Global Entry, TSA Pre✓, NEXUS Or SENTRI? And How To Get Them For Free

Global Entry, TSA preCheck, NEXUS and SENTRI are trusted traveler programs that will enable you to get past security quicker and more comfortably. They come with a fee, and have to be renewed every 5 years, but they are a useful tool for frequent travelers. Hopefully this trusted traveler programs comparison will help you decide which one is best for you.

What is Global Entry

trusted traveler programs comparison

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports. You scan your passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit. Therefore makes the experience much faster and stress free.

It is primarily aimed at travelers coming into the United States, but it’s also recognized at other participating countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

To apply for Global Entry you need to fill out an online application first. After a thorough background check, assuming no issues come up, you will receive a letter instructing you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. They’re usually located at airports, but there’s also other offices. At the interview you will be asked a few questions and they’ll take your picture and fingerprints. Bring two forms of ID and proof of residence. Depending on location it might take 1-2 months for an available time slot, but you can check for cancellations and even walk-in at some locations.

Once complete, you will then be issued a Global Entry ID card. It will cost $100 for five years. The fee is non-refundable. After five years, you’ll have to renew your status. If you get a new passport, you can update your information in your GOES account. But, if it involves a name change, you must visit a Global Entry Enrollment Center.

Global Entry travelers are automatically qualified for TSA PreCheck, which expedites the security screening process at airports.

What is TSA PreCheck

trusted traveler programs comparison

TSA PreCheck lets eligible, low-risk travelers enjoy expedited security screening. The program is available at participating U.S. airport locations and for most international itineraries. You can ease through checkpoints without removing shoes, liquids and gels from your carry-on, laptop from your bag, light outerwear/jacket and belts. 180+ airports and 16 airlines provide TSA Pre✓ as of August 2016.

You can apply for the program directly through TSA if you are a: U.S. citizen, or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), and haven’t been convicted of certain crimes. You’ll have to be fingerprinted and provide documentation proving your identity. Then you’ll receive a known traveler number (KTN) that will be printed on your airline tickets in the future. It will cost $85 for five years. After five years, you’ll have to renew your status. Besides enrollment centers at many airports, you can now also apply at new locations being opened up at DMVs around the country, at concerts and Tax Offices, and also some Staples stores.

You can use PreCheck lines if you have children 12 and under traveling with you, even if the child does not qualify for PreCheck.

What is NEXUS?

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The NEXUS program is the Canadian version of Global Entry and will cost you $50 for five years. It allows pre-screened travelers expedited processing when entering the United States and Canada. Program members use dedicated processing lanes at designated northern border ports of entry, NEXUS kiosks when entering Canada by air and Global Entry kiosks when entering the United States via Canadian Preclearance airports. NEXUS members also receive expedited processing at marine reporting locations.

It included benefits of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck but you can only apply for it only at locations in Northern US and Canada. In the US you’ll find enrollment centers in Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Maine and Vermont. There’s no credit card that offer NEXUS credit as far as I know.

What is SENTRI?

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SENTRI will cost $122.25 (five years) and is useful if you drive through the US-Mexico border. The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Participants may enter the United States by using dedicated primary lanes into the United States at Southern land border ports. So it’s not useful for everyone.

Travelers must be pre-approved for the SENTRI program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment. You’ll find enrollment centers in Calofirna, Arizona and Texas. It’s benefits include:

  • Dedicated processing lanes at southern land border crossings,
  • using NEXUS land when entering the United States from Canada by land, and
  • Global Entry kiosks when entering the United States

Which one is better?

If you think you will travel abroad within the next five years then you should apply for Global Entry. It does cost $15 more, but it’s a small price to pay and it includes all benefits of PreCheck. That extra cost will get you expedited entry into the US at immigration and border control. You never know what travel plans come up in the next five years. Keep in mind that if your travel partners do not have Global Entry, you’ll still have to wait for them to get through security, but at least you can sit somewhere instead of standing in line.

SENTRI is the most expensive option, so it would only make sense if you value the dedicated processing lanes at southern land border crossings.

NEXUS is the cheapest, at $50, so if you’re paying out of pocket and have easy access to those few enrollment centers up north, it could be the better option for some.

Compare Programs

Here’s a chart that compares price and benefits amd requirements of each program.

Agency TSA Customs and Border Protection
Program TSA Pre✓® Global Entry NEXUS SENTRI
Website www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck www.globalentry.gov NEXUS SENTRI
Eligibility Required U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents. U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and citizens of certain other countries.1 U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens and lawful permanent residents of Canada. Proof of citizenship and admissibility documentation.
Application Fee $85.00 (5 year membership) $100.00 (5 year membership) $50.00 (5 year membership) $122.25 (5 year membership)
Passport Required No Yes; or lawful permanent resident card No No
Application Process Pre-enroll online, visit an enrollment center; provide fingerprints and verify ID. Pre-enroll online, visit an enrollment center for an interview; provide fingerprints and verify ID. Pre-enroll online, visit an enrollment center for an interview; provide fingerprints and verify ID. Pre-enroll online, visit an enrollment center for an interview; provide fingerprints and verify ID.
Program Experience TSA Pre✓™ expedited screening at participating airports. Expedited processing through CBP at airports and land borders upon arrival in the U.S..

Includes the TSA Pre✓™ experience.

Expedited processing at airports and land borders  when entering the U.S. and Canada.
Includes Global Entry benefits.Includes the TSA Pre✓™ benefits for U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and Canadian citizens.
Expedited processing through CBP at land borders.
Includes Global Entry and TSA Pre✓™ benefits for U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents.
Ready to apply? TSA Pre✓® Application Global Entry Application NEXUS Application SENTRI Application

trusted traveler programs comparison

How to Get Them for Free

Although the prices are pretty reasonable for frequent flyers, since you only have to pay every five years, free is always better. As far as I know, you cannot get NEXUS or SENTRI for free through any credit cards. But, please correct me if I’m wrong. However, you’re able to get Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fees reimbursed with some premium cards.

Here are the cards that offer free Global Entry

Here are the cards that offer free TSA PreCheck

Let me know if I missed any cards, or if you notice any incorrect information on the list. Some of the credit card links are affiliate links or referral links and I will receive compensation if you decide to apply though them.

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6 thoughts on “Global Entry, TSA Pre✓, NEXUS Or SENTRI? And How To Get Them For Free

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  3. So I pre-enrolled for Global Entry, but the earliest appointment in SF was February. Do you happen to know if that means I can’t get TSA pre-check until then as well?

    • It’s a different process, so you have to fill out a separate application for
      TSA Pre✓ and you might be able to get it quicker. You can also try a walk-in at a TSA Pre✓ enrollment center near you.

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