Mobile Passport App Moves Useful Features Behind Paywall

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The Mobile Passport app is a popular tool for US and Canadian citizens to speed their US arrivals. The program is at 25 airport and 3 cruise ports.

Unlike Global Entry, there is no application or eligibility requirement. Travelers ineligible for Global Entry or unwilling to pay the $100 fee for a 5-year membership have found Mobile Passport a useful alternate. Some Global Entry members use Mobile Passport at times where Global Entry kiosks are backed up.

I’ve not looked much into Mobile Passport. Global Entry works for me and I am not comfortable putting a US government-affiliated app on my phone without understanding the legal and privacy ramifications.

Mobile Passport plus

Mobile Passport vs Mobile Passport plus

Today Airside, the private company that runs Mobile Passport, announced a new paid version called Mobile Passport plus that costs $14.99/year:

By offering Mobile Passport plus, we will be able to invest more resources into building greater functionality within the app, make operational improvements, as well as create new products and services that will provide value to travelers beyond the Mobile Passport app.

Mobile Passport plus pushes formerly free features behind the paywall:

  • Ability to store your passport for use in mutliple trips
  • Document scanner

The free version will require you to re-enter your passport info every time you use it. The free version will have ads.

Current Users

Reports are that if you do not update the app to the latest version you can continue to use formerly free versions such as passport storage. At some point you should expect old versions to be depracated and no long function without update.

My Take

Without knowing the specifics of the partnership between US CBP and the private company that developed this app, I would have thought that price and feature changes would need to go through government processes, similar to passport and Global Entry fees.

This does not appear to be the case; Airside seems to have a free hand. A lot of users will be surprised and upset that features can be yakned behind a paywall like this.

I would not have though ads would be allowed on an app implying government endorsement, but here we are.

Five years of Global Entry is $100 compared to $74.95 for Mobile Passport plus. For the individual traveler, the extra benefits of Global Entry to me are worth the price different.

I can see the case for Mobile Passport Plus for the large family that regularly travels and wants to manage all their passports in one place. $74.95 spread across several people can make sense compared to fumbling every time to re-enter info.

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4 years ago

Your last two paragraphs define which path to take. If you travel solo or as a couple, Global Entry is the way to go. If you regularly travel with family of three or more, Mobile Passport is the better choice.

4 years ago

I work in Federal procurement. Advertising in government-related events and publications is very common. There will be a disclaimer somewhere stating no government endorsement of the advertisers is implied.

Not sure what the concerns would be with the app. The government already has your passport information and records of your returns to the US. The app permissions are shown in the app info same as any other app.

Unfortunately Uncle Sam already has the ability to spy on your electronic activity anyway.