The TSA Threatens To Cut Free Pre-Check Access… Again

TSA Pre-Check is the expedited security screening process that has been around for several years now, allowing selected travelers to leave on their shoes, and also leave their liquids and laptops in their bags. It really makes the security experience significantly more pleasant when departing the U.S. on eligible airlines.


How to get access to TSA Pre-Check

The only way to get TSA Pre-Check consistently is by enrolling in a Trusted Traveler Program. You can enroll directly in TSA Pre-Check, though it’s a much better deal to enroll in either Global Entry or NEXUS, as enrollment in those programs comes with Pre-Check (meanwhile enrollment in Pre-Check doesn’t get you Global Entry). Then you just enter your Known Traveler Number when you book your ticket, and hopefully you get Pre-Check.

However, in practice, many who aren’t enrolled in the TSA Pre-Check program still get access to the expedited screening. The TSA wants a certain number of travelers to use the lanes in order to be able to justify them, so they’ve identified low risk travelers and given them access to Pre-Check on a selective basis.


Free Pre-Check access is being reduced next week (apparently)

I know a lot of people who aren’t enrolled in Pre-Check but consistently still receive it. Well, apparently as of February 1, 2017, the TSA will significantly reduce access to Pre-Check for travelers who aren’t enrolled in a Trusted Traveler program.

So there’s a decent chance that if you’ve been relying on free Pre-Check, your luck may soon run out…

…or it may not, since this isn’t the first time the TSA has made such a threat. In 2014, the TSA said they’d begin restricting Pre-Check access to non-registered travelers. They made the same threat in April 2015. And then again in September 2015. While access may have been cut somewhat, I know there are still plenty of people getting Pre-Check for free.

Bottom line

There are several credit cards and airlines that reimburse you for your TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry membership fee, so if you’re eligible, there really is no reason not to apply.

Personally I’m happy to see the TSA restrict the number of non-registered travelers who have access to Pre-Check. I’m happy about it not because it reduces the number of travelers using the lanes per se, but rather because it reduces the number of infrequent travelers using the lanes, who may not be familiar with the process, and therefore slow down the line.


  1. Good news. In many of the small and midsize airports my experience has been that the pre-check line is getting longer than the standard security line. That was my experience yesterday departing PiIT. Watching the people in front of me in line you could tell that many of them were unfamiliar with the pre-check in process . Very slow going.

  2. The infrequent travelers is an interesting point, but I’ve had a lot of a related experience with infrequent travelers signed up for PreCheck. Specifically, I’ve frequently gotten stuck behind families who are just a nightmare, but who enrolled in PreCheck because they heard it was great for families. Not saying the new rules wouldn’t improve the experience somewhat, just question whether infrequent travelers who get into the PreCheck lane and who mess up (by trying to take too much off?) are really that large of a problem.

  3. Now they need a second PreCheck line for those who have no clue about the process.

    Like George Clooney said in Up In The Air…. “Never get behind old people. They don’t value the time they have left!”

  4. I don’t have PreCheck but I consistently get it when traveling on the same PNR as my partner, who does. I don’t get it when I am not traveling with him. I’ve always assumed this is an unpublished benefit. I never expect it but it is always appreciated as then we don’t need to split up when clearing security.

  5. Pre-Check should not be available to those “perceived” to be a low-threat. It should only be available to those who are vetted and verified to be a low-threat. Raise the fee to join the program if you have to in order to justify the cost, but don’t relax the rules just to fill the line.

  6. I rarely end up behind someone not accustomed to Pre-Check… except when arriving internationally from Miami. No one in the post-Border Control checkpoint Pre-Check line knows what they are doing.

  7. I consistently get the TSA Pre-Check stamp on my boarding passes, despite not signing up for the process (and I’m generally traveling solo). My teenage son also regularly gets it even when traveling alone. Neither of us have expectations of receiving it, so it’s a nice bonus.

    I haven’t signed up for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check because I’m not that frequent a traveler, but I do know what’s required of me when I enter that lane 🙂

  8. I hope they will let FJMHO visa holders to apply for precheck because otherwise we are not able to get GE therefore no PreCheck

  9. I think the thing that bothers me most is that each airport defines what to take off differently, so no matter how practiced I am at my home airport, other cities may be different.

  10. Good news. Thin the herd.

    @MG. And like George said in the movie, “Never get behind old people, they’re full of metal.”

  11. @S1993 I am on a F1 visa and registered to GE. Have received every time after the TSA pre-check after I was approved.

  12. @Camilo not every country are in the GE program, for example my country of citizenship isn’t in the GE program. Therefore there is no way for me to get precheck except those random ones.

  13. There are reasons not to apply for pre-check: it takes $, effort, a willingness to give more access to personal information to the government…
    Probably worth it to many people but don’t say there is NO reason to not do it.

  14. Im sure with the influx of all these big credit card bonuses and offering free global entry there are way more people that are eligible for TSA pre-check. I’ve given it to some of my family members for free. I previously used it for myself on another card, but also have other cards offering it and want to use it for someone.

  15. Last month when we had a tight connection at DFW, the automatic passport control printed a separate TSA Pre approved ticket. But the TSA official at security said TSA Pre should be printed in the boarding pass and refused to accept the TSA Pre ticket printed by automated passport control. As a result we went through the regular security line.

  16. Color me confused. You mean you’re being held up by people not familiar with how to go through a line WITHOUT having to pull out their laptops, liquids and shoes? (BTW, I really enjoyed my TSA Pre yesterday and am happy I signed up for Global Entry.)

  17. “because it reduces the number of infrequent travelers using the lanes, who may not be familiar with the process, and therefore slow down the line”

    Comment: amen!

  18. PreCheck is pretty much a joke honestly.. I can go thru the same line twice and its different each time.. Happened the other day.. First time breezed thru but had to go back to ths tix counter and the 2nd time had to practically disrobe.. Made me take off my watch, my jacket, my belt, my wallet and my $700 Luchesse boots, and they expect me just to let them ride on the conveyor belt.. WRONG..
    It’s NEVER the same and NEVER works.. Even when I get precheck I just thru the regular lane.. Its a joke.. Even in Las Vegas the other day I had to take out my tablets and have them go thru separately.. What a joke..

  19. @ Kevin

    Strangely enough, even wth paying $700 for your boots, neither they nor you are that important. Remind me never to get a seat next to you on a plane, in any class.

  20. I’d rather go through with the masses then be with a bunch of judgmental people. This feed ridicules the elderly (who don’t move fast simply because they can’t, not specifically to annoy you), people new to the process, and people who are considered “low risk.”
    On my last flight, traveling with my young daughter, I had the privilege of being designated “TSAPre” for the first time in my life. The line was fast, and it was a godsend not to have to open up my personal bag, my young daughter’s personal bag, and heft our carry-ons onto the conveyor.
    I am consistently background checked nationally with a criminal search, drug search, address search and also locally searched, for my career. My fingerprints are on file with a governing body. Yes, I am a low risk. Perhaps TSA is aware of all of this, and that’s how they choose their “low-risk” pre-check freebies. I don’t travel often, but if I did, I’d purchase pre-check, just to have the consistent convenience.
    My point here is, stop being such judgmental prigs. If someone is given a free pre check, perhaps they’ve been….pre-checked….

  21. I recently received TSA Pre check without applying for it. I fly apx 3 times a year domestically only. I am a 60 yr old male lifelong US resident. My last flight was from Islip Long Island which is NY state to Orlando International. Leaving Islip the pre check line was very short but so was the regular line so it really didn’t save much time however on the return flight from Orlando the pre check line saved me about an hour as the regular line was jammed packed and very long which is standard for Orlando. So thank you TSA. I am considering officially enrolling for Pre check because i will be flying the same route more often to visit my elderly father.

  22. @Lisa — it isn’t so much that people who paid for the Pre-Check are judgmental — it is more that many of us travel frequently and have very tight timelines between being onsite with our customers and getting us on the last flight of the day that can get us home to our family in time for the weekend. The Pre-Check, on a good day shaves time of our trip which can make the difference between flying home on a Friday evening versus a Saturday. Most of us are happy to pay for this and less happy to go through the interview/background checks. But it is 100% worth it. It is hard not to get annoyed when the lines are filled with people that didn’t go through the vetting / might actually have more time for their “once in a blue moon” travels.

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