✈️ Trusted traveler programs, explained

✈️ Trusted traveler programs, explained

Estimated read time: 5 minutes and 11 seconds

Did you know that the longest flight in history took more than 30 hours? Today the longest flight in the world is a mere 18 hours… Read more about this historic flight.

Good morning and welcome back to Daily Drop. I know you’re all probably waiting for the “exciting announcement” that I told you about yesterday, so I won’t waste any more of your time.

Here’s what we got:

  • 🎁 Daily Drop Giveaway Announcement

  • 🛂 Trusted traveler programs, explained

🎁 Giveaway: Fairmont El San Juan Hotel

That’s right, folks. We’ve got another exciting giveaway on the docket. This time, it’s right in our own backyard in Puerto Rico at the GORGEOUS Fairmont El San Juan Hotel.

Check it out 👇

Here’s what’s included in this giveaway:

  • A five-night stay for two at the beautiful Fairmont El San Juan Hotel

  • $2,000 food and beverage credit (for hotel-managed restaurants and bars)

  • $1,500 to cover flights and other miscellaneous expenses

  • Roundtrip transport from the airport to the hotel and back

Now I have some good news for you, and then… some MORE good news for you.

The good news?

As Daily Drop readers, you’re just a couple of clicks away from being entered to win this magnificent trip of a lifetime.

That’s right, no need to sign up for something new, make a purchase, or sell your soul to the travel gods.

The other good news?

You have the opportunity to earn up to TEN entries in the giveaway, by completing some simple tasks. All you need to do is click the button below and follow my very specific instructions:

  • Make sure you use Google Chrome. Our tech is very fussy today and you may run into problems otherwise. Also, please disable any ad blockers.

  • When you get to the giveaway page, it might look like you haven’t completed the “Sign up for Daily Drop” entry. Fear not, just click the “+1” button next to it and you’ll be good to go!

And without further ado, I present: the giveaway button *cue epic music*

🛂 Trusted traveler programs, explained

I’m going to paint a picture for you:

You’ve just landed at your home airport after a long international flight. You had an amazing trip, but you cannot wait to get home into your cozy apartment, house, or broom closet (if you live in New York City).

You step off the plane, your legs sore from the hours of stasis.

The exhaustion hits you. You yawn.

You arrive at customs and immigration, the final step between you and sweet, sweet freedom.

But then you see it… a line longer than any line in history. “This is going to take hours,” you think to yourself.

You wait. Two hours go by. Then four. Then 10.

Soon enough, you die of starvation, all because you had to wait in that darn customs and immigration line.

This is a story we can all relate to, and one that is not exaggerated in the slightest. But today I’m going to tell you about how you can avoid this unfortunate scenario altogether.

I’m talking about Trusted Traveler Programs.

I’m going to explain what these programs are, who should be interested in them, and, most importantly, how to get them for free.

The three main programs are TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and Nexus. Each of these programs has some unique features, and they also overlap in some cases.


TSA PreCheck

Let’s start with TSA PreCheck. This perk is used before you go through security and can save you a lot of time at the airport.

First, you get to enter security screening through a dedicated TSA PreCheck line. Once you’re at the scanners, you can send your bag through without removing any of the following items:

It feels weird the first time you do it, mainly because of how simple and fast the process is. According to TSA data, 92% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes to get through security last month…

How to enroll in TSA PreCheck

You simply go to this website, fill out the online application, then complete a short, 10-minute interview and background check at any of their more than 500 enrollment centers.

Oh, and you need to pay the $78 fee, but we’ll get to that later 😉


Global Entry

Next on the list is Global Entry, which is used on the opposite end of your trip; when arriving at the border.

Global Entry is run by the federal government and allows you to use a dedicated line to complete an expedited immigration screening when arriving in the U.S. from abroad.

Enrolling in Global Entry is a bit more tedious than TSA PreCheck, and requires a few additional steps:

  1. Fill out the online application

  2. Wait for a conditional approval (background check)

  3. Complete an in-person interview

Interviews can be completed at an enrollment center (here is a full list of them) or at an airport when you arrive from abroad, known as Enrollment on Arrival or EoA (here is full list of those locations).

The best part about this is that it includes TSA PreCheck, but only costs $22 more ($100 total). So it’s really a bargain if you think about it, especially because you won’t have to pay anything for it…

… but we’ll get to that later…



Finally, we have Nexus. This is the program I personally chose, and the one that I completed last week after a year and a half of waiting. You Canadians are going to want to listen up here.

Nexus is a joint program between the U.S. and Canadian governments and is a great travel hack for Canadians in general, or Americans who frequently travel to or transit through Canada.

Nexus is pretty much like Global Entry, but also works when entering Canada. You apply the same way you do for Global Entry, through the U.S. government’s dedicated website.

Once you’ve been conditionally approved, you must visit a Nexus enrollment center located at various U.S./Canada borders.

The main difference from other programs’ interview processes is that both Canadian and American immigration officials must be present for the interview, hence the enrollment centers being at border crossings.

Once you get approved, however, you’ll have all of the perks of Nexus, along with Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, also included with Nexus.

The strange part about this is that it costs $50, which is less than either of the other two programs, even though it includes the perks of both other programs…

My guess is that the Canadian government subsidizes much of the cost (yay socialism!).

But now onto the good stuff…

Remember earlier when I told you that you can enroll in any of these programs for free? Believe it or not, I was telling you the truth.

That’s because TONS of credit cards actually come with credits that reimburse you for any of these three programs.

Many of the cards on our Top Cards List, including cards 2, 3, 5, 8, 11, and 12, come with a $100 annual credit to use toward any of the programs.

That means that you could sign up for a $95 card, apply for Nexus for yourself and a buddy (for $50 each), and get reimbursed the full $100, effectively canceling out that annual fee. It’s awesome.

The best part is that these programs are valid for five years before your membership needs to be renewed.

Here is a simple chart that shows each program, enrollment fees, and processing times.

Two final points that I want you to be aware of:

  1. Appointments for Global Entry and Nexus are scarce these days, especially in the bigger cities.

  2. Be careful which enrollment center you decide to visit.

Let me explain that last point…

As I mentioned, I recently flew to Detroit to complete my interview for Nexus, despite the fact that there are 5 or 6 enrollment centers located closer to me.

Detroit was the closest place I could get an appointment in the next 6 months, so I went pretty far out of my way. In my mind, it was worth the effort, given how often I travel.

What I didn’t realize is how painful the process would be…

Not only was my Uber driver freaked out that he was going to accidentally drive into Canada, but the Detroit border is very congested and complicated, and finding my way there was confusing and stressful.

If I could do it again, I would choose an enrollment center located in a smaller town. For example, Sault St. Marie (Michigan/Ontario border) has lots of appointments open.

The area is pretty small and the border is much easier to navigate. There are similar small towns dotted around the country where you can simply walk on foot to the enrollment center and not have to worry about navigating busy border crossings. So, yeah. You’ve been warned.

Anyway, I hope this helps to clarify some of the terms and programs you’ve maybe heard about but haven’t delved into.


That’s all for today, peeps. I know today was a bit of a doozy between the EPIC giveaway and the deep dive into TTPs… what a rollercoaster, right?

I hope you learned something today, and I wish you could ALL win this amazing trip to Puerto Rico, but I’m very excited for the lucky person to be announced in a few weeks.

For now, take care and I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow ❤️

Mike Dodge
Head Writer, Daily Drop

52°22'35.4"N 52°15'17.4"W

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