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One of the best things about travel rewards credit cards is, well, the travel rewards. Those can include perks like free checked bags and priority boarding with an airline credit card, annual reward nights with hotel credit cards, or value-added benefits like statement credits toward travel purchases each year.
Some travel rewards credit cards even offer statement credits toward the cost of Global Entry, the U.S. government program that can save you time when going through customs. Normally, this program's application fee costs $100, but the right travel rewards card can help you get your Global Entry fee reimbursed. Here is what you need to know.
What Is Global Entry?
If you're not familiar with it, Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program for travelers that the U.S. government determines to be low security risks. Folks with Global Entry are able to use automated kiosks at immigration when entering the U.S. The kiosks require travelers to insert their passports, have a photo and fingerprints taken, and then answer a few simple questions about their travels.
Once complete, the machine generates a customs form, which allows members to exit the airport via expedited security lines. The entire process can take just a couple minutes depending on lines and the airport. It's a breeze compared with immigration and customs lines that can back up for hours at a time in the nation's busiest airports.
Global Entry membership lasts five years, though you can renew your membership up to a year before your current status expires so that you don't experience any interruption in access.
How Do You Apply for Global Entry?
Global Entry is available to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents as well as citizens from certain other countries, such as Germany, Singapore and the U.K. among others. To apply, you must first create a Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) profile online. After that, you will need to complete an application form with information including your recent home addresses, any criminal record and all the countries you have traveled to in the past five years. Once you have filled out the online form, you have to pay a non-refundable $100 application fee.
If your application is conditionally approved, you will then need to set up an in-person interview at a Global Entry enrollment center, many of which are at airports and border crossings. You must bring your valid passport and another form of identification with you, such as a driver's license or permanent residency card. A customs officer will ask you questions to verify your identity and the information on your application, then fingerprint you and take your photo.
The appointment should take around 15 minutes and you will probably be notified of the decision immediately, after which you should be able to use the services when you return to the U.S. from abroad. It can take a few weeks for your Trusted Traveler card to arrive in the mail, though.
How Can You Get Global Entry for Free?
While paying $100 every five years to enjoy the expedited services of Global Entry might not seem like much—after all, it breaks down to just $20 per year—applying becomes even more worthwhile if you can get your Global Entry fee reimbursed. The best way to do so is to use a credit card that will give you a statement credit for the cost of the application fee.
The way this works is, you use your eligible credit card to pay for the application fee, and then you should see a credit on your statement in the amount of $100. While it can theoretically take a billing cycle or two for this statement credit to be applied to your account, it usually happens automatically and almost instantly when you make the initial charge.
Which Credit Cards Should You Use for Global Entry?
There are over a dozen travel rewards credit cards that currently offer a Global Entry application fee statement credit, so you might already be carrying one that does so without even knowing it.
If you have Global Entry yourself, or have more than one credit card that will reimburse you for the application, some of these cards will let you charge the fee for someone else's application to your account and will still give you the statement credit. If in doubt, though, call your issuer to verify that this is the case before paying for the application.
Also remember that many of these credit cards will reimburse you for an application for either Global Entry or TSA Precheck, another time-saving travel program, but not both at the same time. So if you use your card to apply for TSA Precheck and receive a statement credit for that application fee, you will have to wait around four years until you are eligible again to take advantage of the card's Global Entry benefit. In general, you will be better off just applying for Global Entry since most folks who are approved will be extended TSA Precheck status as well.
Here are some of the best travel rewards credit cards that cover the cost of a Global Entry application, and how often you can claim this benefit.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Cardholders can receive a statement credit of up to $100 every four years as a reimbursement when the Global Entry application fee is charged to their card. Among this card's other benefits are up to $300 in annual travel statement credits, 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on dining and travel, 3 points per dollar on up to $1,000 per month on grocery store purchases through April 2021, and 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2022. You'll also have access to over 1,200 airport lounges around the world. The card's annual fee is $550.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Cardholders are eligible for up to a $100 statement credit once every four years for a Global Entry application charged to their card. Among the other benefits are earning 2 miles per dollar on all eligible purchases and waived foreign transaction fees. The card charges a $95 annual fee.
- UnitedSM Explorer Card: This is one of the best credit cards for frequent fliers, in part because it will reimburse cardholders up to $100 once every four years for a Global Entry application. It also earns 2 miles per dollar on United purchases, at restaurants, and on hotel accommodations purchased directly from hotels and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. There is no annual fee for the first year, then it goes up to $95.
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Like many of the other products on this list, this card will reimburse cardholders up to $100 once every four years for a Global Entry application. It also offers up to a $100 airline incidental statement credit annually for qualifying purchases such as seat upgrades and baggage fees as well as bonus earning opportunities on purchases of travel and dining. It carries a $95 annual fee.
This is just a handful of the rewards cards that currently offer such a benefit—plenty of other travel cards offer it as well. If you are interested in applying for Global Entry, check the benefits guides for your credit cards to find out if any of them offer a similar perk, or simply call your issuers to inquire. Not only is getting Global Entry an excellent idea for frequent travelers who want to save time at the airport, but it is relatively simple to receive a statement credit toward the $100 application fee, which makes applying an even better deal. Along with any other perks your credit card might include, the value you get from this benefit alone is a good way of offsetting at least part of your credit card's annual fee.
All information about the UnitedSM Explorer Card and Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card has been collected independently by Experian and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card.