Navigating Security: Understanding the Differences Between TSA and Global Entry

Are you frustrated with your airport experience and wish you could save time and worry less while you travel? 

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Fortunately for you, plenty of government and third-party programs enable a smoother experience for security and customs, saving you from long lines and extra steps.

If you’ve been curious about enrolling in one of the Trusted Traveler Programs (TTPs), you’ve probably heard of the two most popular options: Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck and Global Entry. 

Prepare for a complete TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry walkthrough, including each program’s strengths, weaknesses, and differences that separate each from the pack. By the end of this article, you’ll understand which program has the benefits you need and how to apply for your membership hassle-free. 

TSA PreCheck Defined

The primary function of TSA PreCheck is to save you time on flights departing from United States airports by expediting your security experience. TSA PreCheck enrollees don’t wait in the standard security lines that can move at a crawl. Instead, they have access to an expedited security line that processes 99% of passengers in less than 10 minutes.1

Why do TSA PreCheck members fly through security so fast? They’ve been deemed “trusted travelers.”

TSA PreCheck is a TTP offered by the United States Customs and Border Protection Department of Homeland Security (CBP). To successfully earn access to one of the TTPs, the CBP thoroughly vets and interviews each applicant, and membership status extends to travelers deemed low-risk by Homeland Security. Therefore, by undergoing an extensive background and identity check once, you can save time every time you travel within the duration of your membership.

TSA PreCheck Benefits

TSA PreCheck enrollees enjoy several benefits enhancing their travel experience, including:

  • Streamlined security screening – Removing shoes, coats, belts, electronics, and liquids is no one’s favorite part of travel. With TSA PreCheck, you can leave your clothes and shoes on, and your bags fully packed. Place your bags in the provided bins, walk through the full-body scanner, and carry on your way.
  • Optimized enrollment process – TSA Precheck presents an easy application process from start to finish. Applications take minutes to fill out, and you can file them online for your convenience. The next step, an in-person enrollment center visit, is completed in an average of 10 minutes, and there are hundreds of enrollment locations to choose from, thanks to CBP’s partnerships with Idemia and Telos. You can complete your processing and receive your TSA PreCheck Number in as few as 3-5 days. 

While TSA PreCheck is an enticing option, you might be more interested in Global Entry depending on how and where you travel most frequently.

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Global Entry: Benefits, Eligibility, and More

Membership in the Global Entry TTP accelerates your customs experience when entering the United States from a different country. Whether you’re flying into the U.S. from Europe, driving across the border from Canada, or sailing into one of the major U.S. ports, Global Entry clears you for entry much faster than standard processing allows.

Like TSA PreCheck, all Global Entry applicants undergo an extensive background check and identity verification process. Additionally, both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry memberships have a five-year lifespan. 

Let’s see how the benefits of Global Entry compare against the benefits offered by TSA PreCheck:

  • TSA PreCheck included – As a Global Entry member, you’ll enjoy all of the benefits of TSA PreCheck, including the fast and seamless airport security processing and the massive network of over 200 participating airports. Because TSA PreCheck comes free with Global Entry membership, you save time and stress on departure and arrival at United States airports.
  • No paperwork necessary – Because of the rigorous security screening process all Global Entry applicants undergo, members no longer have to fill out tedious customs forms and paperwork when entering the United States.  
  • Enhanced scanning to save you time – When you exit your plane after an international flight, you typically must wait an unpredictable amount of time—sometimes minutes, sometimes hours—to conquer the customs line, answer questions, and receive clearance. With Global Entry, you can use self-service kiosks with facial recognition to verify your identity or present a Global Entry card and be on your way in minutes.

These are just a handful of benefits that come with a Global Entry membership. However, the main benefit is the expedited customs processing when entering the U.S. The travelers who benefit from a Global Entry card the most are frequent international fliers.

Critical Differences Between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry

Understanding the intricate differences between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry will make it easier to pick the program that brings you the highest value at the most affordable cost. Below, we’ll simplify the significant differences to help you highlight which TTP is right for you and your family’s travel needs:

  • Departures vs. arrivals – TSA PreCheck expedites your departure process. Global Entry expedites your arrival process, specifically when arriving from an international flight, and your departure experience, thanks to the added bonus of TSA PreCheck.
  • International vs. domestic – TSA PreCheck is all you really need if you travel internationally. But if you live close to the U.S. border and regularly drive into Canada or Mexico or frequently travel abroad and back, the dual value of Global Entry is worth the additional expense.
  • Application fee – Applying for TSA PreCheck costs as low as $78, while the Global Entry application fee is $100.2 While TSA PreCheck is less expensive, consider that Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck, a $78 value by itself, as part of the total package, meaning it’s only $22 for expedited customs clearance.
  • Application turnaround time – Global Entry applications have an average processing time of 4 to 6 months. TSA PreCheck applications usually turn over in as few as 3 to 5 days, but some applications may need up to 60 days to process. TSA PreCheck still has the fastest turnaround by a wide margin and has the most effortless application process.
  • Interview vs. appointment – Global Entry requires an in-person interview at one of its Global Entry Enrollment Centers once your application is conditionally approved. Travelers flying into the country with conditional approval status can opt for Enrollment on Arrival (EoA)  instead. The EoA process is the same as the interview at an Enrollment Center. Still, it makes it easier for travelers outside of the U.S. to complete their application process in alignment with their travel plans. 

Instead of an interview, TSA PreCheck only requires a 10-minute appointment to collect fingerprints and provide documentation at one of the TSA’s many enrollment partner locations.

  • Participating airports – TSA PreCheck has a more extensive network of airport partners, with over 200 airports offering TSA PreCheck to its fliers. Currently, Global Entry is only available in 77 airports.3 However, this 77 includes many of the major international airports where you’re most likely to land for customs clearance anyway.

While there is some overlap between the two programs, they are very different in their application processes and primary functions. They both have excellent benefits, so the question is which one meets needs.

Should You Get Global Entry or TSA PreCheck?

With two excellent travel program options, how do you decide which fits best for your needs?

The most significant consideration is how often you travel internationally. If you are coming and going from the United States regularly, you know just how long U.S. Customs processing can take. While Global Entry is slightly more expensive, can take longer to receive approval, and involves a more extensive application process, it can be well worth it for the optimal experience of traveling between other countries and the U.S.

If you mainly travel domestically within the United States, you’re more likely to benefit the most from TSA PreCheck. TSA PreCheck is an amazing program for frequent fliers, considering security is often the longest portion of any trip through the airport. Once you experience the streamlined security process as a TSA PreCheck enrollee, it’s unlikely you’ll ever return to the standard TSA lines.

If you’re unsure where your travels will take you in the next five years and are not in a hurry, it may be worth considering the Global Entry application simply because it grants you TSA PreCheck simultaneously. The freedom to travel domestically and internationally with the utmost convenience is an attractive opportunity.

Travel Smarter and Faster with Maya Mobile

If you want to be able to travel anywhere in the world, you’ll need to determine whether you need a carry on vs checked bag and an international phone plan provider that can keep up with your fast-paced lifestyle while maximizing your convenience. Maya Mobile’s travel eSIM can revolutionize the way you travel with your phone, the same way Global Entry or TSA PreCheck can revolutionize your airport experience.

With plans that operate in over 194 countries, Maya Mobile offers the ultimate convenience for travelers who want to stay connected abroad. Travel eSIM technology allows you to keep your phone, your current SIM card, and your travel plans on track by downloading different eSIMs depending on your destination.

TSA PreCheck approval might take weeks, and Global Entry approval might take months, but your Maya Mobile eSIM takes only 5 minutes to set up. For all your international travels, choose the mobile plan with the best value, highest security, and fastest data on unlimited and prepaid plans. And don’t forget to prepare all your flying essentials for the smoothest travel experience ever!


  1. Transportation Security Administration. TSA PreCheck®.
  2. Department of Homeland Security. Trusted Traveler Programs.
  3. U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Airports with Global Entry.