Get Ready to Say Goodbye to the Surprise TSA Pre-Check Stamp

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One of the small joys of flying often is being rewarded with the surprise “TSA Pre-Check” stamp on your boarding pass without being enrolled in the program. But those opportunities to skate through security with your laptop in your bag and your shoes on your feet — without taking the necessary steps to enroll in the TSA Pre-Check program (and pay the fees) — are coming to an end.

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The Transportation Security Administration announced on Monday that starting in February, TSA will significantly reduce access to TSA PreCheck screening for non-enrolled travelers. According to a report from Travel + Leisure, limiting access to the fast-track Pre-Check line isn’t a precautionary security measure, but instead a “natural progression” in the program. Sooner or later, TSA won’t be giving out any fast-track treats, and only enrolled, pre-vetted passengers (there’s that v-word again), or travelers screened by K9s will be permitted through the line.

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Currently, there are 30 airlines that participate in the program, and access is available in 130 airports in the U.S. A year ago, enrollment was only up to 2 million — and for a perk that is going straight to the travel amenity graveyard (along with free overhead space), it may be time enroll.

To do so, complete the online application form and schedule an appointment to have your application approved by booking online or calling. When you visit the application center of your choice for your approval appointment, you’ll present your identification documents, put your fingerprints on record, and pay the nonrefundable $85 application fee — which is good for five year’s worth of membership if you’re approved.

Along with enrolling for Pre-Check now, there are other ways to take matters into your own hands and make sure that your next trip through the airport is as speedy as it should be. CLEAR, an expedited security program (that is qualified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) allows travelers to skip the initial identification lines at security by using fingerprint and iris scans of their eyes to verify their identity so you can bypass the ID line and get straight to the Pre-Check security scan. With CLEAR and Pre-Check, you can get through security in an unheard of total of five minutes — consistently. CLEAR just announced their expansion to 22 airports in the country and offers one-year unlimited access for $179. You can enroll here.

Additionally, coming home can be just as challenging as getting out of the airport. To make Customs more efficient, apply for Global Entry, which allows expedited clearance for pre-approved low-risk travelers through kiosks at more than 50 airports across the world. Cost for enrollment is $100, and you can begin your application process here.

For those in-the-know travelers trying to save a buck, download the My Mobile Passport app. It’s virtually the same thing as Global Entry (but available in fewer airports) — allowing travelers to go through an expedited line while re-entering customs. Mobile Passport Control app (free for Android and iPhone) is the first app authorized by the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection that allows access to pre-screened lines. The app works by saving your passport info, birthdate, and a photo ID — so you don’t have to fill out those inconvenient customs forms on your flight. Download the app here.

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