My wife recently changed her name, which meant she also had to renew her passport. She received her new passport along with an information slip promoting TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, Sentri, and the NEXUS. I had always been interested in TSA PreCheck. The line for people with TSA precheck is always shorter. The security process is less invasive. No need to take off your shoes/belt/jacket, remove your liquids/laptop from carry-ons, and you typically walk through a metal detector instead of those body scanners.
I remember looking up these trusted travel programs a few years ago before I got into travel hacking. At the time, $100 seemed like way to steep of a cost to pay for this benefit. However, with about 4-5 trips planned this year, $100 didn’t seem so bad. I figured I’d look into it again and what I found out shocked me.
Here is the cost for each of the four programs:
- TSA PreCheck: $85 for 5 years
- Global Entry: $100 for 5 years
- Sentri: $122.25 for 5 years (but cost effectively goes down if you’re applying as a family)
- NEXUS: $50 for 5 years
Before I go any further, it is worth noting that there are a few credit cards that reimburse you for Global Entry membership. The three cards are: AMEX Platinum, Citi Prestige, and Chase Ritz-Carlton. I don’t currently have any of these cards and wanted the benefits of Global Entry/TSA PreCheck before I plan on applying for any of these cards.
Our Decision Process
So back to the four options… Sentri is primarily for people that frequently travel back and forth between the US and Mexico. It is also the most expensive when applying for just two people. Plus the enrollment centers were in: Arizona, Texas, and California (which makes sense since it is targeted towards people who travel across the Mexican border). Therefore, that option was pretty much ruled out.
TSA PreCheck is great, but from all the research I did it appeared that most people agreed that Global Entry was worth the extra $15 even if you were only flying internationally once. Global Entry makes the customs process a lot easier. Global Entry also gives you a Known Traveler Number, which gives you TSA PreCheck.
So here I was about to apply for the Global Entry, but then I took a quick look at the NEXUS option. I had heard of NEXUS during the couple trips I had taken across the Canadian border to visit Vancouver. I had always just assumed that it was just for Canadian citizens and didn’t have any other benefits. However, upon further research, I soon realized that the NEXUS included Global Entry. Plus it was half the price of Global Entry and you get a dedicated lane when crossing the Canadian border. There had to be a catch right? No. Well sort of. NEXUS is a bi-national, Canada-US, program. What this means is that all of the enrollment centers are in Canada or in states near the Canadian border (i.e. Maine, Washington, New York, Minnesota, etc). So unless you’re travelling through Seattle or one of the other areas that has an enrollment center, it is going to be difficult to get an interview at one of these enrollment centers. Lucky for us, we live in Seattle, Washington and there is an enrollment just south of downtown.
My wife and I applied for the NEXUS on 1/23 and 1/20, respectively. We both received conditional approval on 2/3. It took roughly two weeks, which wasn’t all that bad.
We then went to go schedule our interviews, but to our dismay the Seattle enrollment center did not have any appointments available until August. 6 months out! We had about 3 different trips already planned between now and August. If you’re really desperate, you can check the site daily for cancellations and hopefully grab an earlier appointment. Another option is to see if the enrollment center will accept drop-in appointments.
My wife and I decided to just make the trip up to the enrollment center in Blaine, Washington. It is roughly a 1 3/4 hour drive north from Seattle, but in our minds it would be worth it. Plus, they were open on the weekends so we went ahead and booked our appointments for a Sunday in March.
Once we go through the interview process, I’ll update this blog post. With that being said, we don’t foresee any trouble with getting approved and we are looking forward to hopefully having TSA PreCheck on our next flight.
UPDATE 3/8/16: We had our interviews at the Blaine, WA enrollment center. It was fairly painless. Mostly consisted of confirming our information, taking our fingerprints, and explaining how to use the NEXUS. Now we are just waiting for our official NEXUS cards to come in the mail! I’ve already added my PASSID to many of my frequent flyer accounts. This PASSID is entered in as a Known Traveler Number, which usually gets you TSA Precheck. I had to call Southwest in order to add my PASSID to existing reservations, which is kind of annoying. However, the process was pretty painless.
Interested in applying for the NEXUS or Global Entry? Here’s the website: https://goes-app.cbp.dhs.gov/main/goes