With TSA wait times on the rise and no easy solution in sight, TSA Precheck (the paid program that gives passengers a fast track through security) seems to be an increasingly popular program. But it is only a good investment if you don’t travel much internationally, not leaving the country more than once a year. If you do travel outside the US quite often, the Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program would more than likely be a better investment for you. For just a slightly higher fee and a brief interview at an enrollment center, Global Entry grants you all the same privileges as TSA Precheck (expedited screening, no removal of your shoes, no digging in your carry on to take out computers or the Ziploc of 3-1-1 liquids/gels) plus Global Entry provides you with expedited screening at Customs and Border Protection checkpoints when coming back in to the United.States. Both options are a five-year membership that requires ID verification and finger printing for approval.
If you are interested in TSA Precheck enrollment, consider how often you travel and which airports you use. Some airports, especially the smaller local ones, haven’t had problems with long lines, and TSA Precheck is more of a novelty service than a time saver at those airports and may not be worth the effort.
Also keep in mind that if you don’t have a passport, Global Entry is probably not for you. You’ll need a passport to apply, and if you don’t already have one then you’re probably not planning on leaving the country any time soon and once again, the only time you use Global Entry is when you are returning to the United States from an international trip.
Then, to make it even more confusing, there may be times when you haven’t paid for TSA Precheck, but it has still given to you at the airport. TSA has been known to randomly select Precheck passengers for expedited screening as a way to increase the program’s visibility and attract new customers. Be assured that just because they gave it to you once, you won’t be getting it every time you fly.
I hope this helped clarify the difference between the 2 options. If you want more information, here is a link to the TSA Precheck - https://www.tsa.gov/precheck/faq and here is a link to more information on Global Entry - https://www.cbp.gov/document/publications/global-entry-information-guide .