Sunday, November 8, 2015

Global Entry/TSA Pre√ Reimbursement

My husband travels for work, and earlier this year he applied for and received Global Entry membership. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Global Entry is a "program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States." Essentially, when you travel out of the country and arrive back in the United States, you can skip the regular customs line and scan your passport at a kiosk.

With Global Entry membership, you also get TSA Pre√, which expedites your screening at TSA security checkpoints when entering US airports. When you have TSA Pre√ on your boarding pass, you can keep your shoes, jacket and belt on and leave your laptop and liquids in your carry-on bag. Usually, the line is shorter. Also, kids ages 12 and under can accompany parents who have TSA Pre√ in the shorter/faster queue. (Not all airports and airlines are compatible with TSA Pre√--for example, Spirit Airlines).

I never really had much of a desire to go through the process of getting Global Entry or TSA Pre√ because the security line at Dallas Love Field (where we fly out of most frequently) has been really kind to families. Almost every time we have flown, we were ushered to the TSA Pre√ section and breezed right through security. Apparently, we were deemed low risk and were able to go through TSA Pre√ as part of a "managed inclusion" program.

However, in September, the TSA announced that it was discontinuing the managed inclusion program and only paying Global Entry/TSA Pre√ customers would get to use the TSA Pre√ screening (see this blog post). Bummer, no more shortcuts for us!

My husband convinced me that I should apply for Global Entry so that our whole family could continue to go through TSA Pre√. After all, we fly around three round-trip flights per year, so that is six times a year to go in the expedited line. And Global Entry is good for five years.

But what really sealed the deal for me is that one of my current credit cards, the American Express Platinum card, offers free reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA Pre√ fees once every five years. So how could I say no? I decided to apply for Global Entry with a $100 fee (vs. $85 for TSA Pre√) since Global Entry includes TSA Pre√ (and maybe sometime in the next five years I will leave the country and utilize Global Entry).

Here is the timeline for my process:

October 17--filled out application online and charged the $100 application fee on my Amex card
October 22--reimbursement for $100 application fee from Amex
October 28--conditional approval from DHS and an invitation to interview
November 7--interview at DFW and final approval

So the entire process for me was only three weeks from start to finish.

Global Entry Enrollment Center at DFW

DHS is testing Saturday interview hours during November at certain airports, so that might be why I was able to schedule my interview and complete the process so quickly.

During my on-site interview, I was only asked two questions: Have I ever been arrested? And have I ever violated customs? The officer took my photo and my fingerprints, and I was in and out in less than five minutes. In fact, I showed up early to my appointment because DHS called me and encouraged me to come in early (I had the feeling they wanted to leave early on a Saturday).

I should receive my official membership card shortly, but I already have my known traveler number. I can enter that into my frequent flier accounts for future airline tickets, and I must call Southwest to add my known traveler number to tickets I have already purchased.

If I didn't fly so often, or if I lived farther from a DHS enrollment center, I probably would not have made the effort to get Global Entry. But, my process was relatively painless.

Can you get reimbursed for Global Entry fees with your credit card? Here are a few cards that offer this benefit. You can also use cashback cards, like Discover, to apply a statement credit for your fee with points.

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