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I landed at Miami International Airport after an exhilarating – and seasickness-inducing – yacht cruise around Cuba in March 2016. Following a chaotic boarding process at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, it was a relief to be back on U.S. soil.
Yet as anyone who’s traveled internationally knows, you must endure the U.S. Customs and Border Protection gauntlet upon your return to America. And the Customs rigmarole can be at least as maddening as the boarding-process zoo at Havana’s airport.
Of course, I don’t have a get-out-of-Customs-free card, which probably doesn’t exist unless you’re a high-ranking U.S. official. Nonetheless, I managed to breeze through Customs in Miami. How did I do it?
While other travelers had to linger in line for what looked like hours to navigate the Customs maze in Miami, I zipped through Customs in a matter of minutes thanks to Global Entry.
And if you have one of a handful of credit cards in your wallet, you, too, can take advantage of Global Entry – absolutely free.
Global Entry costs $100 and must be renewed every five years. It includes access to TSA Precheck, which by itself costs $85 and lets you bypass airport security lines at U.S. airports. So for a difference of only $15, you get the best of both worlds – Global Entry and TSA Precheck.
The Global Entry 411
Here’s how Global Entry works, according to U.S. Customers and Border Protection:
“At airports, program members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.”
Speaking from experience, it really is that simple. For international travelers like me, Global Entry is a godsend.
Among their perks, several credit cards offer a statement credit for the $100 application fee for Global Entry or the $85 application fee for TSA Precheck as long as the fee is charged to an eligible card.
Cards that cover your Global Entry fee
My Platinum card from American Express is one of the credit cards that reimburse the Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee; unfortunately, I didn’t have this card when I signed up for Global Entry. This perk also is available through a handful of other AmEx cards (both consumer and corporate versions).
Several other cards credit your account for the Global Entry fee or TSA Precheck fee, including:
• Chase Sapphire Reserve
• Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
• Citi Prestige
• Ritz-Carlton Rewards
(The U.S. Transportation Security Administration site has a list of credit cards that cover fees for TSA Precheck.)
As I noted earlier, you must apply for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. Once your application has been reviewed and you’ve gained initial approval, you’ll be invited to schedule an in-person interview at an airport. (Trust me, it’s not an interrogation.)
If you pass the interview, you’ll be granted Global Entry or TSA Precheck status.
Why Global Entry makes sense for me
Even if you travel internationally only once a year or so, Global Entry is so worth it. I really don’t understand why any high-flying jet-setter or would-be globetrotter wouldn’t have Global Entry in his or her travel toolkit.
What if you’re not obsessed with getting your passport stamped? If you’re thinking about applying for TSA Precheck, then what does it hurt to fork over an extra $15 for Global Entry? You never know when you might get the itch to take off to Paris.
Besides, that decision is made far easier if one of your credit cards reimburses the Global Entry application fee. Essentially, your credit card issuer is handing you a phenomenal freebie – a fly-through-the-airport passport. Don’t let that opportunity fly away.
See related: Global Entry perk may make big-annual-fee rewards card worthwhile, Hidden card benefit: Save money and sanity in airport lounges