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TSA Precheck to Save Time?

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The busy holiday travel season is behind us. Many frequent fliers are aware of the TSA Precheck trusted traveler program. If you are less traveled, maybe you saw the signs at the airport or the select few passing rapidly though shorter lines and with notable speed compared to the slow grinding regular screening lanes.

So, what is TSA Precheck? And, are you a candidate? The program allows for relaxed screening standards of so-called "Trusted Travelers" who undergo a background check, allowing travelers to leave their shoes and belts on, as well as use a magnetometer versus a body scan x-ray or pat down. Laptops and liquids can remain in the carry on bags, though still subject to 3-1-1 restrictions on volume.

Precheck began in 2011 for select travelers with major US airlines. However, the program quickly expanded to accept other DHS Trusted Traveler program members, such as those enrolled in Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI, as well as members of the US Armed Forces.

Today, any traveler who is a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident may enroll for TSA Precheck by visiting their Universal Enrollment Services website. TSA Precheck vetting is valid for five years at a cost of $85 (non-refundable, verify Eligibility Requirements before you apply). Some airlines refund the application fee for frequent fliers who have premium elite travel status.

While TSA Precheck is available at every major airport, it has not been adopted by all airlines and not at every airport. TSA maintains a list of the airlines and airports approved for the Precheck program. If your airline of preference is not on the list or if you frequently travel to airports not yet in the program, TSA Precheck may not be a viable option for you.

As the programs continues to expand, some travelers notice longer lines at TSA Precheck than the standard screening lanes. The Transportation and Security Administration was unavailable for comment whether they intend to expand the number of screeners and lanes to handle the increased traffic.

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