Airport security

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If you travel even a few times a year, you know how frustrating it can be dealing with airport security. And if you fly internationally, the lines at customs to re-enter the country can be even worse, even if you’re traveling on a US passport. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize your wait times at both of these stations, and my personal favorites are Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck. Even though these programs carry fees, they can easily be avoided by carrying the right credit card(s) in your wallet, and today I want to highlight the best ones to do just that.

Related: The Best Credit Cards for Airline Lounge Access

For starters, it's important to note the differences between the two programs. Global Entry has a $100 fee for a five-year membership, and this includes expedited entry back into the US plus TSA PreCheck. If you only want PreCheck, you'll need to pay $85 for a five-year membership, but this will not help with clearing passport control after an international trip.

Since it's just a $15 premium for Global Entry and you get automatic PreCheck, I always recommend going that route, though you may find that PreCheck in conjunction with the Mobile Passport app will be sufficient.

With any of the cards below, you're eligible for a fee credit every four or five years for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck when you pay for the membership with the card. Note that you don't need to be paying for your own membership; as long as the applicable fee is charged to the card and you haven't already utilized the perk, the credit should automatically be applied to your next statement.

Finally, note that this isn't an exhaustive list of cards that offer these credits. Instead it represents the cards that provide the perk and offer the most valuable additional benefits to card holders.

The Top Cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

  1. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card ($95 annual fee, waived the first year) — credit every four years
  2. United Explorer Card ($95 annual fee, waived the first year) — credit every four years
  3. IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card ($89 annual fee) — credit every four years
  4. Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card ($95 annual fee) — credit every four years
  5. Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450 annual fee) — credit every four years
  6. The Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee) — credit every four to four and half years
  7. Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® ($450) — credit every five years

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Benefit: Application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years (up to $100)

Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $95

The Capital One® Venture® Card, with an annual fee of $95 that's waived the first year, has the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck benefit. Card holders are eligible for one statement credit every four years when you charge either the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee to your Venture® Card. Unfortunately, the terms of this perk indicate that the credit will appear within two billing cycles, so you may need to wait a bit for it to post.

One of the best things about this card is that it only carries a $95 annual fee, and that fee is waived for the first year. If you're a new card holder, you're eligible for a welcome bonus of 50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. You'll also earn 2x miles per dollar on every purchase but a whopping 10x miles at Hotels.com/Venture® (when booked and paid with the card), courtesy of the partnership launched in January 2018 (which can also be stacked with Hotels.com's own rewards program, giving you an effective return of 20% on those purchases). This deal runs through January 2020.

All miles you earn on the card can then be redeemed at a rate of 1 cent per mile or transferred to a variety of airline partners such as Aeroplan and Etihad.

United Explorer Card

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Benefit: Application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years

Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $95

This card was launched in June 2018 as a replacement for the now-defunct United MileagePlus Explorer Card. The United Explorer Card offers card holders a statement credit to cover the application fee for either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) every four years. There are two main reasons why this card earns a high spot on this list. For starters, the card carries just a $95 annual fee that's waived for the first year, so you can snag this credit for zero upfront cost. In addition, according to the offer details page, the credit will actually post to your account within 24 hours of the charge, an incredibly fast turnaround that few other cards have.

The card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. In addition to earning 2x miles on United purchases, you'll also enjoy 2x miles at restaurants and on hotel accommodations booked directly with the hotel. The card also provides a ton of perks on United, including a free checked bag for you and a companion, priority boarding, 25% back on inflight purchases, and even expanded award availability. Even if you only fly United a handful of times per year, the value adds up very quickly.

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Benefit: Application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years (up to $100)

Annual Fee: $89

This card offers an 125,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening that TPG values at $625. You'll earn 25x points at IHG properties for the first 12 months (then 10x points), 4x points on all other purchases for the first 12 months; then 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants; and 1x points on all other purchases.

It's the card's benefits that provide the true value, though. On each account anniversary, you'll get a free night certificate that can be used at most properties that cost 40,000 points or less per night. This free night alone justifies the $89 annual fee, but the card also comes with a fourth night free on award stays benefit, valuable Platinum Elite status, and a statement credit every four years when you charge a Global Entry application fee or TSA PreCheck application fee to your card. Similarly to the Explorer card, the statement fee will post to your account within 24 hours of the application fee being charged to your card.

Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Benefit: Application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years

Annual Fee: $95

There's a fourth popular card at this low annual fee level with a Global Entry/PreCheck credit: the Premium Rewards card from Bank of America. As with the prior entries, you're eligible for a statement credit to cover either program's application fee every four years when you charge it to the card. The terms and conditions of the card indicate that you should allow seven days for the credit to post to your account after making the purchase, so it's a bit longer than the IHG Premier and United Explorer though not nearly as long as the Venture.

In addition to the Global Entry/PreCheck perk, the Premium Rewards card is loaded with additional value, especially for loyal Bank of America customers. New applicants will receive 50,000 bonus points after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. You'll earn two points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1.5 points per dollar spent on everything else, though these are elevated by 25% to 75% if you're a Preferred Rewards member of the bank.

These points can then be used at a rate of one cent per point toward a variety of redemptions, including statement credits, cash back, travel, or gift cards. You're also eligible for an additional $100 in credits every year to cover incidental airline fees, though the card's $95 annual fee is not waived for the first year.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Photo by Ileana Ravasio/Attimi Photography for The Points Guy

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Benefit: Application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years

Annual Fee: $450

If you don't mind shelling out a high annual fee for a premium travel rewards credit card that includes a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck waiver, consider going for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. As with the others above, you're eligible for this perk once every four years, though it's a single credit per account; authorized users do not get their own credit despite being charged annual fees of $75 apiece. Just like with the United Explorer Card and IHG Premier Card, the statement credit on the Sapphire Reserve should post with 24 hours of being charged to the card.

The card also offers a host of other valuable perks, including a large welcome bonus (50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening), 3x points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining purchases, a $300 annual travel credit, and Priority Pass Select membership.

The Ultimate Rewards points you earn can then be redeemed directly for travel at the rate of 1.5 cents per point, but you can get even more value by transferring them to partners like British Airways and Hyatt. Even though the card carries a $450 annual fee, you can easily get a ton of value from the card, especially in the first year.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Benefit: Application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every five years

Annual Fee: $450

If you're a loyal American Airlines flyer (or reside in one of the carrier's hubs), consider opening the AAdvantage® Executive Card to speed through passport control and security. This card also provides an application fee credit for either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), though unlike with others on the list, it only applies once every five years. As a result, you'll need to wait to apply until your current membership is just about expired if you want to receive the credit. Bear in mind too that it may take one to two billing cycles for the credit to appear.

Even though the card carries a $450 annual fee, you can still get a ton of value from the card beyond this Global Entry/PreCheck perk. The card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening, and it also comes with a full Admirals Club membership, giving you access to almost 120 lounges in nearly 90 countries. You can also add authorized users for free and give them access to Admirals Clubs, though this is only valid at the 50+ Admirals Clubs and not partner lounges. Since it costs $550 to buy a new Admirals Club membership outright (or $500 to renew an existing one), the $450 annual fee on this card is a steal either way.

You'll also enjoy a number of perks to make your American flying experience easier and less expensive. You (and up to eight traveling companions on the same reservation) can check your first bag for free, a savings of $50 per person on a round-trip itinerary. You'll also earn 2x miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases plus enjoy priority check-in, security and boarding along with 25% off eligible inflight purchases. Finally, if you need a few extra Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) to earn status on American this year, note that you’ll get 10,000 EQMs after spending $40,000 in a calendar year on this card, though remember you’ll still be subject to American’s revenue requirements for reaching elite status as well.

The Platinum Card® From American Express

Photo courtesy of The Points Guy 

The Amex Platinum is loaded with perks, and unlike other cards on the list, authorized users are eligible for their own Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee waiver.

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Benefit: Application fee credit for Global Entry every four years or TSA PreCheck every four and a half years

Annual Fee: $550 

The final valuable card with a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck waiver is the AmexPlatinum, which offers the benefit once every four years. The statement credit may take up to eight weeks to post to your card, though in reality it is often much quicker. However, one notable difference with this card is that it doesn't only apply to primary cardholders; authorized users are each eligible for their own statement credit when they pay the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee with their own Amex Platinum cards.

Now, keep in mind that authorized users on this card aren’t free. However, it only costs $175 annually to add three of them (that’s $175 total, not per authorized user). So if you have two or three family members who can each use the $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck waivers, you’ll immediately come out ahead, and your authorized users will also get many of the same benefits from the card as you do. Just make sure that they charge the Global Entry application fee to their own Amex Platinum.

Speaking of perks, this card is loaded with them, including an up to $200 annual airline fee credit, Centurion Lounge access and Delta Sky Club access when flying Delta, Gold status with Marriott and Hilton, 5x points on airfare booked directly with airlines or via American Express Travel and more. New cardmembers can also earn a welcome bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months (though be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you're targeted for a 100,000-point bonus; offer subject to change at anytime). Given these array of valuable benefits, the card carries a significant annual fee of $550, highest on this list. However, when you consider the value you’re getting from the card, that annual fee can be well worth it.

Bottom Line

Security checkpoints and passport control desks can make or break your travel day, adding unnecessary delays and hassles to an already stressful transit experience. Wouldn't it be nice to not only speed through these lines but do so for free? As you can see, there are many valuable travel rewards credit cards that provide application fee waivers for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. If you're still planning your next trip and want to save some time, consider adding one of these top credit cards to your wallet now. Then try not to laugh at the poor souls in the "regular" traveler lines as you breeze your way through the airport.

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.
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