Tedious, stress-inducing airport lines, from security to customs, can be the absolute worst. These days, however, a little money and a clean background check can go a long way toward getting you through the entire ordeal much faster. Here's a breakdown of all the programs, both public and private, that help you breeze through the line and get to your gate faster.
Perks: Expedited security screening at U.S. airports; no removal of belt, shoes, jackets, or laptops from bags.
Cost: Non-refundable application fee of $85.
How to get it: Apply at one of more than 300 application centers.
Who it's good for: Any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is easily frustrated by airport security lines. And this way, the TSA can focus more on screening potentially suspicious characters while allowing those deemed "low-risk travelers" to go through the fast lane.
Perks: Cutting the security line at certain U.S. airports; various benefits with partners including Hertz and Visa Signature.
Cost: $15 per month, plus family and corporate rates.
How to get it: Sign up online and verify your identity in-person.
Who it's good for: Frequent travelers at any of the participating airports, families, and entire offices. PreCheck and CLEAR are rivals, with PreCheck government-run and CLEAR a private enterprise. And as a result, CLEAR only gets you to the front of line — the special treatment from the TSA stops there.
Perks: Expedited immigration screening when landing in the U.S.; also includes PreCheck benefits.
Cost: $100 non-refundable application fee.
How to get it: Fill out an online application and attend an interview.
Who it's good for: Frequent international travelers (upon landing in the U.S., Global Entry holders go through border screening and deal only with a kiosk — no agents), or even people who travel internationally less frequently but also are considering TSA PreCheck. Global Entry approval means you automatically are in for TSA PreCheck. So for just $15 more — PreCheck costs $85 on its own — you can get it all.
Perks: Faster processing at U.S. and Canadian border control (airports and marine checkpoints); all Global Entry benefits.
Who it's good for: Those who often hop between the U.S. and Canada, or anyone considering Global Entry who lives near (or is often near) the U.S.-Canada border. Similar to how TSA PreCheck is nested within Global Entry, NEXUS also includes all Global Entry benefits, including TSA PreCheck — all for just $50. The catch is that the required interview has to be conducted at a NEXUS Enrollment Center, all of which are near the U.S.-Canada border.
Perks: Faster screening at the U.S.-Mexico border; all Global Entry benefits.
Cost: Application, fingerprint, and processing fees totaling $122.25 per person.
How to get it: Apply online and attend an interview at a SENTRI Enrollment Center.
Who it's good for: People who cross the U.S.-Mexico border frequently. SENTRI is essentially NEXUS for America's southern border — though it's not quite the bargain the U.S.-Canada package is.