What You Should Know Before Renewing Your TSA PreCheck Membership

Transport Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck is one of those things you never know you need until you actually experience it. Launched in December 2013 as part of the Department of Homeland Security's Trusted Traveler Program, TSA PreCheck is designed to deliver convenience to low-risk travelers by letting them do away with time-consuming tasks at the airport, particularly the removal of belts, shoes, outerwear, electronics, and liquids in line with the 3-1-1 rule from their carry-on when going through security. According to the TSA, roughly 99.4% of TSA PreCheck members breeze through security in under 10 minutes, as opposed to the roughly 30 minutes the passengers in the regular lanes endure.

Over 15 million travelers have signed up for TSA PreCheck since the program was introduced, and this is thanks in part to the agency's efforts to make both the enrollment and renewal process more accessible and affordable. Aside from expanding its list of participating airlines and airports, it has also dropped the enrollment fee from $85 to $78 and the online renewal fee from $85 to $70. While the upfront cost may still seem steep, a membership lasts for five years, so it technically comes down to around $14 a year. Renewal isn't a pain, either. In most cases, renewing your TSA PreCheck is faster than the enrollment process because you no longer have to attend an in-person screening. You can even renew for free, but only if you have the right credit cards.

You can renew up to six months before your membership ends

Just like renewing your passport, you don't have to wait until your TSA PreCheck membership lapses to kick-start the renewal process. Current members can renew up to six months before the five-year deadline. You won't have to pay any additional fee for renewing early because your new membership only activates when the previous one expires.

Given the lengthy validity period of TSA PreCheck, regularly monitoring your membership status may slip your mind. You can always check via the TSA PreCheck KTN Lookup website, but TSA also takes the extra step of sending reminders to its members via email. You can expect a renewal notice from IDEMIA/Universal Enroll to hit your inbox from six months to two weeks before your membership ends.

As for the renewal fee, you can stand to save money if you choose to renew your membership online. It costs $70 to renew online regardless of whether you renew via IDEMIA or Telos (another TSA-approved enrollment provider), which also charges $70 in person. But if you renew in person via IDEMIA, the cost is $78. This won't be a problem if you have an eligible credit card that can cover the fee, like the Capital One Spark Miles Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card. Checking with your credit card provider is best, but if they can't cover it, you can ask someone else who has one to pay for your renewal and reimburse them afterward.

There's a grace period until you lose your existing Known Traveler Number

In case you can't renew your TSA PreCheck membership in time, TSA allows for a grace period of up to a year after it expires. You can keep your existing Known Traveler Number (KTN) within that period, but if you go beyond that, you'll have to apply for PreCheck again like a new member and get a brand new KTN. This can prove a hassle, especially if your previous KTN is saved in various online airline accounts.

You may not want to wait that long because renewal is a cakewalk, anyway. You'll only have to complete a form and pay the required fee. Unless you have a criminal record, you can expect to receive a renewal approval within three to five days. But in some cases — for example, if you've changed your name since your first application — you may be asked to renew your membership in person. Name change processing can take up to 45 days.

As a precaution, TSA advises its PreCheck members to renew their membership at least 60 days before it's set to expire to avoid approval-related delays. You know what they say: The early bird always gets the worm.