Getting Global Entry, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection pre-screening that allows you to skip the customs line, is a time saver—but is it worth the $100? Weighing how often you’ll re-enter the U.S. and need to deal with customs is one way to decide, or you could figure out how to get Global Entry for free and have no doubts about its convenience factor.
How to Get Global Entry for Free
There are two main ways to hack Global Entry and get the privileges without paying, including credit card reimbursements and a little-known app. Here’s how to get Global Entry for free.
Credit Cards That Foot the Bill
You can get a lot of things for cheap or free as credit card perks: insurance, airfare, hotel stays—and Global Entry. Invest in a premium travel credit card that offers travel credits or Global Entry waivers, and you’ll get your money back after applying for Global Entry.
Cards that will refund your Global Entry fee include Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Platinum Card, Citi Prestige and AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard, Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Card, and U.S. Bank FlexPerks Gold Card. Even more credit cards and loyalty programs offer credits for TSA PreCheck, but that service is included with Global Entry.
The catch? These cards charge annual fees, which can be up to $450. However, as long as you achieve your initial bonus and plan on making use of points for travel that you would have booked regardless, that fee will quickly pay for itself—especially if you’ve been putting up with foreign transaction fees, which elite travel cards don’t charge. Plus, the double and triple points will keep on giving in return for spending as you would have. Just make sure you keep up with your bill.
Mobile Passport App
Not keen on travel card fees? There’s a little-known loophole to the customs process that, for me and many other travelers, works about as well as Global Entry does.
The Mobile Passport App, authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is essentially Global Entry via your mobile device, for free. The app sends your details to customs when you arrive at the airport—all that’s required is a quick selfie and your passport details—so you can skip the customs line, flash your phone screen at the desk, and be on your way.
This, of course, isn’t a surefire method of skipping lines—there’s no telling when an airport will be ill-prepared to handle Mobile Passport users. But I’ve never had an issue using it to skip a line, and most airports have signs in place to guide Mobile Passport App users. Look for the Mobile Passport line—which is typically non-existent, or a fraction of the standard customs line.
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Associate Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.