Why Right Before The Holidays Is The Best Time To Sign Up For TSA PreCheck

With autumn in full swing, now is the perfect time to start locking in your holiday travel plans. The latest trends show that travel numbers have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels with no sign of slowing down, per a survey from Forbes, which means you can bet that there's going to be crowds at the airport this holiday season. Thankfully, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck program can help assuage some of the headaches of year-end travel. 

If you're not on the bandwagon yet, TSA PreCheck gives you a Known Traveler Number, which allows you to speed through airport security in designated lanes, among other benefits. While most applications are approved within three to five business days, some applications can take up to 60 days to go through. If you enroll on October 5, for example, technically it could take until November 30 to process — just past Thanksgiving, but still in time for the winter festivities. For the best chance of getting the green light before the holidays, enroll as soon as possible. As of 2022, the cost for TSA PreCheck has been reduced from $85 to $78 for first time applicants. It costs $70 for those who wish to renew.

Benefits of fall enrollment

Once you're approved, you'll be able to get through airport security in 10 minutes or less, says the TSA. With shorter lines and fewer people, there's less of a chance that you'll be jam-packed in a queue with a bunch of strangers during the height of flu season, which picks up in fall and winter, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Another benefit of enrolling right now is that there's a host of credit cards that currently cover the fee, like American Express, Capital One, Bank of America, and Chase. Check with your credit card company to see if those charges need to be submitted before the end of the calendar year for reimbursement, as policies could change in the future. Just another reason to get it done now and enjoy a valid Known Traveler Number for the next five years.

One consideration is that the TSA PreCheck process requires an online form and a ten-minute interview at an approved location to check your ID and take your fingerprints. If you don't have time to do this before your holiday travels, your best bet may be to just wait until you're at the airport in the coming months to enroll. While you may not beat the holiday crowds this time, at least you can kill two birds with one stone for future flights. To see if there's an airport terminal that handles enrollment near you, check the TSA's list of approved centers.