If you have a summer tour or cruise planned, the news about extremely long TSA lines is especially troubling. After all, missing your outgoing flight can lead to a domino effect of missed connections that terminates in your cruise or tour bus leaving without you.
One solution: Get to the airport four hours in advance.
Better solution: Flex your credit card’s perks. Several cards offer benefits that can cut your wait in the TSA line. If one of the cards mentioned below isn’t already in your wallet, be warned: most of them require excellent credit and charge steep annual fees. If you won’t use these cards’ other perks (like lounge access), or don’t travel that much, paying for TSA PreCheck on your own is probably a better idea.
For people unfamiliar with PreCheck, it is TSA’s program that lets approved travelers (i.e. those who have gone through an application process that includes a background check) undergo an abbreviated screening at the airport. Shoes and jackets stay on. The laptop stays in your bag. And, even better, many airports have dedicated and usually shorter lines for PreCheck passengers.
Another program, Global Entry, is designed for expedited passage through customs. It also includes PreCheck.
Neither program is free. The PreCheck application costs $85 per person, while Global Entry costs $100. Both are valid for five years.
Assuming you pass the programs’ screening processes, several cards refund your application fee via a statement credit, including:
- AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard ($195 annual fee)
- Expedia+ Voyager card from Citi ($95 annual fee)
- American Express Platinum and Business Platinum ($450 annual fee)
- Citi Prestige ($450 annual fee)
- Luxury Card (Gold and Black versions) from Barclaycard ($495 or $995 annual fee)
- Citi AAdvantage Executive card ($450 annual fee)
Another alternative: passengers with elite airline status often have access to a special “priority” line at airports that transports them straight to the ID-check podium. Some airline credit cards can get you into this line without elite status, IF you used the card to buy your ticket and are flying the airline that day, namely:
- Delta Reserve card ($450 annual fee)
- American Citi AAdvantage Executive card ($450 annual fee)
- United MileagePlus Club card ($450 annual fee)
If you want to get any of the cards above and use their line-cutting benefits this summer, don’t wait too long as the process of applying for and receiving your card can take a few weeks. As does the application process for PreCheck and Global Entry. In fact, perhaps unsurprisingly, the TSA is reporting longer-than-usual-waiting times at its PreCheck application centers.
You can learn more about how to maximize using your credit cards while traveling at:
May 27, 2016