Even if you only fly a few times a year, the hassle of waiting in airport security lines is often enough to justify signing up for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. These two U.S. government programs are designed to minimize the amount of time spent waiting in queues, which is a pretty nice travel perk.
Before applying for either program, it's important that you know the difference between them. Global Entry grants members expedited entry back into the U.S. after traveling internationally. For $100, approved members get a five-year membership that includes both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. If you rarely travel abroad and don't want to pay for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck is $85 and gives you expedited security screenings at participating airports.
It's generally recommended that you apply for Global Entry rather than just TSA PreCheck. For just $15 more, Global Entry grants you access to both.
As more and more travel credit cards compete for customers, they are increasingly offering a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit as a benefit to cardholders. For instance, when using any of the five credit cards listed below to pay for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, you will be reimbursed up to $100 in the form of a statement credit. The best part is, this offer is typically available every four years, so it's not a one-time perk.
Credit cards that offer this perk usually come with an annual fee, but when you consider all the additional rewards you can earn using the card regularly, it usually offsets the costs.
Here are top travel credit cards that offer Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck credit, ranked from lowest to highest annual fee:
5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠, 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase
50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
N/A for purchases and balance transfers
17.24% to 24.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers
3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR
Who's this for? The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers no shortage of travel benefits and rewards. Cardholders earn 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠ and 2X miles per dollar spent on all other spending.
The card has a $95 annual fee, and it has a strong welcome bonus of 50,000 points — equal to $500 toward travel — when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months following card activation.
You can redeem your points for travel purchases by either using a statement credit or by booking travel through Capital One's Reward Center. You can also redeem your points for actual cash in the form of a check, but points are worth half a cent per point if you go this route.
Travelers going overseas can take advantage of no foreign transaction fees. And cardholders also get an application fee credit for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) every four years. As an added plus, you can use your Venture® Rewards card to get access to exclusive sporting and music events, plus premiere culinary experiences, including the New York City Wine and Food Festival and the iHeartRadio Music Festival.
A downside: There's no introductory 0% APR period. From the start, cardholders are charged a variable APR of 17.49% to 24.74%. And Capital One indicates on its website this card is for people with excellent credit scores.
Earn unlimited 2X points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5X points per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Receive 50,000 bonus points — a $500 value — after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
17.49% - 24.49% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater
Who's this for? The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card is a great choice for people who have a qualifying relationship with the bank. All cardholders earn 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
However, Preferred Rewards members earn 25% to 75% more points on every purchase, depending on the balance you have in your Bank of America® banking and/or Merrill investment accounts. If you qualify for the highest tier — Platinum Honors, which requires a minimum $100,000 three-month average combined balance — you could earn up to 3.5 points for every $1 you spend on travel and dining purchases and up to 2.62 points for every $1 you spend on all other purchases.
Cardholders can take advantage of an application fee credit for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) every four years. Additional travel benefits include travel insurance for trip delays, cancellations and interruptions, an annual $100 airline statement credit for qualifying purchases, such as seat upgrades, baggage fees, in-flight services and airline lounge fees and more.
10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 3X points on travel worldwide (immediately after earning your $300 annual travel credit), 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide, 1X point per $1 on all other purchases
50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
16.99% to 23.99% variable
5%, minimum $5
Who's this for? Chase Sapphire Reserve® is enormously popular among travelers for its luxe perks and strong rewards program. In addition to offering 3X points on dining and travel purchases, cardholders get a $300 annual statement credit to apply to qualifying travel expenses.
But it's the perks that really make this card stand out for globetrotters. You can get a statement credit of up to $100 (every four years) to help cover Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees as well as enroll in Priority Pass™ Select, which gives you access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide with free amenities, such as Wi-Fi, snacks, beverages and more. Cardmembers traveling internationally also don't need to worry about foreign transaction fees.
The Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal has everything you need to plan a vacation from booking rental cars to cruises. You can also use the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection to book rooms and take advantage of upgrades upon arrival, complimentary meals, flexible check-in times, extra amenities and special discounts.
The value of Chase rewards points varies depending on how you use them. If you redeem points for cash and gift cards, each point is worth $.01, which means that 100 points equals $1 in redemption value.
The value of points increases 50% when you redeem for travel on Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruise reservations when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This is a great way to maximize the value of your rewards and makes this card stand out from the pack.
While this card does come with a substantial annual fee of $550, the many statement credits help to offset the costs.
5X points at airlines, travel agencies and restaurants, 3X points at hotels and cruise lines, 1X points on all other purchases
50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening
16.99% to 23.99% variable on purchases
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
Who's this for? Citi Prestige® Card offers a competitive rewards program for common travel expenses: Earn 5X points at airlines, travel agencies and restaurants, 3X points at hotels and cruise lines, 1X points on all other purchases.
In addition to rewards, cardholders can benefit from a complimentary fourth night at a hotel of your choice after a minimum four consecutive night booking through ThankYou.com (based on your average night stay, exclusive of taxes and fees). There's also an application fee credit for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) every five years.
Other travel perks include access to over 1,300 airport lounges with Priority Pass™ Select, cell phone protection and an annual $250 statement credit toward eligible travel purchases, which helps offset the $495 annual fee.
5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com, 1X Membership Rewards® points on all other purchases
60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 within 3 months of account opening
See Pay Over Time APR
Who's this for? The Platinum Card® from American Express offers one of the most competitive rewards programs for eligible airfare and hotel expenses: Earn 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com, and 1X Membership Rewards® points on all other purchases.
In addition to rewards, cardholders can benefit from up to $200 in annual airline fee credits to cover incidentals (baggage fees, seat upgrades an in-flight purchases) and up to $200 in annual Uber savings ($15 each month, plus get a $20 bonus in December). There's also an application fee credit for Global Entry ($100) every 4 years or TSA PreCheck ($85) every 4.5 years.
You can also take advantage of Global Lounge Collection access with more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130+ countries and special benefits at Fine Hotels & Resorts properties, such as up to a $100 hotel credit, complimentary room upgrades and free Wi-Fi.
To determine which cards will put the most money back in your pocket, CNBC Select evaluated 33 popular travel credit cards offered by major banks, financial companies and credit unions that allow anyone to join. We compared each card on a range of features, including travel rewards (points and miles), annual fee, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, one-time perks, annual perks, redemption rates, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available.
CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.
Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.
We then estimated how much the average consumer would redeem over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.
It's important to note the value of a point or mile varies from card to card and based on how you redeem them. When we calculated the estimated returns, we assumed that cardholders are redeeming points/miles for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)
Our final picks are weighted heavily toward the highest five-year returns, since it's generally wise to hold onto a credit card for years. This method also avoids giving an unfair advantage to cards with large welcome bonuses.
While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your travel habits.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.