Just when you thought you understood how to apply for the Transportation Security Administration's expedited security screening program, the rules are changing -- for the better.
The TSA announced Friday that Americans who want to join PreCheck will be able to enroll directly online for screening that allows travelers to cut their wait time by using dedicated lanes without removing their shoes and belts, or taking laptops out of their bags.
The estimated cost could be as little as $85 for a five-year membership.
"This initiative will increase the number of U.S. citizens eligible to receive expedited screening, through TSA PreCheck,” TSA administrator John S. Pistole said in a statement. "TSA PreCheck enables us to focus on the travelers we know the least about, adding efficiency and effectiveness to the screening process.”
The new direct enrollment process expected to enroll millions more travelers will begin later this year and start at two pilot sites -- Washington Dulles International Airport and Indianapolis Airport -- with plans to expand to other parts of the country.
To join PreCheck, passengers undergo a background check, provide fingerprints and pay the fee to receive a Known Traveler Number that allows them to use dedicated security lanes at more than 40 participating airports nationwide.
PreCheck program membership previously was extended to selected airlines' frequent fliers or through programs approved by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, such as Global Entry, SENTRI or Trusted Traveler programs that cost $100 or more.
And just a reminder: PreCheck doesn't guarantee expedited screening; all travelers are subject to "random and unpredictable" security measures, the agency says.