Best at-home test kits to use when returning to the U.S.

Have you heard the news? If you are an American citizen or resident, you’re now able to order up to 4 FREE at-home COVID-19 rapid tests (per household) mailed directly to your door, courtesy of the federal government. All you have to do is go to this website, submit your name and mailing address and then wait about 7-12 days for delivery. You can even add your email address to get updates on the shipment. Sounds super convenient, customer-centric and cost-effective, right?


But wait one minute. Before you start throwing those free kits in your luggage to use to get back home from your next international trip, you should know that not all at-home test kits are created equal. Sure, the test kits from the Biden administration can be taken from anywhere – your swanky beach resort, cozy Airbnb, or spacious vacation rental – but they are not the best at-home test kits to use when returning to the U.S. because they don’t meet all the CDC requirements.

Here is why.

They are not proctored. That’s just a fancy way of saying that to meet two of CDC’s four main requirements for return to the U.S by air, the self-administered test has to be supervised in real time by a manufacturer-approved and authorized telehealth provider. That person will need to confirm your identity, watch you take the test, validate the result, and issue a report that names the type of test, the lab or healthcare entity issuing the result, and the date.

The other two CDC requirements are outlined below:

  • The test must be a SARS-CoV-2 viral test (nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT] or antigen test) with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Airlines and U.S. officials at ports of entry must be able to review and confirm your identity and see it matched your paper or digital documents test results.

So, which are some of the best at-home test kits to use when returning to the U.S.? Try these companies:

  1. Qured Video Supervised Rapid Test for Travel, $39
  2. Ellume Covid-19 Home Test, $59 (You pay $39 at a pharmacy and $20 for the video observation).
  3. Detect Covid-19 Test, $75 for starter kit (1 test and 1 hub), plus $20 for the video observation.
  4. BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Home Test, $150 for a pack of six or $25 for one.

Wishing you safe travels and negative testing!

And hey, while you’re at it, save your receipts to see if you can get the cost reimbursed by your health insurance company.