How to Get TSA Precheck for Free

TSA precheck fast lane line before security at Reagan National Airport

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Travel rewards credit cards offer all kinds of perks that make carrying them worth it for many consumers. Some hotel credit cards come with automatic elite status and annual reward nights, while airline credit cards might offer free checked bags and priority boarding. Some of the best travel rewards credit cards currently available, however, go above and beyond the usual benefits to refund their cardholders with a statement credit toward the price of an application to join TSA Precheck, which otherwise costs $85.

If you're a frequent traveler who can take advantage of saving time with TSA Precheck's fast airport security lines, then it might be worth opening a new rewards card that offers this perk. Here's what you need to know and how to get TSA Precheck for free.

What Is TSA Precheck?

TSA Precheck is a U.S. government program that was launched in 2013 for travelers the Transportation Security Administration deems to be low risk. It currently counts over 10 million members. Travelers with Precheck who are flying on one of 73 participating airlines can use expedited security lines at over 200 major airports across the U.S.

During security screening, Precheck travelers generally don't have to remove their belts or shoes, or take laptops and liquids of approved sizes out of their carry-on bags. According to the most recent information from the TSA, 92% of travelers with Precheck spent under five minutes in security lines at airports.

How Do You Apply for TSA Precheck?

To be accepted into the TSA Precheck program, you must submit an online application with information including your physical characteristics, criminal history, and the date and location of your birth. Once you complete the application, which should only take a few minutes, the TSA will then perform a background check on you. You can check the status of your application online, and once you're conditionally approved, you can schedule an appointment at one of the over 380 enrollment centers around the country.

Bring a few forms of identification along to your interview from the list the TSA provides, such as a valid U.S. passport or driver's license. A TSA officer will ask you questions to verify your identity and the information you provided with your application, fingerprint you, and then charge the non-refundable $85 application fee. While most applicants are notified of the outcome within a few days, it can take several weeks to receive final, written notification. In the meantime you can check your status online and find out your Known Traveler Number if you are approved. Once you have that information, be sure to enter it into all your airline frequent-flier account profile pages so that you are designated as a TSA Precheck passenger automatically when you check in for your next flight.

TSA Precheck membership lasts for five years, though you can renew your membership online up to six months before your current status expires. Each time you renew, you have to pay the $85 fee again. The good news is, there are a few ways to get TSA Precheck for free or at a discount.

Certain active members of the U.S. Armed Forces can use TSA Precheck by entering their Department of Defense ID number from the back of their common access card into the Known Traveler Number field on their flight reservation. Department of Defense federal civilians are eligible to participate via a program called Mile Connect.

For the rest of us, though, over a dozen travel credit cards currently available offer a statement credit to cover the cost of a TSA Precheck application once every four or five years. So if you already carry one of them, or intend to open one, you might be able to use it to get the $85 fee taken off your tab.

Which Cards Should You Use for TSA Precheck?

Here are some of the best travel rewards credit cards that include a TSA Precheck application fee statement credit perk. Keep in mind, cardholders usually have a choice of using such a benefit for either a TSA Precheck or Global Entry application once every few years, but not both. So if you already used your card to apply for Global Entry, you might not be eligible for a TSA Precheck application fee credit for a while. That said, many people who participate in Global Entry also receive TSA Precheck privileges when traveling, so it might be worth just applying for Global Entry instead.

With that in mind, here are some of the best travel rewards credit cards that cover the cost of a TSA Precheck application.

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: This hotel credit card also comes with a TSA Precheck benefit. Cardholders who charge the application fee to their card are eligible for a statement credit toward it up to once every four years. They also earn up to 25 points per dollar on purchases at IHG hotels (which include Holiday Inn and Intercontinental, among other brands); 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants; and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Annual fee: $89.

UnitedSM Explorer Card: Among the best credit cards for frequent fliers, this card will issue a statement credit up to once every four years for a TSA Precheck application fee. The card earns 2 bonus United miles per dollar on eligible United purchases as well as at restaurants, and on hotel accommodations purchased directly from hotels. All other eligible purchases earn 1 point per dollar. Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.

Many other travel rewards credit cards also offer TSA Precheck (or Global Entry) application fee statement credits. Before you apply, check your credit cards to see if any of them include such a perk. If you do not currently have one that does, think about applying for a new card that will cover the cost, since getting up to $85 in value (or $100 for Global Entry) might well be worth opening a new account, as is all the time you will save in airport security lines.

Looking for other travel rewards credit cards? Find out about more options through Experian CreditMatch™.

All information about the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and UnitedSM Explorer Card has been collected independently by Experian and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card. Product details may vary, see issuer website for current information. Experian does not receive commission for these products.