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There’s a secret world of travel hidden right under your nose each time you step into the airport. It’s nearly imperceptible if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
The traveler next to you may have free access to fancy airport lounges (a great way to escape the bustling terminal); they may hold benefits that allow them to board the plane before you — even if they bought a cheaper ticket. They may be getting $50+ in free food and alcohol at airport restaurants. And they could be doing it all simply by holding the right travel credit card.
One of the best credit card travel benefits is the ability to gain free membership to special programs that expedite your airport security experience. After recent changes, The Platinum Card® from American Express is now the undisputed best card for this.
The card has two benefits that can help you get through airport security faster than 99% of other travelers:
- You can skip the TSA security line
- You can keep your shoes and belt on — and your laptop in your bag — at domestic security checkpoints
- You can skip the immigration line when returning to the US from abroad
Read more: Ignore the Amex Platinum’s new ‘lifestyle’ benefits — here’s what the card is worth to the average person
Whether you tend to find yourself sprinting to your gate to make your flight or you simply don’t like showing up to the airport several hours early, the Amex Platinum offers hundreds of dollars in statement credits to help you become achieve the title of “trusted traveler” for absolutely free.
Here’s how it works.
Skip the TSA security line (CLEAR)
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100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in your first 6 months of card membership
Few sights are as grim as a lengthy airport security line. If you’re anything like me, you don’t leave an enormous amount of time for complications at the airport. In extreme cases, a long line can be the difference between missing and making a flight.
CLEAR is a program designed to let you skip the TSA line entirely. With membership, you’ll have a dedicated lane separate from the TSA lane. Head to a kiosk, input your biometric data (like fingerprint/iris scan), and head straight for the conveyor belt with gray bins.
Read more: I wasn’t interested in CLEAR until the Amex Platinum gave it to me for free. It’s fantastic.
This is an extreme time saver, especially if you frequent busy airports. Membership costs $179 per year, but the Amex Platinum CLEAR credit will completely offset the expense each year.**
CLEAR isn’t in every airport. You can see all locations here.
Keep your clothes on and your laptop in your bag (TSA PreCheck)
An inconvenient and degrading part of air travel is the burlesque show that is TSA airport security.
Instead of walking around in your socks and holding your pants up as you wait for your belt, shoes, and light jacket to negotiate the conveyor belt through the X-ray machine, you can enroll in TSA PreCheck and keep your clothes on. You won’t even have to remove your laptop or TSA-approved toiletries from your bag.
This eliminates a lot of hassle, speeds up the security experience, and keeps you from having to manage five or six gray bins. And members of TSA PreCheck are funneled into the same area, so they (usually) don’t have to stand behind travelers who are required to disrobe.
TSA PreCheck costs $85 per year for five years of membership — but the Amex Platinum comes with a credit to offset this expense every 4.5 years. You can use this credit either for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
Again, TSA PreCheck isn’t in every single airport. Here are all the locations.
Read more: The best credit cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
Skip the immigration line when returning to the US
I vividly remember returning to New York-JFK years ago after an overseas trip. The two hours I spent in a winding immigration queue made me dread future returns from abroad when I’d have to again experience these lines.
A membership to Global Entry almost guarantees that you’ll never have to wait in a line like this. US hubs often have more than a dozen Global Entry kiosks where you can scan your fingerprints, answer a few questions, and head toward the exit. In other words, Global Entry has the potential to save you literally hours each time you return from an international trip.
The Global Entry application fee costs $100 every five years. But again, the Amex Platinum offers up to $100 in credit every 4.5 years toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Those with membership to Global Entry will also get TSA PreCheck for no additional cost — so it’s the better one to apply for.
Read more: Global Entry was the best travel decision I ever made
With the Amex Platinum, you can receive access to three programs that will sharply decrease the time you spend at airport security:
If you enroll in these programs, you can cut to the front of the TSA line and speed through security without removing electronics from your bag or (most) clothing from your person. And you’ll get to skip the immigration line entirely when returning to the US from another country.
You might be surprised at how many travelers aren’t even aware of these programs. They’re a great way to travel more efficiently — and a great first step into the secret world of “travel hacking” with credit cards.
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100,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from your account opening
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1.5% cash back in addition to regular earning on everything you buy up to $20,000 spent in the first year (worth up to $300 cash back)
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