Skip to Content

Clear vs TSA Precheck: What’s Better?

Clear vs TSA Precheck: What’s Better?

Waiting in an airport is the bane of a traveler’s existence. Having to get 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 really 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 really an either-or situation, or can travelers get both?

This Clear vs TSA PreCheck article aims to find out.

Quick comparison

Woman in Airport

TSA PreCheck and Clear are both expedited screening programs that allow travelers to move quickly through airport security. While TSA PreCheck is offered by the government, 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 each year.

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 their pros and cons, travelers who have 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.

See Related: 11 Best Travel Security Products You Didn’t Know You Needed

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 line up to 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 determines which passengers pose the least danger to flight security, allowing them to pass through security checkpoints without having to remove their belts, shoes, or 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’ll be able to use the accelerated PreCheck security line and clear airport security without having to remove their belt, light jacket, 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 need to know that passengers may be picked at random for traditional airport security screening.

This means they will not be allowed to use the TSA PreCheck expedited security line for that aircraft.

See Related: Important Pros and Cons of Travel Insurance

How does TSA PreCheck work?

Once you’ve been 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 shorter, 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. Despite the fact that numerous airports and airlines participate in TSA PreCheck, PreCheck is not accessible at all locations.

See Related: What is Travel Concierge? Definition and Things to Know

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.

Several 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.

It’s best to do this with a credit card that will reimburse you. 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.

See Related: Best Skyscanner Alternatives to Book Travel

What cards cover TSA PreCheck?

If you’re looking to save, do 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 have the opportunity to 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, while those who usually travel domestically should remain with TSA PreCheck as it’s easier to apply for.

See Related: 4 Best Credit Cards For Travel Perks Ranked

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 a lot of 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.

What is Clear?

Clear Logo

If you’ve been flying recently, you might have noticed this expedited airport security screening program, as well. 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.

Travelers who have PreCheck can proceed straight to the PreCheck lane going 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 around the country.

In big cities like New York, Clear is available in several airports.

Smaller towns and cities, on the other hand, may not have any Clear sites.

See Related: 10 Best Family Travel Insurance Providers

How does Clear work?

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.

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 that lets you communicate both your COVID-19 immunization status and any recent negative test results with airport workers.

Clear is accessible at more than 50 airports, arenas, and stadiums around the country.

In big cities like New York, Clear is available in several airports. Smaller towns and cities, on the other hand, may not have any Clear sites.

See Related: 9 Types of Concierge Services for Travel

How to get a Clear?

You can apply for Clear if you are a citizen of the United States or a legal permanent resident over the age of 18.

The Clear application procedure is comparable to that of the TSA PreCheck program. Travelers may begin by completing a brief online application, then 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, but 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 per year. 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. Members of United Premier 1K or Delta Diamond Medallion 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. When you reactivate your account by signing in, you will be credited with this.

If you’ve forgotten your original password, you can simply 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 will already have 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 you’re 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 lets you instantly verify your identity using a touchless biometric scan, saving you the time and bother of having to wait 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 and 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 will be able to 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 takes 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 in sports venues to all CLEAR members with a full subscription. If you don’t already have a standard CLEAR membership, you may sign up for a free CLEAR Sports membership that is only valid at sports venues instead of airports.

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

CLEAR is ideal for both families and solo business travelers, as members can bring their children under the age of 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 value 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 having to queue for an identification check.

This means you’ll be able to circumvent those lines, ready to go through the scanner and metal detector inspections.

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.

Even so, Clear offers a few perks, including the option to share your COVID-19 vaccination and test status with sports arenas, airports, and concert venues via the free Clear Health Pass.

Adding the Clear Health Pass to your phone might be beneficial if you want to attend arena events in 2021 or 2022.

Should you get both?

Man and Luggage Silhouette

Choosing between TSA PreCheck and Clear does not have to be a forced choice. A lot of 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 if you just use it at stadiums when it 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 fly frequently 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.

See Related: 11 Best Travel Insurance for South America

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

Both TSA PreCheck and Clear operate together to make the experience of going through airport security easier.

You can use Clear to expedite the scanning of your travel documents, then proceed to the TSA PreCheck screening line and breeze through security without having to remove 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 get into stadiums, venues, and airports.

TSA PreCheck passengers are occasionally picked at random for traditional airport screening and are unable to 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.

Related Resources

Lock In Your Travel Now
Looking for Extra Travel Perks?
My favorite travel companion is The Platinum Card® from American Express, which gives me lounge access, Uber credits, upgrades, and plenty of other travel perks. If you want to find out the best travel rewards credit card for you, consider using CardMatch to instantly get matched to a travel rewards credit card that meets your travel needs.
Booking Flights

Use Skyscanner to book the cheapest flight possible. Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine as you can find flights around the globe and from every airline possible. You'll be in great shape to get the best price possible.

You must grab a free trial or join Scott's Cheap Flights Premium to get cheap flight alerts directly to your email inbox. My favorite cheap flight alert was 25,000 Delta SkyMiles to London non-stop.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It's a low cost way to ensure your travel plans go smooth no matter what's thrown at it. Use World Nomads to find the best policy for your travel schedule.
Book Your Accommodation
In order to capture the widest selection of properties and the best price, use Booking.com as they have the cheapest rates for guesthouses, hotels, luxury condos, B&Bs and so much more.
Want More Destination Ideas Direct to Your Inbox?
Be sure to join the ViaTravelers Newsletter for expert tips, tricks and inspiration for your next travel journey!