We examined the effects of different incentives on skill acquisition and transfer during threat detection in airline luggage screening. The incentives were presented within positive (gains) or negative (losses) frames, and points were given or taken away accordingly during training (with familiar targets) and transfer (to novel targets). During training, incentives exerted a more beneficial effect on skill acquisition than training without incentives. During transfer, incentives benefitted performance largely when presented as losses or penalties. Incentives framed as gains primed participants to say ‘yes’ more often leading to a high ratio of false positives; however, incentives framed as losses lead participants to become more selective in their ‘yes’ responses leading to a lower number of false positives but a comparable probability of correct detections. Interestingly, participants that received no training outperformed participants that received incentive-based training, suggesting that incentives actually constrained rather than helped transfer of learning in this study. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.