Jabez LeBret flashed his mobile Alaska Airlines boarding pass at the agent standing outside the TSA PreCheck line at San Diego International Airport.
He didn’t get very far on the late August trip.
“They stop me and say, “Sir, you’re not TSA PreCheck.”
LeBret, who hadn’t noticed there was no TSA PreCheck stamp on his boarding pass, was sent to the regular TSA line. Gone were the coveted PreCheck perks: a (usually) shorter line and speedier screening since members get to keep their shoes, belts and light jackets on and leave their electronics and liquids in their carry-on bag.
He didn’t figure out what went wrong until he pulled out his Global Entry identification at the gate. Global Entry, a separate trusted traveler program from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, includes PreCheck benefits.
“I got my card out and realized, ‘Man this is expired,”’ LeBret said. “I was shocked.”
Plenty of other travelers around the country are in for a surprise, too, if they don’t check the expiration date on their PreCheck or Global Entry memberships.
Membership in both programs lasts five years and key anniversaries are approaching. The TSA began began selling PreCheck memberships at airports and other enrollment centers in December 2013. More than 420,000 travelers signed up in the first six months, with a total of 750,000 travelers signed up in the first year.
The agency estimates that more than 45,000 travelers’ PreCheck memberships will expire between December and February alone.
TSA Administrator David Pekoske doesn’t think renewal will be a tough sell for most travelers. The price remains $85 for five years.
“I expect that the vast majority will re-enroll,” he said. “It’s proven to be a very popular program.”
Global Entry, a line-skipping option for travelers clearing customs after arriving in the United States from abroad, began in 2008 so that program is seeing its second wave of expirations this year. Global Entry memberships spiked in late 2013 when PreCheck expanded to the general public and travelers weighed which security fast pass to buy. It is $100 for five years.
Seattle frequent flier Dan Shapiro signed up for Global Entry five years ago and didn’t realize his membership had expired until he was stuck without PreCheck benefits for three consecutive flights this fall. At first, TSA agents told him he was probably randomly selected for the regular lane.
“After the third time, I’m like, ‘This can’t be right,” said Shapiro, chief executive officer and co-founder of Glowforge, a 3D laser printer company.
He checked his account online, a process he found arduous given a new Global Entry website introduced a year ago that requires a new log in, and learned his membership expired in late September. He renewed online.
“I’m back in the fast lane,” Shapiro said.
How to find out when your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership expires
TSA and Global Entry officials say they notify travelers in advance of upcoming membership expiration.
TSA sends a notification via email or phone three months ahead of time and plans to provide six-month notice beginning early next year, according to spokeswoman Lorie Dankers.
Whether you get an email or phone call depends on the preferred method of contact selected when enrolling in PreCheck.
Missed an email or simply want to check your status?
Check your membership status on the TSA’s website by clicking on check my service status, or call 855-347-8371 weekdays between 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. TSA does not issue PreCheck ID cards. Members receive a known traveler number (KTN) to use when booking flights.
Global Entry members receive four notices about looming expiration dates, with the first sent six months in advance and the last one 30 days out, according to Stephan Mongin, senior program manager for Custom and Border Protection’s trusted traveler programs. There are also personalized notices at Global Entry kiosks beginning a year before the membership expires, he said. An email is also sent when a membership has lapsed, Mongin said.
LeBret and Shapiro don’t recall seeing any email notifications. Mongin said emails with a .gov address often go into a spam or trash folder.
American Airlines has seen a spike in the number of customers complaining about their Global Entry memberships expiring, leaving them without access to the time-saving PreCheck lanes, spokesman Ross Feinstein said.
Global Entry makes checking the expiration date easy: it’s printed on the front of Global Entry ID cards. The membership number, known as a PASS ID is printed on the back and used in flight reservations to get PreCheck access.
Can’t find your card? Travelers can also check their status by logging onto the CBP’s Trusted Traveler website. Note that you will need to set up a Login.gov account to access your information if you haven’t done so since a new system began a year ago.
An important difference between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck expiration dates: TSA PreCheck memberships expire five years from the date of issue, while Global Entry memberships expire on your birthday five years after you signed up. So if you signed up in January 2014 but your birthday is in August, you membership expires on that date in July 2019, giving you 5 1/2 years of membership.
How far in advance can I renew my TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership?
TSA PreCheck memberships can be renewed up to six months in advance online or at a an enrollment center. You need your known traveler number. Look it up online if you don’t have it in your frequent flyer accounts or on a recent flight reservation.
The approval process takes two to three weeks but can come as early as a few days, the TSA says. Some members will be required to renew in person if, for example, another fingerprint scan is needed or if they changed their name and didn’t update the information with the TSA. .
Global Entry memberships are eligible for renewal up to a year in advance online or at an enrollment center. Travelers fill out the same application they did at the time of initial enrollment and may be asked to do another in-person interview.
There’s an incentive to renewing Global Entry early. You can continue to use the benefits for up to six months after your expiration date while the renewal is finalized. Those who wait until after the membership lapses will not get to use the benefits until their renewal application is processed.
Renewing early would have made LeBret’s travel life much smoother the past few months. His renewal application is still pending. He doesn’t know why but suspects it’s due to heavy international travel the past five years. His wife renewed her Global Entry membership before it expired and was approved in a few weeks.
When he had PreCheck access, LeBret, co-founder of a tuition free high school boarding school in San Diego, arrived at the airport just 35 to 40 minutes before his flight. Now he arrives 75 minutes before his flight. That might seem like a First-World problem but if you travel a lot like he does, the extra time adds up.
“Once you get a taste of the (PreCheck) convenience, it’s really hard to go back,” he said.
He said he’s been “religiously banging the drum” to let fellow frequent fliers know not to let their Global Entry or PreCheck memberships lapse.
“Do it now. Don’t wait,” he said. “Just get online and fill out your form.”