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Is a Credit Card with Global Entry Benefit Right for You?

Credit cards with a Global Entry benefit usually pay for your application into Global Entry, which lets travelers speed through U.S. Customs when returning from abroad.

By Samuel Greengard | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor

5 Min Read | March 5, 2021 in Cards

 

At-A-Glance

The Global Entry program allows pre-approved low-risk travelers to receive expedited entry at U.S. airports when returning from abroad.

The program includes enrollment in TSA PreCheck, which expedites security screenings when boarding flights at U.S. airports. 

If you travel internationally, it may be a good idea to get a credit card that offers Global Entry fee reimbursement. These cards usually give a $100 statement credit to cover the cost of the program, along with many additional travel-related benefits and rewards. 

Frequent travelers know how challenging and time-consuming it can be to re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad. Long waits can lead to missed connections – not to mention aggravation. As a result, millions of international travelers now rely on the Global Entry program, which offers eligible travelers expedited re-entry at select U.S. airports. I joined the program last year – and discovered credit cards that pay for Global Entry in the process.

 

What Is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a program managed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for people who have proved to CBP that they are low-risk travelers. Introduced in 2008, Global Entry lets members place their machine-readable passports on a reader at a kiosk and use biometric scanners to confirm their identity via facial recognition or fingerprints.1 They can then proceed through the secure passport control area to baggage claim and exit the airport, usually within about five minutes. This compares to an average wait of 15 to 25 minutes that may spike to two hours during peak periods.2

 
According to CBP, as of June 2018 Global Entry was available at 61 U.S. international airports plus 13 Preclearance airports – where CBP agents screen passengers before they board planes for the U.S. – in Aruba, the Bahamas, Canada, Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates. There were 5.4 million members directly enrolled in the program, which includes U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and U.S. lawful permanent residents, along with foreigners from 14 countries.3

  
Global Entry members who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents also receive a membership in the TSA PreCheck screening program, which streamlines security checks for flights in more than 200 airports.4 Travelers usually don’t have to remove their shoes and articles from carry-on bags. In July 2020, 99% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes.5

 

How to Apply for Global Entry

You begin the Global Entry application process by filling out an online form and paying a nonrefundable $100 application fee that covers a five-year membership.6 If you meet the CBP criteria and pass a background check, you’re notified and asked to schedule an in-person interview where you must show two forms of identification.


That meeting usually takes about 15 minutes. It can be done by appointment at a U.S. airport or without at an appointment when you re-enter the U.S. from abroad at an international airport with a CBP Enrollment on Arrival office.7 Once approved, you’ll receive a Global Entry card and a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that can be used for both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. The entire process typically takes anywhere from a few months to a year to complete.8

 

Credit Cards with a Free Global Entry Reimbursement Credit

If you believe Global Entry fits your needs – and even if you travel internationally only a few times a year there’s a good chance it does – you can consider a credit card with a Global Entry benefit. These are generally travel rewards credit cards that, in addition, include a $100 Global Entry credit that reimburses your application fee automatically when it appears in your account statement, making the Global Entry program essentially free for you. The credit is typically available every four-and-a-half years, which means you won’t have to pay for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck as long as the credit is offered and available.

 
A Global Entry fee reimbursement can be a worthwhile extension to a regular credit card. But cards that offer Global Entry benefits typically charge annual fees that can be as high as $695, so it’s a good idea to evaluate whether the overall perks of the card are suited well-enough to your lifestyle and spending habits to make that feel worthwhile. Many credit cards that offer a free Global Entry reimbursement credit also offer perks like:

  • Sign-up bonuses.
  • Travel and airline rewards points or miles.
  • Trip insurance.
  • Discounts on vacations, hotels, and rental cars.
  • Airport lounge entry.
  • Preferred ticket sales and seating for sporting events and concerts.

 

Putting Global Entry and TSA Precheck to Work for You

If you decide that a credit card with global entry reimbursement is right for you, here are a few things to know:

  • The application process is simple, but it can be slow. Although it takes only a few minutes to apply for the program, expect to wait anywhere from two weeks to more than five months to hear back that your application has been conditionally approved.9 You will be informed by email or letter.
  • There are ways to speed the process. It’s wise to schedule an interview at your local airport enrollment office but then, if possible, use the Enrollment on Arrival program if you travel internationally prior to your scheduled interview. The interview backlog at local offices sometimes extends for months.
  • Approach a Global Entry renewal strategically. It’s a good idea to start the renewal process early, as it can take three months or more. And if you decide to obtain a credit card with global entry reimbursement, you can do this first and then apply for the renewal. It will be automatically tagged for the $100 statement credit when the fee appears on your statement.

 

The Takeaway

The Global Entry program helps millions of international travelers move through passport control and U.S. Customs faster and more efficiently. If you think the program would be beneficial for you, consider a credit card that offers a free global entry reimbursement credit. It credits your $100 application fee and covers future renewals as well. A Global Entry credit is a great way to extend the benefits of a travel rewards credit card.

Samuel Greengard

Samuel Greengard has traveled to 63 countries and 49 states while writing about business, technology, and finance for numerous magazines and websites. He is the author of Virtual Reality (MIT Press, September 2019).

 

All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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