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Published: Apr 05, 2024 6 min read
People at an airport waiting in line for TSA
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Want the coveted "trusted traveler" status that allows you to zip through airport and border security? Soon, it'll cost you much more to apply.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, is hiking application fees for several of its trusted traveler programs for the first time in 15 years. Effective Oct. 1, applications for Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI will all require an upfront $120 fee.

“The original fees for each of the three programs are no longer sufficient to recover CBP's costs to administer the programs,” wrote Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, in the final rule published to the Federal Register on Tuesday.

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These three particular expedited-clearance programs are for qualifying U.S. citizens, residents and nationals who are re-entering the country by land, sea and/or air — as opposed to TSA PreCheck, which is solely for air travel originating from the U.S.

The new rule has been in the works since 2020. While it doesn't directly affect the price of TSA PreCheck, the three CBP programs slated for the price hike include complimentary TSA PreCheck benefits for qualifying travelers, which may result in an indirect price hike for folks looking to bundle benefits.

On the other hand, the new price structure could reduce costs for some families, as it waives application fees for minors whose parents have already applied.

Why 'trusted traveler' fees are going up

Currently, all the trusted traveler initiatives charge different amounts, and the SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection) program actually has several fees throughout the entire approval process.

According to CBP, when the programs first started, each one was run individually — but as they expanded, the application process was largely streamlined. Now, the agency says it wants to “harmonize” the fee structure, too.

What that means for globetrotters is that the application fees are rising notably for Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI. Here’s a closer look at the programs and their fees.

  • Global Entry: Currently costs $100 and includes TSA PreCheck. Allows expedited security clearance for land, sea and air entry into the U.S. Application processing time may take up to six months. Membership lasts five years.
  • NEXUS: Currently costs $50 and may include TSA PreCheck for qualifying applicants. A Canadian-U.S. program, it allows expedited clearance via land, sea and air (including pedestrian entry) to or from Canada. Application processing time may take up to 14 months. Membership lasts five years.
  • SENTRI: Currently costs $122.25 in total, with fees broken up into stages. The application fee is $25. An FBI fingerprinting fee and a service fee are charged separately to reach the grand total. Benefits largely mirror NEXUS but exclude sea travel and include Mexico. Application processing time may take up to 12 months. Membership lasts five years.

Given that the new $120 fee will be charged upfront, it will cost $20 more to apply to Global Entry once the rule takes effect in October. For Nexus, it means the application fee will increase by $70. To simply apply, the fee for the SENTRI program will increase $95 — but the cost of the entire approval process will decrease by $2.25.

Of course, simply applying does not guarantee approval. Applicants must pass a rigorous background check — being screened against terrorist and criminal databases — and then clear an in-person interview. (For renewing members, the CBP recently started allowing remote video interviews.)

During the rulemaking process, the CBP said the higher fees are not intended to result in faster application processing times.

Shakedown on credit card travel rewards

One major ancillary effect of the new fee structure is on high-end travel card rewards. Several of the best travel rewards credit cards include benefits that cover the costs of trusted traveler memberships.

For example, Capital One’s Venture Rewards Credit Card comes with a statement credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Under the new fee structure, the statement wouldn’t cover the whole cost of Global Entry.

Other credit card providers like American Express, Chase and Bank of America offer similar reimbursement credits for Global Entry.

Money reached out to the four card providers to see if they expect to increase their benefits in tandem with the price hike. Bank of America said it does not have current plans to increase its rewards to cover the fee hike. Capital One and American Express declined to comment on their plans, and Chase did not respond by press time.

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