4 ways to get through the airport faster even if you can't get Global Entry

Edward Pizzarello, CNN Underscored
Fri February 7, 2020

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On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that New York state residents would be excluded from applying for some Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry. Residents of New York state who wish to apply for Global Entry or renew their existing Global Entry status won't be able to do so under the new decree. Further, New Yorkers who have applied for Global Entry but haven't yet completed their in-person interview are seeing their applications unilaterally canceled.

What is Global Entry, exactly? Global Entry is a federal program that's become especially popular with business travelers and road warriors. It provides expedited entry into the United States at border crossings — such as customs facilities at airports — for five full years after applicants provide extensive background information and successfully complete a background check along with an in-person interview.

Members of Global Entry receive a Known Traveler Number, which also gives them access to TSA PreCheck, a separate but also popular program that's useful at domestic airports within the U.S. With PreCheck, you have access to shorter lines at airport security checkpoints, and you're spared the extra time and hassle of taking off your shoes and pulling your liquids out of your carry-on bags.

If you're already a member of Global Entry, don't be alarmed. These new restrictions are only for New York residents looking to sign-up for Global Entry or renew an expired Global Entry membership. But for folks who reside in New York and can no longer apply, or for people who might be otherwise ineligible for the program, here are four ways you can still save time at the airport even without Global Entry.

Mobile Passport

Mobile Passport is another expedited screening process offered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but it doesn't require any background check or interview. Mobile Passport is an app-based solution that allows you to submit your information while you're still on the plane, prior to arriving at customs and immigration. The basic version is free to use, with a premium version priced at $14.99 per year that makes the process a little smoother (but which you probably don't need)

Travelers who use Mobile Passport generally have access to a shorter line at U.S. immigration facilities. They're also less likely to be subjected to extended interviews when clearing customs. However, there are reports at some airports of Mobile Passport lines being closed periodically due to low usage.

Also, Mobile Passport isn't available at every U.S. entry point. It's in over two dozen airports covering most of the major hubs, but some larger non-hub airports — such as Las Vegas — don't have Mobile Passport available. It's a useful free service that may be especially helpful for New Yorkers right now.

You can find more details and download the Mobile Passport app at mobilepassport.us.

TSA PreCheck

Even though Global Entry is currently out of reach for New York residents, you can still sign up for TSA PreCheck separately from Global Entry. Expedited TSA PreCheck lines at U.S. airports can save an incredible amount of time. They're also widely available at over 200 airports.

The sign-up process for PreCheck is similar to Global Entry, but also simpler and cheaper — you'll only pay $85 for a 5-year TSA PreCheck membership instead of $100 for Global Entry. However, if you're eligible for Global Entry, we generally recommend applying for that program instead, since it also includes TSA PreCheck membership.

And if you have the right credit card, signing up for either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry can be free. That's because a number of cards offer up to a $100 credit toward the application fee for these programs when you pay for them with the card.

One choice CNN Underscored recommends is the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. The Venture is an all-around great travel credit card, and even appears on our list of the "Best credit cards of 2020." If you want more details, read our complete review of the Capital One Venture credit card to see if it's a good choice for you.

Clear

Clear is an identity verification service that helps speed you through domestic airport security checkpoints. While it won't help you clear immigration any faster, it can save you tons of time when you're traveling within the U.S.

With Clear, you'll have a dedicated line at approximately 30 airports across the country, including major New York airports like JFK and Newark. Instead of asking you to pull out your driver's license or ID card, the program uses biometric markers such as your fingerprints to confirm your identity.

Lines designated for Clear customers tend to be much shorter than normal security lines. It's essentially a front-of-the-line pass, and it can even be combined with TSA PreCheck if you have it for faster access through all phases of the airport security process.

A basic Clear membership costs $179 per year, but there's no reason to pay that full price. Instead, you can get a $60 discount just by being a member of either the Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus frequent flyer programs, both of which are free to join.

You can generally sign-up for Clear right on the spot in any airport that has it, or visit clearme.com.

Elite status

If you've had access to Global Entry in the past and find yourself without it now, you may have forgotten that many US airports have dedicated security lines for elite members of various airline loyalty programs. You can also purchase expedited security with some carriers as well. Be sure to check if your elite status with any airline helps get you through the airport security lines more quickly.

And if you happen to have elite status with Delta or United Airlines, you'll get further discounts on Clear, up to and including free membership, depending on your elite status level.

Be on the road with the right travel tools

Airports are more crowded than ever, with security and immigration lines stretching as far as the eye can see. Global Entry is an invaluable tool for business travelers, especially when you consider how much time TSA PreCheck alone can save. Stand in one 2-hour line at a customs facility and you'll be sold if you're not already a member.

But while we hope that you're already enrolled in Global Entry with years before you need to renew it, there's currently no timeline for when the restriction on Global Entry for New Yorkers will end. So if you can't get Global Entry now, make sure you're prepared with other options, and you'll have the right travel tools at your disposal to cut down on waiting the next time you're on the road.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they're subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.