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TSA Pre-Check allows eligible travelers expedited security screening, where they don’t have to take off their shoes, or take their liquids or laptops out of their bags.
It’s a fantastic innovation, and one which makes the US travel experience that much more pleasant, along with Global Entry, which offers expedited immigration screening.
There are several credit cards which offer fee credits for TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry, including the Citi Prestige® Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express, and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, among others.
In the past, some airlines have even offered TSA Pre-Check fee credits to elite members. Alaska Airlines is taking a different approach, however.
Alaska Airlines is the first airline which is allowing members to redeem miles for the $85 TSA Pre-Check fee. Per Alaska’s press release:
Alaska Airlines is offering its frequent fliers a new way to redeem miles and save time at the airport. Beginning today through the end of April, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members can redeem 10,000 miles to waive the $85 application fee for five years of hassle-free travel with TSA Precheck.
TSA Precheck members traveling through airport security checkpoints do not need to remove their shoes, light jacket or belt, and can leave laptops and liquids in their carry-on bags.
“TSA Precheck is a game-changer for those of us who travel frequently for work or pleasure,” said Sangita Woerner, Alaska’s vice president of marketing. “This partnership between Mileage Plan and the TSA will allow more of our customers to take the guesswork out of the day of travel.”
Here’s how the redemption process works, and as you can see, this option is only available through April 30, 2016, as of now:
- Email TSAredemption@alaskaair.com by April 30, 2016 with your name and Mileage Plan number.
- Within 72 hours, Alaska will deduct 10,000 miles from your account and send you an email with your authorization code.
- Apply for TSA Precheck and schedule your screening appointment. Customers applying are responsible for ensuring they are Precheck-eligible.
At a rate of 10,000 Mileage Plan miles for the $85 fee, that’s like getting 0.85 cents per mile, which is a horrible value. Admittedly I do tend to think that more options for redeeming miles are a good thing, even if they’re sub-optimal, since most people don’t efficiently redeem their miles.
But this isn’t just a bad redemption option because you’re only getting 0.85 cents per mile. It’s also a bad option because there are almost no circumstances under which you should pay directly for TSA Pre-Check:
- You can instead spend $100 to get Global Entry, which gets you expedited immigration; this comes with TSA Pre-Check, so it’s well worth spending the extra $15 and getting it all bundled
- The very best value is signing up for NEXUS, which costs just $50, and gets you expedited screening at US and Canadian borders; on top of that it also comes with Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check, so it’s the best kept secret, as it’s the most comprehensive membership
Ultimately any new options for redeeming miles is good news. There are way more miles out there than can reasonably be redeemed for travel on airlines at the saver level. So if people are happy redeeming miles for 0.85 cents towards the cost of a Pre-Check membership, then great.
But for the savvy traveller, redeeming Alaska miles for 0.85 cents each is a terrible value. Beyond that, signing up for TSA Pre-Check directly is almost never a good option — you’re much better off getting a Global Entry or NEXUS membership.
If they’re going to have award options which let you redeem miles for less than a penny each, I wish it would at least be for Global Entry or NEXUS…
Would anyone consider redeeming miles for TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, or NEXUS?
(Tip of the hat to Kelly)