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What is CLEAR? This TSA PreCheck alternative helps you skip long airport security lines

·5-min read

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Travelers know that most airlines suggest you get to the airport at least two hours before a flight, and part of the reason is because you never know how long the security line will be. 

You could get lucky and only have to wait behind a few other travelers, or you could skip the lines completely with security services like TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and a newer program called CLEAR

What is the CLEAR program you see at airports and how does it work?

CLEAR is a private airport security and technology company similar to TSA PreCheck that allows you to move through airport security faster and easier. It is certified by the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act by the Department of Homeland Security. Essentially, it quickly verifies your identity at one of those biometric security kiosk you’ve probably seen in airports so you can be on your way.

Credit: CLEAR
Credit: CLEAR

While scanning your boarding pass, the kiosk scans your eyes or uses your fingerprint to identify you. The process takes less than one minute in total. When you’re done, a CLEAR ambassador will take you to the front of the line so you can bypass the TSA representative to get your body scanned and items checked faster. Think of it like TSA PreCheck, except even faster in some instances.

Anyone who’s a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident over 18 years old is eligible to apply to CLEAR. First, you’ll need to fill out an online application on CLEAR’s website, and then you’ll have to go for a quick biometric screening at a CLEAR kiosk. You don’t have to make an appointment for the screening, however. You can do it the next time you’re at the airport before you travel. 

Plus, CLEAR is currently available at 50 airports across the U.S. and growing. 

How much is CLEAR and is it worth the money?

Not only will a CLEAR membership speed things up at the airport, but the technology is also available at select sports stadiums, and it’s soon launching a Health Pass, which will verify COVID-19 vaccination and test results. This way, you won’t have to carry around your vaccination card in a cute vaccine card holder

The membership costs $15 a month or $179 per year. If you’re a Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus member, however, you might be able to get it for free or discounted rate. You can set your membership to auto-renew at the end of 12 months or cancel it online. 

Is CLEAR better than TSA PreCheck and Global Entry?

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

If you haven’t heard of CLEAR before, you probably know about TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. Here’s how they all differ. 

TSA PreCheck is offered through the government and of all three, is probably the most popular. It offers shorter lines, but you’re still required to get your identity and boarding pass confirmed by a TSA agent. Its major benefit includes a quicker physical screening process: You won’t have to remove your shoes, light jacket or belt, or take your liquids, iPad or laptop out of your bag to go through the scanners. TSA PreCheck costs $85 for five years and is offered at all airports across the U.S. 

How to apply for TSA PreCheck: You’ll need to be U.S citizen or legal permanent resident, fill out a form and schedule an appointment at a designated enrollment center to provide fingerprints and a background check. Children under 12 years old can accompany a TSA PreCheck adult in line — children 13 and older must have their own TSA PreCheck boarding pass. You can renew your TSA PreCheck membership online up to six months before the expiration date.

Global Entry is for people who do a lot of international traveling, but it will not allow you to skip any TSA security lines at the airport. Rather it’s a U.S. Customs and Boarding Protection program that gives pre-approved travelers from the U.S. and select countries expedited clearance through Customs, and it’s good for five years. Upon arriving in the U.S. and select countries, members can present their passport or permanent resident card at a Global Entry kiosk, provide their fingerprints to verify identity and fill out a Customs declaration document. Rather than jumping in the long line to speak to an agent, Global Entry members are issued a receipt and directed straight to baggage claim.

How to apply for Global Entry: It costs $100 to apply and all applicants are subject to a rigorous background check and in-person interview for approval. Members could also be subject to further examination when entering the U.S. Children may apply, but anyone under 18 must have parent or guardian approval. You can renew your Global Membership up to a year before expiration, but you may be required to interview again. 

Can you use TSA PreCheck if you have CLEAR, too?

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

If you really want to, you can apply for all three expedited memberships. People who travel domestically can combine CLEAR and TSA PreCheck, so they can skip the TSA agent screening and skip the part where they have to take off their shoes during the security screening. Plus, many people who travel internationally often combine TSA PreCheck and Global Entry for speeding up their overall travel process.

With all that said, CLEAR is very similar to TSA PreCheck. Keep in mind that if you plan to travel or attend big events this year or next, you might need proof of vaccination, and CLEAR will make that super easy with its new Health Pass.

The TL;DR? 

At the end of the day, CLEAR is another way to help you get through airport security faster so you can spend less time worrying if you’re going to miss your flight. And yes, you will feel kind of bougie when you’re personally escorted to the front of the line. 

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