How To Use Your Free Government Covid Tests For Travel

The federal government’s ‘free Covid-19 tests’ are now arriving. None of these tests work for travel to enter the U.S. on their own. However it’s possible to make some of them – including the ones that I received – work if you know what to look for.

  • will send you to the U.S. Postal Service to place an order.

  • They’re offering four tests per residential address and expect to ship in 7 to 12 days after ordering. I received mine six days after ordering.

And, in fact, I received five tests. That’s a mistake, or just a week’s worth of inflation these days I suppose.

These free tests – on their own – are not valid for travel. That’s because self-tests used for entry into the United States are required to be proctored (e.g. video monitoring, either via a computer or app) and these do not come with proctoring.

The good news, however, is that depending on the tests you receive you may be able to purchase monitoring for them. Luckily the FlowFlex tests I was sent can be proctored by Azova for $20 each. Not all tests are set up for this. For instance, I haven’t seen any proctoring available for the iHealth tests some are receiving – please flag in the comments if you’ve found an option for this.

There’s also reports of a Roche test as well.

I’m doubly fortunate to not just have received a test valid for travel (with add-on proctoring) but that’s also eligible for travel for a child under 4. The BinaxNOW tests are only approved for age 4 and up. (For my daughter I’ve had Qured tests.)

Have you gotten your four (or five) free tests? What brand did you receive?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] If you were one of the people who signed up to get your free rapid COVID tests from the government, you’ve hopefully received them by now. There were admittedly several glitches with the rollout and as is, they’re not able to be used for re-entry into the US. At the time, demand for tests was at its peak but with cases dropping, so is the demand for tests. Since the government didn’t send out all of the 500 million tests allocated, residents can soon order an additional 4 tests. Depending on which tests you receive, there’s also a possibility you can use them for travel. […]


  1. What an absolutely useless waste of taxpayer dollars but what else would you expect from the most inept administration in decades.

  2. Samuel, this seems a better use of taxpayer money that to save people like you from COVID pneumonia, clorox or ivermectin poisoning.

  3. Kevin…so too are the keyboards you use your stubby little fingers to type your racist screeds on.

  4. A little late in the game, considering Covid-19 (omicron) variant seems to be peaking as I write, and the forecasting has a mere blip on the charts after April 2022. I have boxes of BinaxNow tests in my closet that I don’t think I will be using. Hope I receive a travel-friendly test in the USPS.

  5. I haven’t received my federal or state ones yet. But would be super happy if I get travel friendly versions!

  6. Did the package fit in your mailbox or did USPS leave by your door?
    My apartment mailbox is quite small.
    I’m worried about theft…..

  7. I received the Roche Tests, if anyone knows if they can be proctored, please let me know.


  8. Oh dear, I wasn’t going to waste taxpayer money by getting these kits, but if you tell me I might be able to turn them into something useful, maybe I’ll reconsider.

  9. I’ll proctor these for anyone that wants to give me $20 per test. Just hit me up and we can get-r-done. Maybe I can break even on the tax increase coming my way to pay for some of these.

  10. Hi there.

    I’m not familiar with the proctored test protocol for entry in the US, does any of you have more details ?
    Is this good for US citizens only, or can anyone traveling to the US from Europe use one ?
    How about the European carriers (Lufthansa for instance) ? Are these proctored results accepted to take a plane ?

  11. Gary – could you please write about proctored tests? – thanks for your always informative (and/or entertaining) posts!
    (I have iHealth but apparently these are not proctor able …)

  12. I would rather my tax dollars go to the Defense Production Act that mobilized and ramped up the supply of testing, including at-home, rapid tests, etc. than to a person who has ignored every available way, that was handed to them absolutely free, to prevent Covid-19 but chose not to. Look at the death and other major problems that ignorance has caused our country. Not “a little late in the game”. They are “to help ensure Americans have tests on hand if a need arises”

  13. It’s disappointed that we received iHealth tests which are made in CHINA. I do not know why US still imports it from China?!

  14. Sebastien says:
    “I’m not familiar with the proctored test protocol for entry in the US, does any of you have more details ?
    Is this good for US citizens only, or can anyone traveling to the US from Europe use one ?”

    @Sebastien, proctoring is a way for at-home tests to be considered valid. Normally, at-home tests aren’t useable for any official purposes because no one knows if anyone took a test or who took it or if it was taken close to properly. Valid tests generally require going to a collection point where either a staffer swabs you or hands you a swab and watches you swab yourself. Then the swab is analyzed and the results sent from a lab. With proctored at-home tests, you take the test wherever you like (e.g., at home, in a hotel) with your phone or laptop camera on. The proctor can see the test serial number and watches you use it. Then you show the results and you get official results from a lab the same as if you’d gone there. There valid for anyone to use.

    The most common proctored tests are Binax tests with eMed proctoring but there are others. You can buy the eMed/Binax from eMed or multiple airlines.

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