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Clear vs TSA Precheck: What’s Better?

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Waiting in an airport is the bane of a traveler’s existence. Getting your bags checked, shoes removed, and documents screened can be a time-consuming process that, with an exciting vacation waiting on the other end, no traveler has the time of day for.

If you’ve been flying recently, you might have noticed two security lines: One for TSA PreCheck and another for Clear. Both these programs can shorten your queuing time, but which is better?

Is Clear or TSA PreCheck worth it? Is it an either-or situation, or can travelers get both? This Clear vs. TSA PreCheck article aims to find out.

Quick Comparison of TSA PreCheck and Clear

Woman in Airport

TSA PreCheck and Clear are expedited screening programs that allow travelers to move quickly through airport security. While the government offers TSA PreCheck, Clear is handled by a private company.

TSA PreCheck makes the physical screening process faster, while Clear expedites the process for screening documents or identity. TSA PreCheck membership is $85 for five years, and Clear membership costs $179 yearly.

But how is Clear different from TSA PreCheck, and what is faster between TSA PreCheck and Clear? Do you know how to apply for TSA PreCheck and Clear?

While both programs have pros and cons, travelers with enough budget to work with may find it more beneficial to apply for both. But what if you’re strapped for cash? What are the Clear TSA PreCheck costs? Let’s take a closer look at Clear vs. TSA PreCheck.

Comparison Table of the Two

FactorClearTSA PreCheck
PurposeExpedited identity verification processExpedited security screening process
EligibilityU.S. citizens and legal permanent residentsU.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and lawful permanent residents
Application ProcessOnline application, in-person biometric data collectionOnline application, in-person background check and fingerprinting
Cost$189 per year$85 for 5 years
Locations50+ airports, stadiums, and venues in the U.S.200+ airports in the U.S.
Security ProcessBiometric identity verification (fingerprint or iris scan)Expedited security screening (no need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, or light jackets)
Wait TimeLess than 5 minutes on average5 minutes or less on average
Additional BenefitsExpedited entry at some stadiums and venuesEligible for Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI
Membership IncludesClear membership onlyTSA PreCheck membership only
Family MembersChildren under 18 can use Clear lanes for free with a paid memberFamily members ages 12 and under can accompany a TSA PreCheck member through the expedited lane

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What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA Logo

TSA PreCheck is the most successful of the expedited airport security screening programs, with more than 7 million members. It is a Trusted Traveler Program run by the Transportation Security Administration of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

The TSA PreCheck program is designed to expedite the transit of verified travelers when passing through security checkpoints, which often get congested as people board aircraft.

Before TSA PreCheck, passengers are usually required to remove any clothes or personal objects that might be used to contain dangerous chemicals.

Shoes, for example, have been used in prior efforts to detonate explosives aboard planes. Electronic devices like laptops and mobile phones have been frequently inspected at checkpoints due to attempts to conceal things inside by removing components.

TSA PreCheck Webpage
TSA PreCheck / TSA

TSA PreCheck determines which passengers pose the least danger to flight security, allowing them to pass through security checkpoints without removing their belts, shoes, coats, liquids, and devices from their bags.

After clearing a background check and completing the TSA PreCheck application, you’ll be given a known traveler number, which you may use to book flights.

PreCheck members get a number of airport security benefits. First, they can use the accelerated PreCheck security line and clear airport security without removing their belt, light jackets, and shoes. If you’re a PreCheck member, laptops and TSA-approved gels and liquids will also be allowed in your carry-on.

While TSA PreCheck is reliable, members must know that passengers may be randomly picked for traditional airport security screening. This means they will not be allowed to use the TSA PreCheck expedited security line for that aircraft.

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How does TSA PreCheck work?

How Does TSA PreCheck Works?
TSA PreCheck / TSA

Once authorized for TSA PreCheck, you’ll be given a Known Traveler Number, which you may store in your frequent flyer account or type into your reservation to give to your airline.

Your boarding tickets will now have a TSA PreCheck designation, allowing you to access a faster security screening line in over 200 domestic airports. The program includes more than 80 domestic and international carriers.

Instead of a full-body scanner, TSA PreCheck members go through a standard metal detector. In June 2021, more than 97 percent of PreCheck-eligible travelers waited five minutes or less, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Travelers should know that TSA does not guarantee quicker screening with the PreCheck program. Do note that you may be subjected to a random secondary bag check by security officials on rare occasions.

Travelers who do not see a TSA PreCheck designation on their boarding pass may ask an airline agent to reenter their information. This generally resolves the issue, and an agent may then print a new boarding pass with the required TSA PreCheck information.

The TSA PreCheck program is accessible at nearly 200 domestic airports and 73 airlines. Even though numerous airports and airlines participate in TSA PreCheck, PreCheck is not accessible at all locations.

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How to get a TSA PreCheck

All U.S. citizens or lawful and permanent residents of the United States may apply for TSA PreCheck. Applying for TSA PreCheck is a straightforward process. To begin, you must complete a brief online application.

This is followed by setting an appointment at a TSA PreCheck enrollment center, where you must undergo a background check and fingerprinting. As of 2021, the TSA PreCheck cost amounts to $85 with a membership that lasts for five years.

A few of the best travel credit cards include statement credits for TSA PreCheck application fees, which is one method to reduce the cost of the TSA PreCheck application.

If you’re a regular traveler, you might want to consider adding a travel credit card to your wallet as it frequently comes with extra cost-saving features like access to airport lounges and travel insurance.

TSA PreCheck may be renewed online after five years. All you need to do is fill out a form and pay a lower $70 charge for the online renewal.

Doing this with a credit card that will reimburse you is best. When a member’s KTN is set to expire, they will receive a letter, but you may also find out your expiration date by submitting a Service Status form online.

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What cards cover TSA PreCheck?

If you’d like to save, note that some cards can cover the cost of your TSA PreCheck enrollment fee when you use them to settle your enrollment balance. Here are some of the cards you can use:

  • The Platinum Card from American Express
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Marriot Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Cards
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Cards

Orbitz Rewards program Platinum members can cover the enrollment fee as an optional reward. Travelers do not need to apply for TSA PreCheck if they are Global Entry members. The TSA PreCheck membership is included with Global Entry, so there’s no need to pay again.

Those who travel overseas frequently would find it wiser to apply for Global Entry. In contrast, those who usually travel domestically should remain with TSA PreCheck as it’s easier to apply for.

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What are the benefits of TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck provides a variety of advantages, including a faster airport security screening procedure, the convenience of not having to remove shoes, belts, or light coats before passing through airport security, and the opportunity to keep laptops and TSA-approved liquids and gels in carry-on luggage.

While many people believe TSA PreCheck’s main benefit is the designated PreCheck security line and speedier security clearance, the ability to keep your shoes on during the process is a major gain.

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What is Clear?

Clear Logo

If you’ve been flying recently, you might have noticed this expedited airport security screening program, too. So what is Clear at the airport?

Like TSA PreCheck, clear is a registered traveler program that helps users swiftly authenticate their identities at biometric security kiosks using touchless technology.

Instead of waiting in line for a TSA employee to examine their boarding ticket and picture ID, Clear members can utilize the Clear lane to expedite the first part of the airport security screening.

Clear machines let visitors circumvent long security lines and get to a TSA screening station quickly by using biometric data to identify them instead of manually validating photo identification. Travelers should know that Clear does not contain TSA PreCheck’s membership benefits.

Clear TSA PreCheck
Clear / Clear

Travelers who have PreCheck can proceed straight to the PreCheck lane ahead of the queueing passengers after going through a Clear kiosk. Those who do not have PreCheck must utilize the usual screening queue, which is also ahead of other passengers in line. The main advantage of Clear is that it saves time, albeit there is still some inconvenience at the checkpoint.

Clear is accessible at more than 50 airports, arenas, and stadiums nationwide. In big cities like New York, Clear is available in several airports. On the other hand, smaller towns and cities may not have any Clear sites.

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How does Clear work?

How Does Clear Works
Clear / Clear

Following the biometric screening, a Clear Ambassador will accompany you to the next step of the screening procedure, where you will undergo physical and luggage scanning. If you already have TSA PreCheck, you’ll be directed to that line.

Otherwise, you’ll be directed to the usual screening queue. The Department of Homeland Security has recognized Clear under the SAFETY Act. Clear kiosks may also be found in arenas, stadiums, and concert venues. Here is what the Clear kiosks look like at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP):

Travelers at MSP Airport CLEAR biometric security lanes
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Apart from the $ 15-a-month membership that expedites your airport screening, Clear also provides two free plans. First is a Sports Pass that helps decrease the time it takes to enter sports facilities, and second, a recently announced Health Pass lets you communicate your COVID-19 immunization status and any recent negative test results with airport workers.

Clear is accessible at over 100 airports, arenas, and stadiums nationwide. In big cities like New York, Clear is available in several airports. On the other hand, smaller towns and cities may not have any Clear sites. Here’s a map of all the locations from the Clear mobile app:

CLEAR security checkpoint location map across North America airports
Map of Clear Available from the Mobile App

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How to get a Clear?

How to Get Clear
Clear / Clear

You can apply for Clear if you are a citizen of the United States or a legal permanent resident over 18. The Clear application procedure is comparable to that of the TSA PreCheck program. Travelers may begin by completing a brief online application and visiting one of the more than 50 Clear sites to complete the process.

Travelers do not need to arrange an appointment to visit a Clear site. Still, they must bring picture identification that matches the name of their application and be willing to provide their biometric information.

More expensive than TSA PreCheck, the Clear TSA cost is $179 annually. While statement credits for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry applications are prevalent among luxury travel cards, credits for Clear are not.

If you want to try it out, Clear provides a free two-month trial. United Premier 1K or Delta Diamond Medallion members may receive an annual subscription for free. A discount is given to other United elite and Delta members.

If you were a member of the previous CLEAR program, CLEAR will recognize the remaining time on your CLEAR account. You will be credited with this when you reactivate your account by signing in.

If you’ve forgotten your original password, you can follow the on-screen directions to create a new one. The CLEAR program no longer needs CLEAR cards if you were given one before. After account reactivation, you may immediately utilize the CLEAR lanes.

Log in to your account to renew your CLEAR membership. You’ll be all set after reactivating, and you won’t need to update your biometrics because CLEAR already has them on file. All you have to do now is pay the yearly membership cost.

After you choose a CLEAR membership tier and package, you’ll be locked into that price for the rest of your life, so it’s better to shop around for the best deal before enrolling. This is not the case with pricing connected to elite status, which you can only obtain while in that tier.

What credit cards cover Clear?

A variety of cards can help reimburse your payment for a Clear membership when you use their card to pay for it. If you’re looking to save, you can use these cards to make the membership fee lighter in your pocket.

  • American Express Green Card
  • American Express Platinum Card
  • American Express Business Platinum Card
  • Delta Skymiles Gold American Express Card
  • United Infinite Card
  • United Explorer Card
  • Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card
  • Gold American Express Card

See Related: Best Credit Cards for International Travel: Our Top Picks

What are the benefits of Clear?

Clear Highlights and Benefits
Clear / Clear

Clear lets you instantly verify your identity using a touchless biometric scan, saving you the time and bother of waiting in line for a TSA agent to evaluate your photo ID and boarding pass.

Clear also allows you to expedite the security process at non-airport venues such as arenas and stadiums. It is expanding its scope with additional services such as the Health Pass.

On average, CLEAR members may skip through the full security procedure from beginning to end in less than 5 minutes, thanks to CLEAR lanes, which allow members to bypass the physical security lines entirely.

When you use CLEAR, your ID will be linked to your boarding pass, and you can skip the security queues. Regardless of how lengthy the TSA PreCheck or conventional security lines are, after you’ve completed the CLEAR procedure, you proceed to the front, where your luggage is scanned.

The eye-scanning process and boarding pass inspection seldom take more than two minutes, after which you’ll go through the metal detector as usual to finish the remainder of your screening.

CLEAR is available to all CLEAR members in sports venues with a full subscription. If you don’t already have a standard CLEAR membership, you may sign up for a free CLEAR Sports membership, valid only at sports venues instead of airports.

Getting started with a free online Sports enrollment is simple, as it only takes a few minutes at any CLEAR location. You can also select Sports + Airports upon registration to upgrade your membership to include CLEAR airport access with a fee.

CLEAR is ideal for families and solo business travelers, as members can bring their children under 18 along. There are also various ways to save money on your yearly CLEAR membership, which is ideal for travelers who want to cut down on airport wait times without spending so much.

If you’re a regular flyer who flies more than 50,000 miles per year and values saving time in lines, or if you’re flying out of busy airports like Atlanta or Washington, D.C., you’ll benefit the most from using Clear.

However, regardless of how you get to CLEAR, it will significantly lessen the burden of queueing for an identification check. You can circumvent those lines and be ready to go through the scanner and metal detector inspections.

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The verdict

When dealing with the TSA PreCheck vs Clear debate, many people will think that TSA PreCheck is the superior option. While this is because of a variety of factors, price is a big factor. PreCheck is less costly while having more airport locations around the country. It is also sponsored by the federal government.

Furthermore, many travel credit cards include statement credits that may be used to offset the cost of the PreCheck application. Adding the Clear Health Pass to your phone might be beneficial if you want to attend arena events this year.

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Should you get both?

Man and Luggage Silhouette

Choosing between TSA PreCheck and Clear does not have to be a forced choice. Many TSA PreCheck members like having Clear since it allows them to expedite the often lengthy TSA PreCheck lines at hundreds of airports.

But TSA PreCheck is still the easiest way to get through security without wasting time in line. The only true advantage of having Clear over TSA PreCheck is that using it at stadiums will get you to the top of the queue faster.

Do note, however, that TSA PreCheck will not be available to all U.S. citizens for a variety of reasons, including issues with a background check. If that’s the case, Clear by itself can be worth it if you frequently fly from an airport with Clear lanes.

While it may seem counterintuitive to pursue registering in both TSA PreCheck and CLEAR, there are benefits to doing so. The most significant benefit is an even faster airport security process.

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Why do travelers choose to sign up for both Clear and TSA PreCheck?

Clear Sign Up Page
Clear / Clear

TSA PreCheck and Clear operate together to make the experience of going through airport security easier. You can use Clear to expedite scanning your travel documents, then proceed to the TSA PreCheck screening line and breeze through security without removing your shoes.

Consider these extra perks if you decide to obtain both. While TSA PreCheck can only help you get through airport security faster, Clear can help you enter stadiums, venues, and airports.

TSA PreCheck passengers are occasionally picked at random for traditional airport screening. They cannot use the PreCheck security line, but Clear travelers always have access to the designated Clear lane. Although you may not be able to utilize your TSA PreCheck membership to go past security on all flights, Clear works on all of them.

Additionally, Clear’s new Health Pass allows travelers to submit their COVID-19 immunization status as well as any recent negative test results, potentially reducing or eliminating any needed quarantine time following your trip.

TSA PreCheck may be the best option if you want to reduce the time it takes to pass through airport security, while Clear, on the other hand, can be a smart choice if you want to get the most out of your time in stadiums, airports, and performance venues.

TSA PreCheck is now accessible in more locations than Clear. However, Clear allows you to bypass security queues at stadiums and arenas as well as airports.

Furthermore, Clear never subjects travelers to random security screening.

FAQs

Is Clear Pass better than TSA PreCheck?

Clear is a commercial service that provides expedited security screening at airports. TSA PreCheck is a program run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that also provides expedited security screening. While both services offer similar benefits, Clear Pass requires a separate membership and fee, while TSA PreCheck is part of a government program that can be obtained through an application process and fee.

Should I get PreCheck, Global Entry, or Clear?

Clear, TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are trusted traveler programs offering expedited airport screening. Clear is a private program that uses biometric technology to verify your identity and speed up the security process. At the same time, TSA PreCheck is a government program that allows you to go through a separate security line and keep your shoes, belt, and light jacket on.

Global Entry is a program that includes TSA PreCheck and allows for expedited customs and immigration processing when traveling internationally. Which program to choose depends on your travel needs and preferences.

If you only travel domestically and want the fastest security experience, TSA PreCheck might be the best option. If you travel internationally frequently, Global Entry may be more beneficial. Clear is a good option if you frequently travel through airports that offer the service and want to save time on identity verification.

What is Clear Plus vs Clear PreCheck?

Clear Plus is a paid membership program that provides expedited security screening at participating airports in the United States. Clear PreCheck, on the other hand, is a service included with a Clear Plus membership and provides access to TSA PreCheck lanes, which offer expedited screening for eligible travelers.

While Clear Plus provides additional benefits, such as access to exclusive airport lounges, Clear PreCheck is specifically designed to speed up the security screening process.

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