Life in the fast (security) lane

TSA Pre-Check has changed my life. It means getting to the airport later, a more pleasant security experience and shorter waits, but you should not purchase Pre-Check.

There are four programs that let you bypass the lines in exchange for becoming a trusted traveler and subjecting yourself to various background checks. Pre-Check is administered by the TSA. While Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI are administered by CBP. All are good for five years from your closest birthday, which means you should apply just before your birthday and schedule the interview right after.

NEXUS provides the best value at $50 USD (or cheaper $50 CAD by mail only). The program is jointly administered by CBP and its Canadian equivalent CBSA. It allows holders to enter the US, Canada and Mexico through special expeditious lanes by air, land and sea. It also includes Global Entry and Pre-Check benefits at no extra charge. It generally takes longer for your application to get processed (about eight weeks) and requires an interview in Canada to maximize your benefits. Canada requires a retina scan to enter with NEXUS benefits by air and it can only be done at Canadian interview sites. You can enter the US from Mexico with a NEXUS card by foot or by road in a SENTRI approved car (find a friend or pay $42 for your car to be inspected).

SENTRI provides the next best value if you plan to go to Mexico in your own car. At $110, it’s the most expensive of the four program. It allows holders to enter the US (from Mexico or Canada) through special lanes. It also includes Global Entry and Pre-Check at no extra cost. You cannot use it to enter Canada through NEXUS lanes. Holders must submit to a vehicle inspection and travel in that vehicle when entering the US from Mexico.

Global Entry allows holders to enter the US by air much quicker. At $100, it also allows users to enter the US by land in NEXUS lanes from Canada. Holders may use SENTRI pedestrian lanes or be passengers in a SENTRI-approved vehicle to use the SENTRI road lanes. Pre-Check is included at no extra charge. Holders of some elite travel credit cards may have their Global Entry fee reimbursed making this a better option than NEXUS or SENTRI.

Pre-Check is $85 and only allows expedited screening when boarding flights in the US. It does not include Global Entry, nor does it allow you to use dedicated lanes entering the US. You are much better off paying the extra money for Global Entry or SENTRI unless you live near or are traveling close to a NEXUS interview site.

I personally have NEXUS and the $10/year is well worth it. It’s saved me countless hours crossing between the US and Canada, US and Mexico and boarding flights in the US. When my pass expires, I may switch to Global Entry if I need to re-interview with NEXUS since I no longer live near Canada and Chase Sapphire Reserve reimburses the more expensive fee for Global Entry, but not NEXUS for some reason.
Life in the fast (security) lane Life in the fast (security) lane Reviewed by Brandon on May 02, 2017 Rating: 5

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