Erica and Jordan at the The Worth Project have the goal of sharing their personal finance experience to help readers improve their financial lives. We regularly partner with companies that share that same vision. Some of the links in this post may be from our partners. Here's how we make money.

Over the past 5.5 years, I’ve made the trip from London to the US more times than I can count. Living as an expat came with many perks, but one of the downsides has been a lot of time traversing through airports, standing in lines, and flying through the air.

On our final trip home last week as we moved back to the US, we were greeted with a familiar sight: 506 of the other passengers on our A380 rushing to immigration. After an 11 hour flight, the last thing you want to do is spend an hour or more waiting in an immigration line. This is especially true now that we have Henry — toddler aren’t notorious for their patience. 

Luckily, as everyone else elbowed their way to get into the wrap-around lines waiting for them, we sailed right past them to the completely empty Global Entry kiosks. And as we made our connecting flight we, again, sailed through the short TSA Pre-check line with our shoes firmly on our feet. 

When global entry was announced I was the first to sign up and was ready to pay the $100 to make my travel life easier. Luckily, I realized I was able to get it for free. A few weeks ago as I received notice that global entry was expiring and I’d need to pay the $100 renewal fee, I was reminded that again, I’ll get it for free. 

This is how you can get Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check for free. 

 

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a program that allows pre-approved travelers entering the United States to use an expedited immigration process. Rather than waiting to see an immigration official, you’ll head over to a kiosk and scan your passport, fingerprints, and get your picture taken. 

Before being approved for Global Entry, you must apply and attend an in-person interview, which is the most arduous part of the process. 

 

Global Entry cost

To apply for Global Entry and each time you renew your membership, you’ll be charged a $100 non-refundable application fee. Your membership lasts for 5 years, effectively working out to be $20 per year.

 

How can you get Global Entry for free?

While United used to offer free Global Entry for mileage plus members, currently there’s only one way to get Global Entry for free: through rewards benefits on your credit cards. And while most of the credit cards require an annual fee, in some cases the fee is less than the cost of Global Entry, so a card will likely more than pays for itself even before you start counting the other benefits. 

I renewed my membership last month with my United Explorer Card and getting reimbursed was easy. I simply used the card to make the purchase. When I checked my credit card statement, the $100 credit had been immediately added.

 

What’s the difference between Global Entry and TSA Pre-check?

TSA Pre-check often gets lumped into the Global Entry discussion. Though they are two separate programs, they both offer expedited screening. TSA Pre-check helps you when you’re departing domestically or internationally, and Global Entry helps you when you return home from an international trip.

 

Can I get TSA Pre-check for free?

To apply for TSA Pre-check, the application fee is $85 and will last for 5 years. Some credit cards (listed below) will offer you the ability to get either Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check for free.

But here’s a bonus! By being approved for Global Entry you’ll get two benefits in one: Global Entry and TSA Pre-check. If you are approved for Global Entry, you’re given a Known Traveler Number. Use that Known Traveler Number when you book your flights and you’ll get TSA Pre-check. 

This makes Global Entry travel great, not just for international travel but for domestic travel as well. 

 

What credit cards offer free global entry?

There are a number of credit cards that offer reimbursement for the Global Entry fee and I’ve tried my best to round up as many as I can find. If I’ve missed any, please let me know in the comments! And of course, terms and rewards programs change. This list reflects accurate information at the time of writing, but consult the credit card details before you make your final decision. 

(Related read: does travel hacking ruin your credit?)

 

Are kids included for Global Entry?

Traveling with kids adds in another element (and additional cost). So do they also need to pay the application fee for Global Entry and/or TSA Pre-check?

 

Global Entry and children: do they need their own pass?

Unfortunately, yes. We tried to bring Henry through Global Entry with us when he was six months old and were given a stern warning. Every child, regardless of age, needs their own global entry membership. And they’ll need to pay a membership fee of $100. 

We used a credit card to get that for free and now we’re able to fly through immigration together. 

 

Can I bring my child with me through TSA Pre-Check?

Here’s the good news: yes you can! Children 12 or under may use TSA Pre-Check with their parent or guardian who has TSA Pre-Check. 

 

Is Global Entry worth it?

As someone who travels a lot, I’ve found the program to have enormous value. Not just with international arrivals, but by using Pre-check for domestic departures as well. Gone are the days of waiting in long lines (thank GOODNESS). And now with a kid in tow, these two services are even more important for smooth travels.

Up next, read the two simple things we always do to get cheaper flights.

 

 

Erica Gellerman Bio The Worth Project

Erica Gellerman is a CPA, MBA, personal finance writer, and founder of The Worth Project: personal finance and family travel. website. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Money, Business Insider, The Everygirl, The Everymom, and Lifehacker. When she's not writing about personal finance you can find Erica exploring Europe from her temporary home base in London.

Erica Gellerman Bio The Worth Project

Erica Gellerman is a CPA, MBA, personal finance writer, and founder of The Worth Project: personal finance and family travel. website. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Money, Business Insider, The Everygirl, The Everymom, and Lifehacker. When she's not writing about personal finance you can find Erica exploring Europe from her temporary home base in London.

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