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TSA PreCheck® vs. Clear: Compared and Combined to Save Time in the Airport

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Updated March 18, 2024

Air travel can be such a time-consuming activity that finding any type of short cut is usually very much worth it. If you’d like to breeze through airport security before taking a flight, then you should consider two programs that might let you do just that: TSA PreCheck® and Clear. Keep reading to find out more and if either one, or both, could work for you.

TSA PreCheck®: What is it & how does it work?

TSA PreCheck® is one of severalTrusted Travel programs authorized by the Transportation Security Administration to provide expedited screening for people traveling within or departing from the United States. This program, supported by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is available at over 200 airports around the U.S.

To participate, you must complete an application and pay the $78 application fee. The program is only available to U.S. citizens, nationals and permanent residents. The process includes a background check and the collection of biometric information like fingerprints – so you’ll need to physically present yourself at one of the approved enrollment centers (most airports have one).

If your application is approved, you’ll have the benefit of a shorter and more streamlined screening process at the airport. For example, you can leave on your shoes and won’t need to take your laptop out of its case. flight. When you arrive at the airport, simply look for the TSA PreCheck® lane.

Clear: What is it & how does it work?

Clear, like TSA PreCheck®, is also an expedited security identification program. However, this service is offered by a private company known as Secure Identity, LLC rather than being government-sponsored like the TSA PreCheck® program. It is also only available to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents with a valid government-issued photo ID.

Clear can also save you time at the airport, but its digital ID verification service is also in use in locations like stadiums, concert venues and more. In addition to verifying your personal identity at the airport, there are other uses for Clear:

  • Digital vaccine record
  • Age verification
  • Check-in (hotels, events, etc.)

Clear is available at 50 U.S. airports, where you can also apply and receive approval the same day. Once you place a government ID on file along with biometric information like a retina or facial scan and fingerprints, you can add your Clear membership information to your airline account profiles

Once you’re a member, you may go through a special line and check in at the Clear kiosk at the airport security checkpoint rather than having your identification verified by a TSA agent. But you are still subject to the physical security screening process at the TSA checkpoint: You and your carry-on items will still be going through a scanner. The list price for Clear is $189 per year. You can add another adult to your Clear account for $60, and children under 18 are free under their parents’ account. Discounts are available for members of some frequent-flier programs and certain credit card holders – we will detail those below.

Credit cards offering TSA PreCheck® savings

There are ways to cover this benefit with 30+ major credit cards that offer statement credits or allow the use of rewards points for this travel expense.

Here are a few credit cards from major issuers offering this benefit:

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Credit cards offering discounts on Clear

Here are some credit cards that either offer a discounted Clear membership or statement credit towards your membership:

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Key differences between TSA PreCheck® and Clear

There are a few differences between the expedited screening services. Here’s what you should know:

  • Price: Clear is more expensive at $189/year versus TSA PreCheck® at $78 for five years.
  • Processing time: Clear applications are processed immediately for same-day use. TSA PreCheck® can take up to 60 days to process, though the average time is much less.
  • Security protocols: Although you can bypass the documentation check with Clear, you must still go through the TSA physical security screening measures. With TSA PreCheck, your trip through the security screening should be easier and quicker.
  • Availability: Clear is only available at about 50 airports, while TSA PreCheck® is available at over 200 airports.

TSA Precheck® vs. Clear: which is better?

This is a personal decision, but a key question to ask yourself is: What is your time worth to you? If your home base airport has a Clear lane and kiosk, Clear could save you from what can sometimes be a long line. , But remember that the document check is just part of the process – you and your carry-ons luggage will still have to go through most of the TSA security screening process. If you frequent other venues that use Clear, that could add to the value you expect from a $189 annual fee – assuming you couldn’t find a discount.

TSA PreCheck, though more involved from an application standpoint, does seem to provide more value for the cost because you’ll go through verifying your identity quicker. Not having to remove footwear, belts or light jackets – or take items out of your baggage – is always a hassle-saver, and sometimes a time-saver as well.

How to maximize your value by having both

There’s not many situations where you would get much value out of having both TSA PreCheck® and Clear. Generally speaking, TSA PreCheck® provides the most value for most travelers. A frequent traveler who uses Clear in many other situations could get some value from both programs. Also: Are you habitually late for flights? You might recoup the cost of these services by not missing your plane.

If your personal circumstances call for both programs, then you must be prepared to shell out over $250 to get a comprehensive expedited security screening plan in place. In this case, getting one or more credit cards that will cover those fees for you might be a good idea.

Of course, we only recommend credit cards if you are responsible with them and good at managing debt. Ideally, you’ll pay your cards off each month and never carry a balance to avoid paying interest. Otherwise, all the rewards, statement credit and other benefits won’t be worth it.

Different benefits for different travelers

Although there’s a growing selection of pre-screening programs to help you save time as a frequent traveler, they aren’t all created equal. In this case, TSA PreCheck® is probably the best option for the average person due to the lower cost and ability to save more hassle. Unless you are able to take advantage of Clear’s offerings outside the airport, it may not be the best option in terms of value.

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

TSA Precheck® vs Global Entry vs Clear

TSA PreCheck® and Global Entry are Trusted Traveler programs that allow for expedited security screening before boarding a flight. Global Entry goes beyond PreCheck by speeding users through U.S. Customs and Border Protection when re-entering the U.S. from abroad, respectively. Clear allows you to skip out on the ID check portion of the airport security screening process. Clear also lets you store a digital vaccine record and verifies your age for various venues like stadiums and concert halls.

What are the best travel credit cards?

Top rewards travel credit cards include the Platinum Card by American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Capital One Venture X. These cards carry a higher annual fee, but there are similar cards in the same “family” that provide travel benefits with little-to-no annual fee.

Do I still need TSA Precheck® if I have Clear?

You don’t need TSA PreCheck® if you have Clear, but you should know that having Clear alone only exempts you from the first part of the TSA security screening process, which is checking your boarding pass and ID. To save time and hassle at the physical security screening, you would need TSA PreCheck.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

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