A few months ago, I applied for the Citi Prestige card which inspired this post about my changing travel strategy and my first “premium” credit card. Despite the card having a large $450 annual fee, I think it’s one of the best signup offers currently available if you’re able to take advantage of the benefits. One of those benefits is a statement credit that entirely covers the cost of applying for Global Entry ($100). If you’re not familiar with Global Entry, it’s essentially TSA-PreCheck for customs lines which speeds up the process of getting in and out of a select few countries. I applied for Global Entry not long after getting the Prestige card and just recently completed the final interview, during which I was officially approved! I’ll walk you through the fairly simple process I went through below.
Applying for Global Entry takes place almost entirely online, but the application itself is fairly lengthy. The questions cover everything from current and past residences to listing out every place you’ve traveled in the past 5 years. Pretty much everything you would expect from an in-depth background check.
Once you make it through the entire application (I think it took me about an hour), you pay the $100 fee (ideally with a credit card that will reimburse you!), and wait as they process the information. I got an email 10 days later informing me that my application was conditionally approved and I need to schedule an interview. My application was processed pretty quick, probably because of my limited international travel and clean record, but I’ve heard the process can take weeks or even months for some people.
NOTE: The $100 fee is non-refundable, so you won’t get your money back even if you are denied access to the program.
After the application is reviewed, anyone who isn’t denied must schedule an in-person interview to complete the process. There are two locations fairly close to Seattle that hold the interviews, but I couldn’t find almost any availability at Boeing Field. As for Seatac, the next couple of months were booked solid, so I selected a date and time that worked for me a few months away.
I’ve heard that appointments frequently open up, so it’s possible to schedule one sooner if you frequently check the website, but I didn’t have any big trips coming up and wasn’t in any rush to get approved. The process kind of reminded me of finding award availability oddly enough, much like I had to do for our upcoming Fiji trip. I’ve also heard some other interview locations are fairly easy to find availability, but for whatever reason Seatac makes it a little tougher. I’m just happy my city has one at all, several location in the US don’t have any close by.
The day I scheduled the interview for finally came around and I woke up much earlier than normal to make the trek to the airport. I didn’t really do any research beforehand on what to expect, but I made sure to have the documentation requested and just headed out. My passport, driver’s license, and conditional approval letter were the only things I was required to bring.
The trip there via Seattle’s finest public transportation was uneventful, but it did take me a bit to find the actual US Customs office where my interview would be taking place. My documentation said it was located above the Delta check-in counter, so I made my way over there and just looked up to the balcony where I was able to locate the US Customs logo. Unfortunately, they don’t have any real signage or guidance on how to actually get up there (at least that I saw, I was pretty tired so maybe I missed it)! After looking around confused for a few minutes, I was finally able to find an elevator squeezed between a couple of large steel girders that would let me up to the second floor.
Once I cracked the code (maybe finding it was the first test!) and managed to reach the office, I was still about 20 minutes early for my scheduled interview. After showing them my paperwork and signing in to the welcome sheet, I was directed to watch the video being shown on a tv near a few waiting chairs. I’d love to tell you all about the video (it was about the Global Entry program as you might guess), but not more than a couple minutes after sitting down, my name was called to start the interview.
With the amount of time I had to wait after scheduling the interview, I expected the office to be crowded with people waiting to interview, but the entire time I was there I think only one person that didn’t work there even stopped by. Oh well, my time had come and the interview was about the start.
I guess I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the interview itself couldn’t have been more boring. After answering No to whether or not I had been convicted of any felonies and No to whether or not I had any other citizenships, I just watched the interviewer scroll the mouse wheel as I looked at the back of a monitor. I assume she was just reviewing all the information I filled out online. After verifying my address and phone number, I was officially approved for Global Entry.
They took my picture and scanned my fingerprints with a fancy digital reader thing and I was completely out of the office 10 minutes before my interview was even supposed to start. Let’s take a look at what benefits will come from my mini-adventure in getting Global Entry.
The Benefits of Global Entry
As I mentioned at the top, the primary benefit of Global Entry is speeding up the process of re-entering the US after traveling internationally. In addition to the US, several other countries participate in the program such as Mexico, Canada, and South Korea which should also speed up entry to those locations.
The way the customs process is sped up is though automated kiosks which eliminate the paperwork required and ideally should have a shorter line. At the kiosk, you simply scan your passport, scan your fingerprints, and fill out a short digital customs form in order to get a Global Entry receipt. This receipt printing is either or last step before baggage claim or you must hand it to a person in order for them to double check the information.
In addition to the customs benefits, Global Entry also comes bundled with TSA-PreCheck. By getting approved for Global Entry, you are automatically approved for TSA-PreCheck and the benefits start at the same time. TSA-PreCheck allows you to access quicker security lines domestically which speed up the security process by not requiring shoe removal and not requiring certain items be taken out of your bag like liquids and laptops among other small things.
Overall the benefit is purely convenience when traveling through airports. Shorter wait times for security and customs should make the process of traveling that much better.
The Plan to Get Becky Global Entry
For someone who travels even semi-frequently, it might be worth considering Global Entry for the convenience. For $100, the benefits of Global Entry and TSA-PreCheck last for 5 whole years. If you’re into the credit card game though, there are many ways to get the Global Entry Fee completely paid for.
We obviously want Becky to get Global Entry because otherwise I’d just be waiting on the other side of security/customs and the speed benefit would be entirely lost. I knew we’d get another card somewhat soon that paid for the Global Entry fee, so we held off on Becky’s application. The card we ended up going with was the Amex Ameriprise Platinum Card. This card isn’t talked about too often because it rarely has a signup bonus, but the primary benefit is that the normal $450 annual fee is completely waived for the first year!
Other options would have been getting a Citi Prestige in Becky’s name, upgrading one of our Aviator Red cards to the Silver version, aplying for one of the other Amex Platinum cards, or even the AA Executive among a couple others.
The application for the Ameriprise Platinum card was instantly approved and is on it’s way in the mail. Once it arrives, Becky will get to go through the entire Global Entry process herself (should I tell her where the elevator is?). Our first opportunity to use the benefit will hopefully be Cancun!
One thing I took away from the interview is that visiting an airport and not actually flying anywhere just makes me want to book more travel, where should we go next?
(Pro-Tip: Another benefit is the free 100 Miles/Points! Even though they reimburse the $100 application fee, you still get the regular spending earnings! Even if you don’t think you’ll ever use the Global Entry benefits, spending several hours of your life applying just for the $1 worth of points is totally worth it! 100% free MS! You won’t see this pro-tip on other blogs, so be sure to keep it between you and me, wouldn’t want Citi to find out and shut it down!)