Is Global Entry valid as identification at TSA checkpoints?

Global Entry (GE) is a program administered by another Homeland Security agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  In exchange for a background check and information about an individual’s travel history, CBP enables frequent travelers to skip the usual immigration queue and re-enter the country via an automated kiosk.  The Global Entry program is biometrically secure, and is also a qualifier for PreCheck, the Transportation Security Administration’s “trusted traveler” program.  As such, a Global Entry card is more difficult to obtain than a driver’s license or passport.

As most travelers know, the TSA requires government-issued identification at airport security checkpoints.  Many travelers show their driver’s license to satisfy this requirement.  As someone concerned with the privacy implications of that, I choose to show an alternative (though equally valid) form of ID, typically a U.S. Passport Card or Global Entry card.

Lately I have preferred to use the latter, as it lists the least amount of personally identifiable information.  Some TSA employees have questioned its validity, but these have been cases of unfamiliarity, as the card is somewhat new (they were first issued last summer).  A quick check with a supervisor has always resolved any question of their validity.










The situation changed on Friday, March 9th.  I approached the ID checker at the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, and he questioned the card.  I requested that he check with a supervisor, and she also rejected the card, claiming she had received an email earlier that week stating that Global Entry cards are no longer valid as identification.

Let’s examine this.  Why would the TSA reject a card from a program that serves a basis for its own trusted traveler program?  Even by TSA standards this seemed irrational.

I held my ground, but the three-stripe supervisor flatly refused to accept my GE card.  I equally flatly refused to show other identification, mostly as a matter of principle; TSA should honor forms of ID it publicly claims to accept.  I commented that we were at an impasse, to which she responded, “That’s fine, I’m not the one flying today.”

At this point I asked her to summon a police officer to help resolve the situation.  The officer – extremely helpful and understanding – checked with TSA higher-ups about the validity of my Global Entry card.  At one point three supervisors were present, and all of them claimed that GE cards could not be used here “yet”.  It was clear to me that they were confusing the Global Entry and PreCheck programs, but my attempts to educate them about the difference were met with hostile silence.

In the end the Buffalo TSA refused to accept my Global Entry card.  Having heard similar reports of GE cards being denied in Los Angeles and Portland, I took the issue up with TSA’s Office of Public Affairs.  Spokeswoman Lauren Gaches responded quickly, and was able to verify that TSA’s policy is that Global Entry cards are acceptable as identification at checkpoints.  To her further credit, she took the issue up with the operational side of the organization.  At a minimum, supervisors Burns and Zielen in Buffalo need retraining on this issue.

TSA’s own trusted traveler program is based in part on membership in Global Entry.  If there is any logic in denying its use as identification, I’m not seeing it.

Have you attempted to use valid identification with TSA and been denied?  Sound off about your experiences in the comments.

  • Nicky Pipes

    I would say that most TSA screeners do not really know what a NEXUS card looks like (based on the quizzical look when presented with one), with the exception of Detroit, since it is a PreCheck airport near the Canadian border.  But they have yet to refuse to except it either.  Granted they probably would not know a TWIC card if one tried to use it in Kansas since there are not a lot of maritime workers there.  Definitely an issue of education.

  • Jeff

    Two TSA agents in Albuquerque had no idea what the card was and refused to accept it as ID

  • BfloRef

    I am a BUF based traveler and used my GE card many times. However, I was denied using it at BNA on April 20th. The lead officer said “yes, I know what it is, but there is a hold on them”

  • Doktrhog

    I was refused it in LAX but supervisor overrode the agent.  Other than that one time it has been accepted on a regular basis.  Once I was asked about a drivers license.  Told him the police took it for my speeding ticket on way to catch airplane.  Didn’t see the humor….

  • vinod

    Is there some document that would prove its acceptability?

    Sheikh Yerbouti Reply:

    Web site, yes:

    Official document – request one from the TSA directly.

  • chrisi

    TSA is one sad organization. How hard is it to learn at least the *federal* forms of identification. Heck I don’t even work for the TSA and know all of them.

  • Melissa

    I have been able to use my GE card as valid ID for Portland, OR. However, i have YET to get the triple beep/bars to allow me express lane access for TSA Pre-check. i always indicate my trusted traveler number on my reservations; but i have yet to reap the benefits of the 100 bucks and my time. not impressed yet.

    Bridget Reply:

    Check that your name on your GA card and your reservation or FF account match exactly. My FF account lacked my middle name and i was denied pre check. Once I corrected the info it worked.

  • Bambam

    I was at Phil international and they asked for another form of ID

  • B6 traveler

    JFK T5 (JetBlue) – agent asked for another form of ID, told him I don’t have any other US gov’t issued ID as this is my proof of citizenship. He didn’t press the issue. But a bar in Boston refused to accept it for ID and refused to serve me, even though I’m in my 30s. The card needs to be made to look more official.

  • Frequent traveler

    It is travelers like you who I seek to avoid at all costs. While you are “in the right” the terminal is not the place to ” stand on principle” at the cost of delaying your fellow travelers.

    Those stating that it is should be simple to recognize government IDs show the ignorance of running a security system. Every TSA agent has to be trained on document recognition, forgery, alteration , etc before that ID can be accepted, regardless of its validity. Imagine that the day before you travelled, a forged GE ID was used in Omaha….it might make complete sense for TSA to suspend that document until it explores the consequences and ID training.

    Precheck…you probably have a slight name mismatch between your boarding pass and precheck data..that will kick you out.

    JayV Reply:

    I disagree. Unless someone takes a principled stand once in a while, all of us are denied the intended benefit of the program we paid for. Your example is nonsense. Forged state drivers licenses are used everyday–if TSA were to deny every Californian boarding because bogus one showed up in Omaha, that would ground one in eight citizens.

    nyc347 Reply:

    Yeah folks. Why should we expect the TSA to actually know their jobs? It’s so difficult to understand all these craaaaaazy forms of ID, how can we possibly expect government employee “Duane” to identify something like a Global Entry ID – a vehicle who’s ENTIRE PURPOSE is to provide identification & passage for travelers?
    And how insane is it for a citizen to defiantly ask that the right rules to be followed “delaying our fellow travelers”? Forget that the TSA agent is the very first person to start rambling the importance of adhering to “the rules” when confronted by a disgruntled traveler… heaven forbid they “delay out fellow travelers” to “stand on principle”.
    What the heck are we thinking?

  • RB Gilmore

    happened today at O’Hare. Both my wife and I have been accepted by Global Entry and informed that this was also valid for TSA pre-check, but my wife was allowed entry and I was refused (not enough bells rang on the boarding pass apparently) and was told this was a “random acceptance process”. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever considering the more rigorous screening done for a global Entry. Again indicates the capriciousness of the system with so many inconsistencies.

  • tony hoare

    I would also prefer to travel in this nation with car hire services gives you much freedom to explore.

  • HH79

    They gave me an issue at JFK, but supervisor accepted. But just a few weeks ago at LGA a woman forgot her ID and they allowed her through with a Costco membership card?? GE seems much more legit then that!

  • HH79

    They gave me an issue at JFK, but supervisor accepted. But just a few weeks ago at LGA a woman forgot her ID and they allowed her through with a Costco membership card?? GE seems much more legit then that!

  • JC

    Was just refused entry into Pre-TSA line with my global entry card. The issue is still going on, the TSA officers will only let you in if the airline you are flying on participates in the program. So far, I have gotten no value out of this program on any of my domestic flights. Either i’m refused because the airline participates, or the airline i’m flying doesn’t have a pre-tsa line. I know it will certainly help with my international flights but so far disappointed

    Juan Reply:

    That’s not how it works. You have to enter your trusted id into your reservation. Then it will show up as TSA precheck eligible. Sometimes you’ll get the three beeps, other times you are sent to the regular security line, but you can’t just show your global entry card in hopes of getting into precheck. And yes, the airline has to participate in the program as they have to share the reservation information with the TSA…

  • Floridagirl

    Having lots if trouble using oval entry in jacksonville. They wouldn’t accept it as ID. Agent said they just has meeting on it and not to accept. Couldn’t use precheck lane

  • jack

    haha too bad wanker

  • willcompton

    I’ve never show my Global Entry card. I always use my Passport Card when traveling as it doesn’t give my address.

  • Côte d’Or

    I have a Global Entry ID card. Because my ticket did not note “TSA pre-check,” TSA security employees directed me to the regular screening line: Shoes and light jacket off, standing in position with hands up and feet apart in the radiation imaging machine, etc.

    I refused that screening (as I always do) and allowed the pat-down, insisting on a private room. Why do TSA employees not honor the Global Entry card re: screening???

  • Rick

    Was told by TSA agent at JFK that Global Entry card cannot be used (“Keep this thing” was her comment”),

  • David Martin

    I have just arrived back from Salt Lake City. I have the Global entry card. I have used it in the past to clear TSA pre/check at JFK and LGA and also SLC airport and Denver.
    Delta issued my 15 year old son and I a boarding passes. His said pre/check on it and mine did not. We went down the TSA Pre check line and handed in our two global entry cards.
    The officer allowed my 15 year old through security and sent me back to a 20 minute line up in the regular security line. We were the only two in line at the Pre/check line and he still refused me.
    I said that I have global entry and had my card to prove it. He then pointed to my ticket and said that I am not Pre/check as it is randomly picked and sent me on my way back to a huge line up.
    Now that I find out that my card was a valid Pre/check ID I am furious.

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