Updated: Sep 29
With 2022 expected to be the busiest travel season ever and the many dance vacays planned for this year, I need Global Entry more than ever. And for free! UPDATED AUGUST 25, 2022.
The annual fees on cards that give you a credit for Global Entry range anywhere from the very rare $45 to a whopping $650. The higher the annual fee, of course, the more benefits, such as luxurious lounges, some of which are even equipped with showers! At the bottom, you'll also get an orientation on the process of applying for these fast track programs.
If you simply want the Global Entry for free, start here:
United Explorer Mileage Plus card, the annual fee is waived for the first year! The following year they charge you $95. I've actually used this card to pay for my Global Entry application and saw the refund reflected in my statement in just a couple of weeks. Below, I've gone more into detail about Global Entry and other fast track programs. This is just a summary: go to the Homeland Security site to create an account. From there, you can choose to apply for various airport security pre-approval, fast-passes, such as TSA Trusted Traveler, Global Entry, etc. This site has various pages of forms and, thankfully, you can save along the way. They won't start processing your application until you are finished with the application and pay. When you're ready to pay, the fee is $100 for pass that is valid for five years. This is the way the refund with the United Explorer card works (hint: it's super simple) 1. You must pay with this credit card to get the refund, obviously. 2. The credit card will automatically refund you within a couple of weeks. The refund simply appears as a credit! I didn't have to call, fill out any extra forms or notify the credit card in any way. Super easy. United Explorer Mileage Plus benefits I love:
Comp'ed first checked bag (up to $35) each way
Two passes to use the United lounge
Alternatively, if you are in California, check out this card:
You may qualify for an account and credit card with Provident Credit Union, which also does not charge an annual fee. Check the Provident bank website to see if you qualify.
About airport security fast track and Global Entry application
First, create an account on the Customs and Border Protection website.
Choose which fast pass program you want to apply for. Each has their own procedure and fees. The options include: - fast track entry to/from Canada (Nexus program) - fast track entry for Mexico (Sentry program) - special entrance for transportation (truckers) workers into Canada and Mexico (FAST program) - Global Entry for those of us who travel internationally and want an easy pre-approved entry to the US. - TSA Pre-check, for departures from the US Note that the Global Entry background check is more stringent. I've yet to see a recourse for checking in or speeding up the process.
The online application is intuitive. The system leads you through each section and alerts you of any problems. What does the Global Entry application ask for? - Passport number or other ID that proves you are a US citizen or resident (if you have other citizenship, you will not be asked for this, only your US citizen info) - Driver's license or US government-issued ID - List all of the addresses where you've lived in the past five years with NO GAPS - List all of your employment in the past five years with NO GAPS (you can choose "self-employed" or unemployed for any time you were not formally employed at a company)
Once your application has been processed for Global Entry, you still have to make an appointment for an in-person interview in limited locations. These are mostly in US major cities, a few territories, and, randomly, Singapore and Qatr. My application is still processing and I haven't been invited to interview yet. It seems that across the board, wait times are - at best - several months for Global Entry approval. When you do schedule an interview, an agent asks straightforward questions that you've already answered online and also requests to see your proof of ID that should match what you've entered into the application system. Start now and get your application fee reimbursed!