Most avid travellers probably already know about these time-saving programs, but if you don't, listen up! We're going to be talking about TSA Precheck, Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI. These four programs, once admitted, prove that you are a legal citizen with a clean background. Because of this, you're allowed to skip a lot of the long lines while traveling.
This is where it can get confusing. The program with the most benefits (NEXUS) is also the cheapest while TSA Precheck and Global Entry both cost more individually. Let's break it down:
Tier 3 - TSA Precheck ($85 for 5 years)
This is the entry-level tier. All you get is TSA Precheck, which means you get to skip the long line before the metal detectors at the airport and instead go into the quicker TSA Precheck line. This line has fewer people and you don't have to take off your shoes or dissect your luggage. Quick and painless.
Tier 2 - Global Entry ($100 for 5 years)
This tier includes all the benefits of TSA Precheck with an added bonus. You can re-enter the United States and skip the slow customs line. With Global Entry, you'll be able to go to a kiosk to rapidly get through customs. You also don't need to fill out a customs form on the plane.
Tier 1 - SENTRI ($122.25 for 5 years)
This top tier is a tie. With both the SENTRI and the NEXUS programs, you get all the benefits of TSA Precheck and Global Entry, with one more perk: quicker border crossing. SENTRI gives you access to the SENTRI traffic lane at the southern border of the United States, allowing you to skip the line and get through quickly.
Tier 1 - NEXUS ($50 for 5 years)
NEXUS, just like SENTRI, gives you TSA Precheck and Global Entry. But instead of the southern border, NEXUS is for the northern border into Canada. This means you can zip through the border in the NEXUS lane. And for some reason, this value-packed program is the cheapest of all! For just $50 you get all of the perks for five years. That's $10/year to skip hours and hours of lines. To enroll, however, you do need to physically go to a NEXUS-approved enrollment center.
More details and applications here: http://www.dhs.gov/comparison-chart
So even if you only travel once every couple years, these programs will be well worth it. Let's say you fly once a year, for the holidays or something. Each round trip puts your through the airport two times, so you'd be paying just $5 each time your skip the line ($5 x 2 flights x 5 years = $50 for NEXUS).
If you're still not convinced, ask yourself, "Would I spend $50 to potentially not miss a flight that I'm running late for?"
The answer is yes.