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My TSA precheck is up for renewal. This will be my first renewal after being approved back in 2017. United has an information page for using Miles "for a payment code that covers the TSA PreCheck fee for new and renewal applications". However, after signing in, the next page indicates using miles is for first-time applicants only. The first page says new applicants and renewals, but after the login, it says: "The payment code may only be used by first-time applicants."

Does anyone know if I will be able to use the code for renewals after I purchase it? I am at the point of having filled in my information where is says that my miles will be deducted, but here it also says that the purchase is for first-time applicants only.

Btw, I did write to United twice about this question over two weeks, but no answer, to a Premier Silver (now) member. First time poor experience. Very disappointing!

Update: None the wiser. I chatted with two United agents online for two hours, much of the time spent on them not knowing what to do and where to look. I was told by the first agent (Joshua L.) that after consulting with his lead, that they decided that TSA does not accept frequent flyer miles redemptions for renewals. I did not find it easy to believe this, because the TSA website says that loyalty programs can cover the cost of both first time applications and renewals, but please check with your airline. So, then I asked to be transferred to Mileageplus (because I think that there would be better information there) but where Jane N. informed me that the code is only allowed for renewal applications from first-time applicants. I asked how a first-time applicant can also renew at the same time, but this was repeated back to me enough times to make me wonder if this was a chatbot or a trained parrot. So, no logic and no clear answer.

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    Not sure of the answer to your question or your interest in credit card gamesmanship, but something to consider is that some of the MileagePlus credit cards include reimbursement for PreCheck or Global Entry fees. If the card is otherwise worth it for you and you don't already have another card that offers this, it may be worth taking advantage of that benefit. The Explorer card has no annual fee for the first year, so you'd be starting off with that $85 benefit plus the bonus miles from getting the card, even if you opted to cancel the card before the annual fee starts in year 2. Jun 1, 2022 at 0:55
  • Thanks! I am not keen on adding another credit card. I also do not like the idea of getting a credit card with the intention of canceling after a year. I am hoping that someone will know the answer to my specific question, but thanks! Jun 1, 2022 at 0:58

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SHORT ANSWER

It seems that a TSA Pre-Check Authorization Code will not work on the TSA Pre-Check renewal website. However, my first hand experience did lead to the successful use of an Authorization Code for a TSA pre-check renewal, but that might not be repeatable by others without my specific circumstance: My pre-check status was about two years expired.


SUMMARY

I went through the process to renew my TSA precheck after it had expired about a year or two earlier. I first went to the TSA website to renew, where I got all the way through the process (very easily) and just had to pay. On the payment page I was offered a promo or "Authorization Code", and thought that it might be possible to use United Miles to pay for this. I found the MileagePlus website, which gave conflicting information about whether it would work for a renewal. I bought the code anyway, but it didn't work on the TSA website. I started the renewal process again, but it gave me slightly different pages to fill out then required me to go in for fingerprinting, and didn't ask for payment. While at the fingerprinting place, they were able to use the Authorization Code and I didn't have to pay. I received an email receipt with my UE ID and Authorization Code applied as a coupon, $78 paid. My KTN is the same. It seems like it will work for a renewal, if you are willing to go in for new fingerprinting. I don't know if this means that you have to let your pre-check status expire for the code to work. Someone else will have to risk a code purchase before their status expires.

STORY

It's post-COVID, and my travel schedule is picking up again, leading me to realize that my Pre-Check status expired in the middle of the pandemic. I went straight to the TSA site and clicked renew on the big banner at the top.

TSA Enroll and Renew Banner

I went through the renewal process. It first asked for my KTN, then the typical "Where do you reside now", "Have you been there longer than 5 years", "Are you a citizen" questions. After that, it simply brought me to the payment page. I saw the field to add an "Authorization Code or Promotion Code". That made me think that maybe I could use miles to buy it. A quick search led me to https://securityfees.mileageplus.com/ where it very clearly says you can use the Authorization Code for renewals:

Front page of securityfees.mileageplus.com Jan 20, 2023

But after you sign in and click through to make the purchase, you are told that only first-time applicants are eligible and that by completing the purchase you agree to the TOS and everything else. This is clearly a case of bait-and-switch false advertising.

securityfees.mileageplus.com purchase screen says differently than the marketing and advertising content preceding it

I went through with the purchase anyway. I figured I can always call and demand the miles back, which I find if you complain hard enough they will refund them. In light of this glaring contradiction between ads and execution, it's a pretty clear case to get refunded to make it right. I also thought that if the miles are that important to me, I can make a new sign up application and use the Authorization Code then.

After completing the purchase, it gave me the authorization code, and it also promised that the code could also be used for another person, not only me. I find it strange that usage is generous in this way but not the other. But maybe that's not true either, since we apparently can't trust them regarding how we can use the code. I'll find out though, since, coincidentally, I am using someone else's miles to purchase this code for myself.

united miles for tsa pre check confirmation and authorization code

I had the TSA renewal done and ready in another tab. All that was left was to pay. I immediately went to that page with my new Authorization Code, but was stymied with the following message:

Please correct the following errors:
This code does not exist.

I tried again after 10 minutes and 30 minutes and received the same error message. I decided to scrap the renewal and start over. I clicked the same renew button as originally and started by entering my KTN, but what was weird this time is that it asked for new information, like my height and weight, and also informed me I'd have to go in to show my identifying documents. Ok, but it didn't ask me to pay...

The Security Fees Mileage Plus FAQ restates that only first time applicants are eligible:

Who is eligible to use miles for the payment code?
Only members who are first time applicants of TSA PreCheck® and have a MileagePlus account address in the 50 United States, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico or Guam are eligible to use miles for a payment code. (TSA PreCheck® program membership is only open to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.) Please visit our Terms and Conditions for more information.

Questions not answered by that FAQ are directed to the MileagePlus Service Center or the TSA. The lack of sense here is only slightly less offensive that the false advertising. It clearly says before clicking through that you can use miles for renewal, but then flips on you when you get to the final point. That the program offering is generous enough for you to use your miles on a different person, but not on anyone for renewal is strangely incongruent. Crap like this is why I won't fly United unless I really really have to. It's not just an apparent apathy for their customer, but an active antipathy and disregard. Ulgh.

A few days later I went to a local fingerprinting place that is contracted to work with the TSA for the pre-check needs. I brought my identifying documents and a printout of my Authorization Code receipt. The clerk wasted no time in asking for payment, but was just as quick in assuring me the Auth Code I had would work.

Happy ending! The Authorization Code worked and I received an email receipt with the Auth Code on it. No trouble at all. I have the same KTN and every reason to believe it will work when I travel again in a few weeks. I'll certainly be back to update the post if that's not what happens.

Safe travels.

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    Thank you for providing a detailed answer!
    – JonathanReez
    Jan 21, 2023 at 14:40
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    Update: I was able to use TSA pre-check again without any issues.
    – user27701
    Jul 25, 2023 at 23:33

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