My Global Entry Interview

So, a little background. Because I learned that global entry was a perk of my newly minted Chase Sapphire Reserve card, I decided to look into it. It sounded awesome (as described further in my previous post), so here’s what I did:

  1. Filled out a long application on the Trusted Traveler Programs website attesting to my criminal history, employment history, address history, etc.
  2. I paid $100 and submitted my application.
  3. The waiting game began. While my wife’s application was processed in a meager 4 days, mine was around 16. 16 days of pure agony. 16 days of constantly refreshing my email and praying to Zeus that I would not be rejected.
  4. Zeus responded! I mean, I got approved (conditionally) for the program.
  5. I furiously searched for interview dates prior to our departure for Korea in May. The earliest date available in Charlotte was June 7… So I refreshed and refreshed and refreshed (hoping for cancellations), and within minutes (really!), a spot opened up April 11.
  6. I gathered my passport, interview confirmation printout, and my license, and took the short drive from work to CLT airport.

The Interview!

I showed up a few minutes early, plugged my car into the EV charger right next to the elevators (EV owner perks!), and went to the baggage claim area of the airport. It was a little confusing at first because you have to go into the international arrivals area past several signs that scream “DO NOT ENTER.” I followed the Global Entry signs and kept going.

Check-in involved writing my name on a clip board and grabbing a seat. The wait was longer than normal due to a fingerprint machine malfunction that held up the couple people who were before me. Once resolved, I was asked for my passport/license and followed an officer out of the room. I was asked to sit in a chair outside an office while he went in with my docs.

I waited for 5 to 10 minutes for him to call me in. And then the interview started. He asked me to confirm one or two things on my application (“so you’ve been to France, Germany, and the Bahamas in the last couple years? No trips to the Middle East or Asia?”) These were all asked rather casually while he entered my info into the computer and directed me to place my fingers on the scanner. It was obvious the approval had already been made once I got the “conditional approval” notice.

The rest of the time we spent chatting about his travels and where he was from and our work routines. He was exceptionally pleasant, and I actually enjoyed chatting with him during the interview. Once he got my fingerprints and took my picture, he gave me a brief overview of how the kiosk worked when re-entering the country and wished me well.

All in all, the entire process from airport arrival to departure was about 45 minutes. It would’ve been much less had I not been delayed by the machine malfunction prior to my arrival. It was seamless, otherwise, and I can’t wait to try out this newly acquired travel perk!

 

How I’m Paying for My Trips

Yes, yes, I do also make money and save it and spend it on trips. But I also like to travel more than I sometimes have money for, so that’s why I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card this year. I am also aware it has a steep $450 annual fee, which comes out on your first statement. Yes, that was painful.

However, I plan to more than make up for that fee through all of the benefits I intend to take advantage of. Here’s how things have broken down so far:

  1. I signed up for Global Entry, the TSA program that allows you to bypass those long immigration lines when arriving from out of the country. You simply go to a kiosk, use the touchscreen to answer your declaration questions, scan your fingers, and away you go. Sounds like a dream. Even better – it includes Pre-check, which allows you to speed through security lines without emptying your bag, de-frocking, or taking your shoes off. Yasss…. Oh, and this relates to the card because it is immediately reimbursed after it posts by Chase. Once every four years, which is fine since it expires after five.
  2. I purchased roundtrip flights for my spouse and I to fly to Philly on Frontier Airlines in September. The $300 travel credit supplied by the Reserve card canceled out that cost. So now we’re at $400 in benefits…that $450 fee is rapidly declining.
  3. I signed up for the complimentary membership to Priority Pass, which gives me and my spouse access to airport lounges across the world as well as some restaurants and airport mini-hotels. With pre-check, I expect to have more time to chill with free drinks in these lounges.
  4. I dropped my roadside assistance with Geico since the card provides it. It’s a small savings, but it’s $ in my pocket!
  5. I rented my car in Korea to get around on Jeju Island. I saved a nice chunk of money by forgoing the insurance coverage since the card gives me primary coverage on rental cars.
  6. I’m putting everything on the card to make sure I hit the $4,000 in spending in 3 months to get the sign up bonus of $750 in travel rewards. That, in addition to what I’m earning through normal spending, should pay for my San Juan, Puerto Rico trip in full. Maybe even with a tad left over. I’m a frugal traveler. 🙂

Needless to say, I’m loving this card, and while I know I won’t get as much out of it in future years without the sign-on bonus. It will at least cover the cost and then give me the earnings from 3x points on travel and restaurants plus 50% for spending them on travel. That’s effectively 4.5% back for travel and restaurants, which I feel is more than worth it.

Trip Planning

This is the year of trips. I’ve crested 30, I’m wrapping up my MBA, and we’re finally not spending bonus money on our home. So we’re taking as many trips as my vacation time will allow. Here’s what we’re looking at:

This month: Weekend in Asheville, NC

May: Three weeks in KOREA!

June: Weekend cabin trip to Lake Lure, NC

September: Long weekend trip to Philly

Januaryish: San Juan, Puerto Rico

I expect I’ll have lots of local adventures, as well, from my home port in the beautiful QC!

Local Goodness

Sometimes it’s fun to stay local and enjoy traveling to…your own city. I’ll chronicle those adventures here, as well. This weekend was a new one for me with Coco and the Director in Uptown, Charlotte at Trade and Tryon.

It was much bigger inside than the pictures would seem to indicate. I loved the stadium seating and upstairs loft area with views out onto the street. If you veer to the right past the counter, there’s a cozy seating area and a hidden table in a small alcove. Bathrooms are in the connected hotel lobby (also to the right), and feel free to take pics of the pretty multi story lobby.

The cafe theme is muted and relaxing. It’s rustic and modern at the same time. Lots of coffee options as well as alcohol and other drinks. If you go, do like me and get a cronut. For those not in the know, that’s a mixture of a croissant and a donut. Yes, yes, I know. We had the chocolate centered one with a raspberry sugar coating. Each layer came off beautifully and melted in your mouth. It paired perfectly with my latte. Coffee beans are sourced from local roaster Forte Legato and the barista we had could pull a shot. Happiness all around!