I was recently added as an authorized user on an American Express Platinum card. One of the benefits that comes with the card (both the non-branded version and my Mercedes-Benz branded flavor) is a reimbursement for the $100 application fee for Global Entry for all card users. The fee is also reimbursed by United for Premier Platinum and 1K elite members.
Global Entry is great for international travelers since it allows users to bypass long immigration lines for automated kiosks by submitting to a background check. It’s great for frequent domestic travelers as well because it gives access to TSA Pre-Check, which is basically how security was back in the 90s — quick, easy, and shoes-on. Part of the reason I play the miles, points, and elite status game is because I dislike waiting in line and don’t want to have to pay big money to avoid it. The $100 fee is worth it for a lot of people, since it comes out to $20/year to skip a bunch of lines, but it’s definitely worth the $0 outlay if you have it reimbursed by American Express or United.
I received my American Express Platinum card on a Monday and applied for Global Entry that night. I was hoping to be approved before or during my weekend trip to New York later that week, so I kept my passport in my bag just in case. I got the conditional approval email on Friday evening while in New York, less than 100 hours after applying.
Once I was conditionally approved, I was given access to the calendar to schedule an appointment at an enrollment center. I checked Newark, Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles, since I was flying to or through each airport — the system automatically jumps to the first date available for each center, and the best I could do was a few weeks later in LA. Every other center only had availability in 2013.
I decided to get a date close to Christmas in Los Angeles. I later same-day confirmed to a flight out of Newark at 1:50pm on Monday, so I got to the airport at 11:15am to see if I could walk-in for an appointment. The EWR enrollment center is in Terminal B, all the way to the left of the building, in the walkway leading from international arrivals (a great place to advertise to travelers who may have just waited a long time in line).
The first CBP officer told me they were packed with appointments and that I might not get a walk-in, but told me to wait just in case. After about 15 minutes of standing outside by myself, another CBP officer told me that I wouldn’t be seen without an appointment. I told him that the first officer said it would be possible if appointments didn’t show up and I pointed to the empty waiting room and group of chatting CBP officers. It took another 5 minutes, but I was finally let in. I thought this program was here to save travelers time …
The letter that’s sent to conditionally approved applicants states that one must bring to the interview:
- Letter stating approval
- Other form of ID with current address, such as a driver’s license
- Other forms of ID for citizens of other countries
I only had the letter in electronic form on my phone, but was never asked for it. I was “interviewed” at a desk alongside another traveler, with questions such as:
- Why did you apply for Global Entry?
- Why do you travel – business or vacation?
- What do you do for work?
- Have you been to Canada or Mexico in the past 5 years?
- What is your income level/how can you afford to travel so much? I stated that I play the miles and points game and have a lot of miles to travel, and that my ticket that day was on miles.
I was shown a video on how to use the machine but didn’t get to use one directly as practice. My fingerprints were taken and a CBP sticker was placed on my passport’s back cover. Within 10 minutes, I was finished! Less than a week since getting my American Express Platinum Card and approved for Global Entry! My official letter arrived in the system via email with my Trusted Traveler ID, which I’ve already added to my loyalty program profiles for the major airlines. I already had Pre-Check when flying Delta (about half the time as a Gold Medallion), so hopefully this means I’ll get it more often on United and American as well.
If you apply for Global Entry, I would suggest just getting an appointment sometime in the future for your most frequented airport (the program dictates you must have an appointment booked for any time within 30 days of your approval). Once you have an appointment, look for spots to open up. If spots don’t, see which airports you have layovers in and ask to be seen as a walk-in. The whole process only involved me being at EWR about 45 minutes earlier than I would have intended for a normal day.