2 reasons Global Entry is totally worth it – they rhyme with “saving hours of your time”

Yesterday, I arrived back from Europe, along with 200 or so of my newest traveling companions. It was a solid 12-hour flight, but most people had another big wait in front of them after stepping off the plane: US Customs and Immigration. Luckily, I got to avoid this with one of my favorite anti-line weapons: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s Global Entry.

GE-cardNot only did the 200 or so people from my flight deplane at the same time, another flight – a Korean Air Boeing 777-300ER – arrived right around the same time, offloading roughly another 300 passengers. And another Iberia flight, too. And probably even more that I wasn’t aware of. So, what does that mean? 600-700 people and long lines waiting in long lines for both immigration and customs. This isn’t the CBP’s fault – it’s just a ton of people!

I wish I could show you a photo of the scene yesterday, but that’s very much a giant no-no – rightfully so – in the immigration and customs hall. But was I concerned about the long lines? No, because I’m a member of Global Entry, US Customs and Border Protection’s program that allows average humans like myself to skip the lines when returning from abroad and use an automated kiosk to reenter the United States.

Even if you only fly internationally once in a while – maybe even just once a year – the program is well worth it. Easily, I saved an hour yesterday – maybe even an hour and a half – getting through customs and onto my next flight. In fact, I’d go as far to say that Global Entry meant I was able to jump on an earlier flight to San Diego and be home several hours early.

Joining the Global Entry program is $100 and takes about an hour when you combine the paperwork and interview; membership is valid for five years. Though the Global Entry office in Southern California is at LAX – meaning a trip to LA from San Diego – you can schedule your interview at any one of their offices worldwide (yes!).

United Premier Platinum, 1K, and Global Services program members, as well as American Express Platinum Cardmembers both can get the $100 fee reimbursed for signing up. Although $100 isn’t a huge deal, it certainly helps justify the annual cost of the Platinum card, and is a nice amenity for United’s upper-tier frequent fliers.

But I don’t often fly nternationally!“, you say? Nor do I – maybe a couple times a year, if that. But even if you fly internationally only once a year, imagine saving yourself an hour (or more!) each time you go through Immigration and then Customs.

And then, even if you never ever travel internationally, there’s an even bigger reason to get Global Entry:

The not-as-obvious and ten-times-better reason: TSA PreCheck

Everyone hates getting ‘undressed’ at security (so to speak) when traveling by plane – it’s generally a royal pain in the neck. So, imagine not having to take off your belt, removing your liquid carry-on, your laptop and your shoes – and being able to bypass that HUGE security line! As a member of Global Entry, you’re eligible for using TSA PreCheck, a program that – at certain airports with several major airlines (Alaska, American, Delta, United, and US Airways) – allows you to skip most of the hassle.

It’s pretty much the best thing ever.

Yesterday, PreCheck easily saved me 20 minutes at LAX. Although you don’t always get the reduced screening, you do usually get to go to the front of the line regardless if you’re “randomly selected,” assuming TSA PreCheck is available at that airport.

Today, TSA PreCheck isn’t available at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field – something that’s irked me a bit since using it the first time at Washington’s Reagan National Airport several months ago, but I did hear a rumor that it may be available in San Diego once the new terminal has been completed. I really hope this is the case — because for those who do use it, there are few better feelings than being able to bypass a huge security line, especially if you’re stressed about making your connecting flight.

So, for those who fly even just once in a while, Global Entry saves you time and hassle in multiple ways. Yesterday, it saved me hours because I got to skip the Immigration and Customs lines, it meant that I got expedited security screening, and it meant that I made it onto an earlier flight.

I can’t stress it enough: to anyone who flies, well, ever – Global Entry is certainly a shining star win for Customs and Border Protection, an even bigger win for the TSA, and a REALLY big win for you.