointment, although many people get approved after several days (you can check your status online).

4. Safeguard Your Known-Traveler Number

Once approved, you'll get a Known-Traveler Number (KTN), which you'll need to make sure is in your profile when you book your next flight (you can use that number to make updates to your profile on the TSA site, too). Why is this so important? Because participating airlines print a TSA Precheck indicator directly on your boarding pass, and eligibility is embedded in the barcode of that boarding pass. There is no special ID card with this one, so if you don't enter the info into your reservation, you're out of luck at the airport.

If you are interested in getting TSA Precheck before your next flight, apply sooner rather than later, because there are only a limited number of time slots available at each location.

Other Trusted Traveler Programs

Not sure if TSA Precheck is right for you? The Department of Homeland Security offers a comparison chart of the different Trusted Traveler programs. TSA Precheck is the only one that is overseen by the TSA -- the other three are part of Customs and Border protection.

Shoshana Lewin Fischer is a Senior Content Manager for She is a writer and blogger whose work has appeared on Wonder & Co., Disney Family, Disney Baby, and The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.