by Christy Bieber | March 19, 2019
When I signed up for the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card, I was excited to see one of the card's perks included a statement credit if I signed up for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. This is a pretty common perk on travel credit cards, but it was the first time I had a credit card offering this bonus feature. Since my husband and I were headed to Poland in a few months, the opportunity to sign up for Global Entry came at a perfect time.
While TSA PreCheck makes going through airport security easier by allowing you to go through a special line and avoid taking off your shoes or taking your laptop out, Global Entry offers all that and more.
With Global Entry, you can skip the line at customs and simply scan your passport at a kiosk when you return to the country from a trip abroad. While TSA PreCheck is a little cheaper at just $85, compared with $100 for Global Entry, the Bank of America card was offering a $100 statement credit so it would pay fully for the program.
Filling out my online application for Global Entry was quick and easy. I had to create a login, pick the program I was interested in, complete my online application, and pay the $100 fee.
During the application process, I did need to provide proof of citizenship and proof I had a passport -- you can't get Global Entry without one. I also needed to provide my driver's license number, recent travel history, and address history.
After my application was processed and I received a conditional approval, it was time to schedule the interview. Here's where things got a little tricky because there was exactly one appointment at the Tampa airport and it was several weeks away. My husband, on the other hand, scheduled his appointment at the Philadelphia airport (we live in both Florida and Pennsylvania) and he had a wider selection of dates and times than I did. So, availability for appointments clearly depends where you live.
When the day finally came, I arrived at the airport, hunted down the Customs and Border Patrol office, and sat down to wait with three other people. The good news is, I was called quickly after about a 10 minute wait and went into the small office.
I'd read a bit online about what to do to prepare for the interview, and the advice said to be pretty serious and not joke around with the Customs and Border Protection official conducting it. This wasn't my experience at all though -- the agent started joking around immediately and was friendly from the start -- although when I accidentally called him a TSA agent at one point, he said very emphatically "We are NOT TSA!" I was asked virtually no questions, except about where I'd traveled to recently and where I was born.
I was subsequently approved, given my known traveler number immediately, and was told to expect my Global Entry card in the mail within 10 days. That known traveler number also works for TSA PreCheck, which is an added bonus of getting Global Entry.
I wasn't sure what to expect with Bank of America, or whether they'd provide my $100 statement credit without my having to ask for it as this was the first time I'd earned a statement credit since opening the account.
The good news is, the statement credit came off when the Global Entry charge was processed without any intervention on my part. It simply showed up as a credit on my account and my card balance was reduced accordingly.
My first experience with my known traveler ID was when I used it to get TSA PreCheck on a trip to Denver. To use it, you have to input your traveler ID number when you book your flights so it's noted on your ticket that you have PreCheck.
On the way to Denver, it worked flawlessly. I skipped the line, avoided a lot of hassle, and was on my way through security in record time. Unfortunately, coming home, when I got into the TSA PreCheck line, I was told it hadn't been properly added to my ticket. I'd have to go through regular security. I learned my lesson and now make sure to double and triple check that my known traveler ID has been correctly added -- although I'll never know how it was successfully added on my departing flight, but not the return flight on a round-trip ticket.
Finally, a few months later, I was able to use Global Entry for my trip out of the country. Unfortunately, since I was flying Austrian Air and Austrian Air doesn't participate with TSA PreCheck, I still had to go through regular security when departing the country -- Global Entry provided no help at all.
When I returned from Poland, it did make going through customs easier.
I was able to find the Global Entry kiosk quickly, scanning the passport worked well, and it took just two tries to get the machine to identify me properly via my fingerprints. I answered the questions on the screen indicating I had nothing to declare, and I was on my way to the agent who quickly scanned the paper the kiosk had printed and let me out of the customs area. The whole process of clearing customs took about 15 minutes, compared to over an hour to clear customs when I'd returned from Iceland on a trip before I had Global Entry.
The downside: I still had to wait for my checked bags. Waiting took so long that some of the people from my flight without Global Entry ended up leaving the airport before me.
After taking a few trips with Global Entry, I've learned some key things to make sure that I get the most benefit from being a known traveler. My advice to make the most of Global Entry:
All in all, since Global Entry was free thanks to Bank of America, it's worth having even if it doesn't fully eliminate the hassle of traveling. Global Entry is good for five years, so even if the first trips don't go perfectly, there's still a chance to work out the kinks to make traveling easier both domestically and abroad.
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