Premium cards can move you faster through airport security lines


Cashing In
Cashing In columnist Tony Mecia
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. He writes "Cashing In," a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for

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Question Dear Cashing In,
I recently got a Citi Executive AAdvantage card. One of the listed perks is "airport screening lanes and boarding privileges where available," but I can't find any more information about faster security screening. How does it work, and where do they have it? -- William

Answer Dear William,
It can be nice to zoom through security at the airport. The lines can be long, and you'd prefer to relax at the gate or grab a bite to eat. 

There are several ways to move faster through security besides, say, wearing shoes that you can easily remove and having your liquids pulled out of your carry-on bag. Some of these options involve having the right credit card -- one with an annual fee of several hundred dollars, like your Citi Executive AAdvantage card (annual fee: $450).

Security arrangements vary by airport. However, dozens of airports offer an expedited security line in cooperation with the airlines. You still have to show your ticket and identification to a Transportation Security Administration agent, but the line to get to that agent is usually shorter. Depending on your airport, it might not be available at every checkpoint. 

Typically, airlines allow elite-level frequent fliers and business and first-class passengers to use this queue by placing special wording, such as "Priority Access," on the printed plane tickets. Some of them also make this line available to customers who choose to pay for it. For instance, Jet Blue has a program called "Even More Speed," which allows access to "the quickest possible lane to get through the security screening experience."

In addition, airline credit cards that include lounge access can often get you into this line. This includes your Citi Executive AAdvantage card (American Airlines) and the United MileagePlus Club card (annual fee: $395). You can't just wave the card and bypass the masses. You have to have a ticket with the special wording on it to enjoy this perk.

American spokesman Casey Norton told me that priority airport screening "refers to the priority access security lane, or premium security lanes offered either by the carrier or the airport authority. We clarify 'where available,' since traffic in some of our smaller airports doesn't require an additional screening lane."

United's website lists about 70 airports where priority screening is available.

Upon reaching the TSA agent who examines your ticket and identification, the process can be further expedited by participating in a TSA-sponsored program called TSA PreCheck. It allows travelers deemed low-risk to move through security while keeping belts, shoes and jackets on, and without having to remove liquids and laptops from bags. It costs $85 and requires a comprehensive in-person screening and background check.

One perk of the American Express Platinum card (annual fee: $450) is a free TSA PreCheck application, reimbursed by a statement credit.

William, here's to getting through that line a little faster and to making the airport experience a little easier.

See related: Which credit cards are best for expedited airport security?, Using credit cards to unlock elite airport lounges, 13 luxe airport lounges you can access with a credit card 

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Published: September 9, 2014

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Updated: 10-28-2016

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