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Twice The Baggage: Global Entry vs. NEXUS: which is right for you?

The two programs help you skip lines at airports.

Sick of waiting in long lines at the airport? Well, there are now numerous ways that you can skip the lines and get through security quickly, writes Twice The Baggage.

We've written about one of these before – Global Entry – but there is another option to be aware of called Nexus.

In this post we'll break down both of those options and help you decide which is right for you.

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a United States Border protection program that allows travelers, who are low-risk and pre-approved, expedited entry when returning into the United States. After scanning your passport, fingerprints and answering a few questions, you will be on your way.

Along with the approval of Global Entry, you will also receive TSA PreCheck, which allows for low-risk and pre-approved travelers to have seamless expedited security checks when arriving at the airport.

Your first time through the PreCheck lane, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to join the program. The security lines are often drastically shorter, but that’s only half of the benefit. You get to leave your shoes, a belt and a light jacket on while going through. Your laptop and the carry-on approved liquids in your bag can also stay put as you put them through the baggage screeners.

Approval of Global Entry and TSA pre-check lasts for five years and costs $100 per person.  We recommend all frequent travelers acquire Global Entry, as getting back into the United States through customs can take hours.

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What is NEXUS?

NEXUS is a joint Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection-operated expedited border control program designed for pre-approved, low-risk travelers. It is essentially the Canadian version of Global Entry.

Members of the program can avoid long waits at border entry points by using reserved lanes at land crossings into Canada (there's a NEXUS lane at the International Falls crossing and the United States (including from Mexico).

It also gives you a quicker journey through customs when returning to airports in Canada and the U.S., where a NEXUS pass allows you to use Global Entry kiosks.

The application process is quite the same, you must apply for it through a government portal, wait for acceptance, and then also be interviewed to complete the process.

While Global Entry costs $100, the application fee for NEXUS is only $50 per adult and children are free until they turn 18.

Signing up for NEXUS also makes you eligible for TSA PreCheck, allowing you to skip security lines when departing a U.S. airport. 

Which is right for you?

Global Entry and Nexus both have great benefits to expedite the time you spend at customs. Below is a breakdown of the pros and cons of both to help you make the right decision.

Pros of Global Entry

  • Global Entry kiosks are in more than 50 airports.
  • Seamless application process and many more locations in which to complete the in-person interview (ie. you can do it at MSP Airport). Much quicker and smoother than that of Nexus, especially if you live in the southern United States where NEXUS facilities are not available.
  • No lines, no waiting when arriving back in the US after an international trip.
  • Many travel rewards credit cards will reimburse you for the application fee once every 5 years.
  • Comes with TSA PreCheck

Cons of Global Entry

  • More expensive than Nexus as it is $100 for 5 years, and that $100 is non-refundable, even if your application is denied.
  • If you are traveling with kids under the age of 18, they will all need their own membership into the program to come through expedited screening with you. The $100 application fee is not waived for children.

Pros of NEXUS

  • Less expensive option than Global Entry. $50 for 5 years.
  • Great for families as minors under the age of 18 have their application fee waived.
  • Expedited processing through the US and Canadian border by both air and vehicle.
  • Can use Global Entry kiosks when entering the United States, so you basically get the same benefits of Global Entry at half the cost.
  • Comes with TSA PreCheck

Cons of NEXUS

  • NEXUS interviews need to be conducted at a place where both CBP and CBSA officers are present, which mostly limits you to offices at US-Canada land border crossings or at the Canadian airports which have US preclearance facilities. For Minnesota? That means you have to go to an enrollment center in either International Falls or Warroad.
  • Travel Rewards credit cards do not offer a reimbursement credit for NEXUS.

Verdict

When considering Global Entry vs NEXUS there are a few factors you need to consider. If you frequently travel between the US and Canada via land and/or air, NEXUS will likely be the better choice. It is cheaper and allows for expedited entry when crossing the border by car, something Global Entry doesn’t yet offer.

On the other hand, getting a hold of a NEXUS membership is a pain for anyone who doesn't live in northern Minnesota, or isn't willing to undergo an interview at an airport like Toronto or Winnipeg.

The biggest factor for us is that none of our favorite travel rewards credit cards offering free Global Entry and TSA PreCheck offer a credit for NEXUS. So while Global Entry costs $100 (twice as much as NEXUS), the credits from these cards make the program free.

For this reason alone, Global Entry is likely a better option for US-based travelers who travel outside of the US and Canada.

You can find more writing from Ashlee Kronforst and Ryan Monk at Twice The Baggage, or by following them on Instagram.

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