After several years of watching Patrick leave me in the security lane as he glided effortlessly through TSA Pre-Check, I finally decided that it was time. It was time to get TSA Pre. Because of his continued elite status with American Airlines, Patrick had been selected to test out TSA Pre for free as they rolled it out initially. I hadn’t thought that the ability to walk through security without taking of your jacket or shoes would be worth paying for it…until it took me 45 minutes to get through security on one recent trip, while it took him a mere three minutes. I am a competitive person, after all, and that was just not cool.
But as I looked further into the process, I realized that there was only one way to go about this: to go big or go home. With our American Express Platinum card, each cardholder gets the application fee waived for TSA Pre or Global Entry, so I could justify the expense. And, since Global Entry automatically qualifies you for TSA Pre, it made sense (particularly with our upcoming international travel) to apply for Global Entry.
Here’s the bottom line: if you travel out of the country at least twice a year, and if you travel domestically and want to skip the long lines, apply for Global Entry. Even better—if you apply for the AmEx Platinum, you’ll get your Global Entry fees waived on top of $200 in airline credits.Global Entry provides an expedited clearance process for travelers as they’re returning back to the US. Rather than waiting in the long lines at customs, you stroll up to a kiosk, scan your passport and your fingerprints, make your customs declarations, and voila—you’re done. No more long, Disneyland-esque lines, no more grumpy passengers complaining about how long it’s taking, no more stuffy large rooms, with fans blowing hot air into your face…It was time. What’s more, Global Entry can help you breeze through customs in certain countries. In Australia you can use SmartGate. In New Zealand, there’s often a dedicated lane for Global Entry. And in The Netherlands and South Korea you can use FLEX and SES respectively, though you have to pay the fees.
The process itself was pretty straightforward. I first completed a fairly thorough application online in early August and paid the $100 non-refundable application fee (which was credited back to my account by American Express within the month). My application was approved within three days, and I needed to schedule an in-person interview within 30 days of being approved. At first glance, the earliest available interview was in November, but within a week, a slot opened up in September…on Labor Day, no less.
I’ll admit, I was a little nervous for the interview. Despite the fact that I’m a classic Type-A, can’t-break-a-rule-if-I-tried type of person, I was nervous about interviewing with the Department of Homeland Security. So I researched and read every possible question that I might get asked during the interview and was prepared for a full-on, in-depth interview. Patrick dropped me off at the international terminal of LAX on Labor Day, with the agreement that I’d give him a call once I finished the interview, and he’d swing back to pick me up. I nervously walked up to the booth, told them that I was there for my interview, and was shown into another room immediately. They took my photo, scanned my fingerprints, gave me a 20-second overview of Global Entry, and that was it. No hard questions…my preparations were futile. I was in and out in under 3 minutes—Patrick hadn’t left the airport when I called him for a pick-up.
We were still trying to leave the airport when I received an email telling me that my application had been fully approved. My Global Entry card came in the mail within a week of the interview, and I’ll put it to the test when we return from our Thanksgiving trip to Rome, Budapest, and Tokyo. And since Patrick doesn’t have Global Entry due to some unfortunate circumstances (we’ll save that for another blog post), this time I’ll be the one speeding through security.
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