What is clear airport security and is it worth it? - The Points Guy (2023)

Editor’s note: This post is frequently updated with the latest information.

Since becoming a travel reporter in 2021, I’ve added many tools to my travel wheelhouse that have greatly improved my experience as a traveler. One way I improved my travel process was by becoming a member of Clear, the private sector’s equivalent of TSA PreCheck.

Since 2010, Clear has evolved as an expedited security program at 51 airports with more than 14 million members nationwide, including at stadiums and other large venues.

Clear is a secure identity platform that uses member data, including fingerprint and iris scans, to automate the identity verification step in the U.S. Transportation Security Administration screening process. Clear members go through a separate security lane with dedicated kiosks rather than waiting in line for a TSA agent to review their license or passport.

Once your identity is confirmed, a Clear representative will escort you to the front of the line for the traditional security screening machines. If you are enrolled in TSA PreCheck, you’ll head to the front of the PreCheck screening lines and proceed as normal. If you don’t have TSA PreCheck, you’ll use the normal screening lines where you remove your shoes, unload your electronics, liquids, light jacket, etc.

For a year of access, Clear costs $189, compared to $78 for a five-year membership to TSA PreCheck. However, some elite status levels and even credit cards can help decrease that price. For example, the American Express Green Card has a $150 annual fee (see rates and fees) but provides up to $189 in statement credit toward Clear each year. It also has an increased 60,000-point welcome bonus (after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership) right now, in case you are looking for creative ways to pay for the cost of Clear.

To help you decide whether Clear is worth it, here’s what you need to know about the expedited airport security program. This includes its benefits, potential drawbacks and how to get a discounted (or free) membership.

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What is Clear?

As mentioned, Clear is an identity validation system based on a secure platform with a database that houses your biometric information, including fingerprints and an iris scan, to verify your identity. It facilitates access through one level of security at locations such as airports and stadiums.

How Clear works

Clear requires passengers to complete two steps: identity verification and security screening. The identity verification occurs in a separate lane for Clear users only. Travelers submit to biometric authentication (a fingerprint or iris scan) at a kiosk instead of waiting for the TSA to inspect their government ID and check their boarding pass. After the scanner verifies a passenger’s identity, a Clear representative will escort the traveler to the actual security screening area, bypassing everyone waiting in the first line.

If you’re also enrolled in TSA PreCheck, you’ll go directly to the TSA PreCheck line. Additionally, if you’re traveling with children younger than 18, they may use the Clear line for free as long as they stay with you or another paid member.

What is clear airport security and is it worth it? - The Points Guy (1)

Where Clear works

At this time, Clear is available at these airports:

(Video) Should You Enroll in the CLEAR Airport Security | TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or CLEAR Explained

  • Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS).
  • Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).
  • Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM).
  • Boise Airport (BOI).
  • Boston Logan International Airport (BOS).
  • Chicago's O’Hare International Airport (ORD).
  • Chicago's Midway International Airport (MDW).
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG).
  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE).
  • Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).
  • Dallas Love Field (DAL).
  • Denver International Airport (DEN).
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW).
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).
  • Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP).
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).
  • Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).
  • Houston's William P. Hobby Airport (HOU).
  • Kansas City International Airport (MCI).
  • Las Vegas' Harry Reid International Airport (LAS).
  • John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH).
  • Long Beach Airport (LGB).
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
  • Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).
  • Miami International Airport (MIA).
  • Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE).
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).
  • Nashville International Airport (BNA).
  • New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).
  • New York's LaGuardia Airport (LGA).
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).
  • Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC).
  • Oakland International Airport (OAK).
  • Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport (OKC).
  • Ontario International Airport (ONT).
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO).
  • Palm Beach International Airport (PBI).
  • Palm Springs International Airport (PSP).
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).
  • Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU).
  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).
  • Sacramento International Airport (SMF).
  • Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).
  • San Antonio International Airport (SAT).
  • San Diego International Airport (SAN).
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
  • San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU).
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
  • St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL).
  • Washington's Dulles International Airport (IAD).
  • Westchester County Airport (HPN).

Additionally, Clear is available at select entrances to the following stadiums during some events:

  • Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium — Austin.
  • State Farm Arena — Atlanta.
  • Coors Field — Denver.
  • Ball Arena — Denver.
  • Allegiant Stadium — Las Vegas.
  • T-Mobile Arena — Las Vegas.
  • SoFi Stadium — Los Angeles.
  • BMO Stadium — Los Angeles.
  • Kaseya Center — Miami.
  • Madison Square Garden — New York City.
  • Yankee Stadium — New York City.
  • Chase Center — San Francisco.
  • Oracle Park — San Francisco.
  • PayPal Park — San Jose, California.
  • SAP Center at San Jose — San Jose, California.
  • Lumen Field — Seattle.
  • Capital One Arena — Washington, D.C.
  • Nationals Park — Washington, D.C.

How does Clear compare to TSA PreCheck?

Clear further reduces airport security wait time by automating the identity verification process and whisking users to the front of the TSA line. However, having Clear does not automatically confer TSA PreCheck status, and it’s also currently available at far fewer airports than TSA PreCheck.

Additionally, Clear doesn’t preclude you from using the streamlined TSA PreCheck security screening process. It’s simply designed to help you reach it faster than you would otherwise.

Unlike TSA PreCheck, whose members are not guaranteed PreCheck access every time they fly since they can be randomly excluded and sent to the standard line, Clear has no randomized exclusion of passengers. Also, everyone who enters the Clear line is a member of Clear and probably knows how to operate the system.

On the other hand, the TSA sometimes adds nonmember travelers who have no idea how it works to the TSA PreCheck line. This sometimes holds up the line. Additionally, TSA PreCheck only works when traveling with a participating airline. In contrast, Clear works when traveling with any carrier.

With that said, Clear and PreCheck are restricted to certain hours and may not be available during your flight time.

What is clear airport security and is it worth it? - The Points Guy (2)

What’s the difference between Clear and Clear Sports?

You can also use Clear at select stadiums thanks to Clear’s Sports & Events access. It's free and available to all Clear members to allow expedited entry to games at participating stadiums. However, this membership doesn’t provide access to non-stadium Clear locations like airports.

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To use Clear Sports & Events, download the Clear app and tap on the black “Sports & Events” tile. Log in to enroll before heading to the Clear lane to show your QR code to a Clear ambassador.

Members can bring one adult guest through the Clear lane per day at stadiums and venues. Children under 18 don’t need a membership and can go through the Clear lane when accompanied by an adult.

How to enroll in Clear

You can either start the enrollment process online and finish at a Clear location, or you can complete the entire process at a Clear location. The enrollment process takes about five minutes (assuming no line) and requires no appointment.

Just note that you must complete the final enrollment steps at a Clear location. These steps include answering a few simple questions to verify your identity, showing a valid photo ID, providing a payment method and attaching your biometrics (fingerprints and a picture of your irises) to your newly created account.

To qualify for Clear enrollment, you must be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident who is at least 18 years old. You must also have one of the following forms of photo identification: a U.S. driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a U.S. passport card, a U.S.-issued permanent resident card, a state-issued ID or a U.S. military ID.

What is clear airport security and is it worth it? - The Points Guy (3)

How to save on Clear

Though the normal rate for Clear membership is $189 per year, there are many ways to avoid paying that full retail price. To start, Clear members who refer friends to the program receive two months of free membership apiece.

Also, Clear has partnered with select airlines to offer the following special membership rates for their members:

(Video) Get Through Airport Security in Less Than 3 Min! CLEAR vs TSA Precheck

Delta SkyMiles discounts

  • Delta Diamond Medallion and 360º members: Complimentary membership.
  • Delta Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion members: $149 per year.
  • Those with a Delta cobranded credit card, including the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: $149 per year.
  • General SkyMiles members: $179 per year.

United MileagePlus discounts

  • United Global Services and Premier 1K members: Complimentary membership.
  • United Platinum, Gold and Silver members: $149 per year.
  • Those with a United cobranded credit card, such as the United Explorer Card, United Business Card and the United Club Infinite Card: $149 per year.
  • General United MileagePlus members: $179 per year.

To take advantage of these rates, enter your SkyMiles or MileagePlus number during enrollment, or link your SkyMiles or MileagePlus account after enrolling. Since it’s free to join Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus, any U.S.-based passenger can access the discounted membership rates by linking their SkyMiles or MileagePlus account to their Clear account.

Once you are a Clear member, you can log in to your account on Clear’s website and add up to three family members for $60 each per year. Children under 18 can use the lane for free when accompanied by a Clear member.

Which credit cards cover Clear fees as a benefit?

Certain credit cards afford users a free Clear membership. The following cards will reimburse you for up to $189 per year in Clear Plus membership costs:

  • American Express Green Card.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express.
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.

What is clear airport security and is it worth it? - The Points Guy (4)

Bottom line

If Clear is available at your home airport or one you visit frequently, the program could be a big timesaver for your future travels, regardless of whether you also have TSA PreCheck. There’s often just a single TSA staffer checking documents for both the TSA PreCheck line and the regular security line, so enrolling in Clear can save you valuable time.

Additionally, you can stack those expedited line benefits, and Clear members enjoy more predictable access to security. This means those who check in online without checked bags can arrive at the airport closer to their flight departure time than they normally would and sometimes avoid long security lines.

If you value a predictable travel experience and like having many options when it comes time for security, Clear is well worth your consideration.

Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson, Bill Fink, Summer Hull and Jason Steele.

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Related reading:

  • Guide to using Clear with a family
  • Here’s how Clear’s airport precautions will keep you safer when traveling
  • The cost of Clear is going up for some members, but remember that you can get it for ‘free’
  • From airport screening to a stadium near you: How to get and use Clear to avoid lines
  • Should you get TSA PreCheck or Clear — or both?
  • 7 ways to get free or discounted TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and Clear

For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, click here.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

FAQs

Is clear at airport worth it? ›

If you regularly travel to or from airports that offer Clear lanes, paying $189 per year for a Clear membership could be worth it. The time you'll save moving through long security lines could help reduce your risk of missing a flight and cut down your time spent in the airport overall.

What is the point of TSA clear? ›

What Is CLEAR? CLEAR offers an airport membership service that provides a quicker airport identity verification process. Instead of showing documents like your driver's license or passport to a TSA agent before moving to the physical screening, your identity is verified by eyes or fingerprints in a kiosk.

What's the difference between TSA PreCheck and clear? ›

With Clear, you can save time by skipping to the front of TSA PreCheck or regular security lines. Your identity is verified with your eyes or fingerprint. It's available at 51 airports across the continental U.S. Clear lets you skip the line entirely since you go through a biometric verification process instead.

Does clear get you through airport security faster? ›

Using biometric data to identify travelers (rather than manually checking photo identification), Clear machines allow flyers to bypass long security queues and get to a TSA screening point faster.

What is the downside of clear airport? ›

The program makes sense only for those who travel frequently. When passing through a stadium check, membership does not exclude the need for baggage screening. It is necessary to go through the registration process at specialized Clear points.

What are the cons of signing up for clear? ›

The downsides to CLEAR

First off, while the sign-up process is quick, it isn't instantaneous. So you'll need to make sure you have at least five minutes or so to get through the process. Secondly, the time crunch means you probably won't be taking the time to read all the fine print.

How long does TSA CLEAR take? ›

Most applicants receive approval notification in 3-5 days, though some applications can take up to 60 days.

Is CLEAR used for international travel? ›

If you travel internationally, you know that customs lines often come with even longer waits. That's where Clear and Global Entry can help. These membership programs are designed to help frequent travelers spend less time waiting in line, giving you more opportunity to enjoy your trip!

How much is CLEAR annually? ›

How much does Clear cost? The standard price for an annual Clear membership is $189.

Do you take shoes off with clear? ›

Once approved to participate in the program, it allows travelers to pass through an expedited security screening at U.S. airports nationwide with no need to remove shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts or light jackets.

Can I bring a guest through clear? ›

Members can bring one adult guest through the Clear lane per day at stadiums and venues. Children under 18 don't need a membership and can go through the Clear lane when accompanied by an adult.

Does clear automatically give you PreCheck? ›

CLEAR uses your eyes and fingertips rather than traditional IDs to verify your identity when you travel. The most expensive program of the three, CLEAR costs $189 for an annual membership and does not include TSA PreCheck, like Global Entry does.

How much does CLEAR airport cost? ›

What is the cost of a CLEAR membership? A CLEAR membership costs $189 annually, and you can add up to three family members for $60 each per year.

What information do you need for clear airport? ›

Travelers will need to be 18 years or older to apply for Clear and must have one of the following forms of valid and unamended photo identification: U.S. driver's license, U.S. passport, U.S. passport card, U.S.-issued permanent resident card, state issued ID, or U.S. military ID.

Who owns Clear airport security? ›

Caryn Seidman-Becker

In 2010, she and her co-founder, Ken Cornick, acquired the company out of bankruptcy and have grown it into a global company with locations in over 45 airports, hundreds of partners, and over 14 million members.

Does everyone get approved for CLEAR? ›

Any U.S. citizen and legal permanent resident who has reached the age of 18 is eligible for enrollment in CLEAR. The program is not open to international residents, though they likely wouldn't receive many benefits anyway unless they travel extensively within the U.S.

Does CLEAR require an interview? ›

Signing up for Clear is relatively easy; visit any Clear station and show your ID. You'll submit your fingerprints and an eye scan at the kiosk. You don't need an interview; the process takes about five minutes.

What does CLEAR allow you to do? ›

Clear is a registered traveler program that allows members to quickly verify their identities at touchless, biometric security kiosks. Clear has been Safety Act certified by the Department of Homeland Security, and Clear kiosks are available at over 50 airports, stadiums and arenas across the U.S.

Can you use CLEAR and TSA PreCheck together? ›

Can I become a member of both TSA PreCheck and CLEAR? In short, yes! Since a CLEAR membership expedites the ID-checking part and TSA PreCheck expedites the security line part, you can use the two programs together to make navigating airport security as quick as possible.

How much does it cost for TSA PreCheck? ›

The application fee for TSA PreCheck® is $78 for 5 years. Before you apply, we recommend that you review the various DHS trusted traveler programs, such as the TSA PreCheck® Application Program, Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI, to ensure you meet the eligibility requirements and determine the best program for you.

Which is better TSA PreCheck or Global Entry? ›

TSA PreCheck® provides expedited security screening benefits for flights departing from U.S. Airports. Global Entry provides expedited U.S. customs screening for international air travelers when entering the United States. Global Entry members also receive TSA PreCheck® benefits as part of their membership.

Do liquids need to be in a CLEAR bag for international travel? ›

Inbound International Flights

The liquids are packed in a transparent, secure, tamper-evident bag by the retailer and do not show signs of tampering when presented to TSA for screening. The original receipt for the liquids is present and the purchase was made within 48 hours.

What is the difference between CLEAR and CLEAR plus? ›

CLEAR Plus is our airport membership. With CLEAR Plus, you can move faster through airport security nationwide in our designated Lanes at TSA checkpoints. Our friendly Ambassadors help you verify your identity at a CLEAR Pod—so you can save time and avoid big lines.

Is CLEAR free with Amex? ›

Previously, the cost of an annual CLEAR membership would set you back $189, or $15.75 per month. Now, an annual CLEAR membership is complimentary for Amex Platinum card and Amex Business Platinum cardholders.

Is there a free trial for CLEAR? ›

What are the clear paid subscription plans after the free trial ends? After your two-month free trial, the subscription automatically renews. There are also no refunds if you do not travel anywhere in a particular month. So, you need to remember to cancel your subscription when the trial ends.

Is Global Entry worth it? ›

In most cases, Global Entry is a better choice, especially if you travel internationally. Not only does it include TSA PreCheck but it will also expedite your re-entry back into the U.S. when you arrive from abroad.

Should you take your shoes off inside? ›

"Wearing shoes indoors tracks in bacteria, dirt, and other harmful germs," says Peysakhovich, adding "it's uncleanly, especially for small babies who crawl around or kids who play on the floor."

How to bypass TSA line? ›

Other ways to skip the TSA lines without paying. Making a reservation in advance is a great way to skip TSA's sometimes exorbitantly long lines. However, if you're flying out of an airport that doesn't have this program, you may instead want to consider enrolling in TSA PreCheck or Clear.

Do you take your shoes off on a plane? ›

It's tempting to kick off your shoes and relax on a flight but it's best to keep them on.”There are no etiquette rules that say you must not take off your shoes during a flight,” says Whitmore. “My advice is to know your own body. If you know you have smelly feet, don't subject them to other passengers on a flight.

Can you cancel clear after free trial? ›

You may terminate your Free Membership and request the removal of your personal information from CLEAR's databases by emailing your request to memberservices@clearme.com or by contacting CLEAR's customer service group at 1-855-CLEARME (253-2763) or through our chat function.

Does clear at the airport have an app? ›

Wherever You Are, Find Us With a Tap. Download our free app to find CLEAR Lanes near you, get quicker access to sports and events, and use features like Home-to-Gate to plan your trip to the airport.

Is clear worth it for international travel? ›

Clear is not necessarily better than Global Entry, as both programs improve the experience of two very different parts of travel. Clear saves you time going through security screenings ahead of travel, while Global Entry saves you time at customs when reentering the U.S. after international travel.

How long does TSA clear take? ›

Most applicants receive approval notification in 3-5 days, though some applications can take up to 60 days.

Is clear for travel good? ›

The short version: Is Clear worth the cost? If you travel a lot and want the convenience of skipping the line to reach the suitcase and body scanner, then Clear could be worth it. Although it costs $189 per year, you can reduce the price or even get it for free if you have certain credit cards.

Is Clear free with Amex? ›

Previously, the cost of an annual CLEAR membership would set you back $189, or $15.75 per month. Now, an annual CLEAR membership is complimentary for Amex Platinum card and Amex Business Platinum cardholders.

Which is better TSA CLEAR or Global Entry? ›

Clear and Global Entry are very different programs because Clear saves you time going through security screenings, while Global Entry saves you time at customs and immigration upon arrival in the U.S. after traveling internationally.

What does CLEAR allow you to do at the airport? ›

Once approved to participate in the program, it allows travelers to pass through an expedited security screening at U.S. airports nationwide with no need to remove shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts or light jackets. This allows travelers to enjoy a more convenient and efficient experience at airport security.

Does CLEAR cover international flights? ›

Any U.S. citizen and legal permanent resident who has reached the age of 18 is eligible for enrollment in CLEAR. The program is not open to international residents, though they likely wouldn't receive many benefits anyway unless they travel extensively within the U.S.

Can I bring a guest thru CLEAR? ›

Remember, members can bring one adult guest through the Clear lane per day at stadiums and venues; children under 18 don't need a membership and can go through the Clear lane when accompanied by an adult.

Who are CLEAR travel competitors? ›

clearme.com's top 5 competitors in April 2023 are: upgradedpoints.com, thriftytraveler.com, prioritypass.com, thecenturionlounge.com, and more.

How much is a CLEAR card? ›

Clear expedites the document/identity screening process and TSA PreCheck expedites the physical screening process. Clear membership costs $189 per year and TSA PreCheck membership costs $85 for five years.

Is CLEAR free with Delta Amex? ›

What is the cost of a CLEAR Membership? If you're a SkyMiles Diamond Medallion member, you can enroll in CLEAR free of charge. The membership is $149 per year for cardholders of a Delta Amex and Platinum, Gold, and Silver Medallion members. General SkyMiles members can sign up for CLEAR for $179 per year.

Is CLEAR free with Amex Gold? ›

As an American Express® Corporate Green or Gold Card Member, you can receive a 4-month complimentary CLEAR Plus Membership starting from the date you complete the online enrollment form linked below.

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