I have a platinum Delta Airlines frequent flier credit card and when they offered to reimburse fees for Global Entry as a perk for all card owners, I jumped at the chance. Global Entry costs $100 and includes TSA PreCheck and is good for five years. In other words, it’s not only useful for international flights but for domestic flights as well.
On the other hand, if you just get TSA PreCheck by itself, it’s $85 for five years, so for just $15 more you can get BOTH Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. I’m not sure who would even hesitate to just get Global Entry given this fact, unless you truly had no plans whatsoever of flying internationally in the next five years.
I applied for Global Entry sometime around the beginning of 2020. You know, before the pandemic started and people were still flying to other countries regularly or at all for that matter. I had applied online and got an email saying the first part of the process (background check) was approved and I just needed to schedule an interview at an airport approved for interviews at my earliest convenience. But then when not only international borders but also states were restricting travel early in the pandemic, I quickly saw my options for scheduling an interview go out the window.
The closest airport to me was never an option for an interview but I was willing to drive to another airport if it wasn’t going to be too far away. Even those airports weren’t offering appointments after the pandemic started, though. I remember checking the airports I was going to be flying into when I did start flying again in 2021 but none of those airports were scheduling interviews for Global Entry and I started to get extremely frustrated.
Finally, before I flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico in the fall of 2021 I checked the online calendar for Global Entry interviews there and somehow managed to find an appointment that would work with my schedule. The “interview” was basically getting fingerprinted and my face scanned for facial recognition. They did ask me a couple of questions like if I had been to Mexico in the last six weeks or something like that but it was nothing intense. Within about 10 minutes, I was out of there and was told my card would arrive in the mail shortly.
I knew I would be flying to Portugal the following spring and while I would have my Global Entry card, my daughter, who didn’t go to New Mexico with me did not have hers. She had been “conditionally approved,” meaning she still had to have the interview and fingerprinting done. Fortunately some time in 2021 several airports began offering this final step in the process upon arrival from another country, including Newark Airport in New Jersey, which we would be arriving to from Portugal.
After getting off the plane when we were headed toward Customs and Border Control, I saw the signs for Global Entry and followed them through until I saw kiosks. I scanned my face and a receipt was printed out that said to hand it to an agent upon exit and that was it! I was done! No line, no waiting, nothing! My daughter, however, had to wait in a short line behind about five other people for her interview, which went without incident and then we were both done.
I’ve used TSA PreCheck before so I was already aware of the benefits with that program. If you’re not familiar with TSA PreCheck, it basically allows you to jump ahead in the security line to a dedicated line and you don’t have to remove your shoes or jacket and you can keep liquids in your carry-on bag. I probably wouldn’t pay for TSA Precheck by itself unless I traveled much more than I do but since it’s part of the package with Global Entry, it’s a nice extra perk.
What if you only fly once a year internationally, is it worth it, you may be asking. Let’s break it down a bit. That’s $100 for five years or $20 each year for both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. Would I personally pay $20 for A LOT less hassle after arriving home from an international flight, where I’m inevitably going to be exhausted? Probably but when you throw in TSA PreCheck on top of that for multiple domestic flights a year that I usually take, my answer is a stronger yes. Of course, the more you fly internationally and domestically the more it would be worth to you, but to me, just one flight a year out of the country is worth having it.
Since I get my Global Entry fees reimbursed by Delta, it was a no-brainer to get Global Entry, since I don’t even have to pay $100 for the programs. This wasn’t a one-time offer, either. When I renew with Global Entry, my credit card will reimburse me for the fee. Of course I did have to pay for my daughter but when I include her in the costs, it’s like I’m getting a 2-for-1 deal. For only $50 each for five years or $10/year we get Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, which is really 100% worth every penny.
One final note, while it took quite a while for my Global Entry card to be processed, that was largely due to the pandemic. Under “normal” circumstances, it shouldn’t take nearly as long or be such a pain to get as mine was. Still, you should allow a minimum of 90 days for processing. If you don’t live near an airport where they do the in-person interviews, either plan on doing approval upon arrival or find an airport where you can make an appointment (like I did when I was flying domestically).
What about you? Do you have Global Entry? If so, what was your experience like using it? Have you thought about getting it but didn’t because of the pandemic and shutdowns?