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CLEAR vs. TSA PreCheck: What You Need to Know

If you’ve been wondering whether you could benefit from expedited airport security and you’ve heard all about trusted traveler programs, you are probably considering programs like TSA Precheck and CLEAR. These two programs have different processes that help you speed through security when you arrive at participating airports, and they have different costs, too.

Because there are so many differences between TSA PreCheck and CLEAR, it’s possible one program will benefit you considerably more than the other. There may even be situations where you could benefit from having both memberships, particularly if you’re a frequent flyer.

Before you sign up for either program, it helps to know how they work, how much they cost, and where the benefits actually apply. Read on to learn everything there is to know about TSA PreCheck and CLEAR, plus all the different ways you can save money on membership fees.

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Comparing CLEAR vs TSA PreCheck

Here are some fast facts about CLEAR and TSA PreCheck:

About TSA PreCheck:

  • Allows for faster security screening at eligible U.S. airports
  • Works for departures from 200+ airports on more than 80 participating airlines
  • Members do not have to remove their laptops, belts, or shoes before going through security
  • Minors age 12 and under can accompany parents or guardians in the TSA PreCheck line
  • TSA PreCheck costs $78 and lasts 5 years
  • TSA PreCheck is a government program

About CLEAR:

  • Allows for faster security screening at eligible U.S. airports
  • Works for departures from 50+ airports, stadiums, and other venues nationwide
  • Uses biometrics at special kiosks so members don’t need to wait in line to show identification, then members are escorted to the front of security
  • Children can use the CLEAR Lane for free when accompanied by a CLEAR member
  • CLEAR costs $189 per year
  • CLEAR is owned by a private company

What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck is a government-based trusted traveler program that helps you save time and stress at the airport.

This program is for travelers who are deemed low risk by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and it comes with a shorter security line. Members can pass through expedited security screening without having to remove their shoes or take laptops from their bags. They can also keep belts and light jackets on, and they do not need to remove 3-1-1 liquids from their carry-on baggage.

This membership lasts for a full five years after you’re approved, which makes the $78 membership fee an excellent value.

TSA PreCheck benefits & eligibility

Nearly anyone can apply for TSA PreCheck, although you do have to be a U.S. citizen or a U.S. lawful permanent resident.

Benefits of the program are as follows:

Where is TSA PreCheck available?

TSA PreCheck is available at more than 200 airports nationwide, including popular options like Charlotte-Douglas, Chicago O’Hare, Hartsfield-Jackson, Indianapolis, Orlando-Sanford, Raleigh-Durham, Seattle-Tacoma, and more.

TSA PreCheck application process and costs

TSA PreCheck membership costs $78 upfront, but this one-time membership fee is good for five full years. The online application is easy to complete within a matter of minutes, although getting approved requires a background check and in-person interview at one of the 400+ enrollment centers available nationwide.

During the in-person interview, a security officer asks applicants to supply a fingerprint, proof of citizenship, and identity documents. Upon approval, new members will receive a Known Traveler Number that can be added to all flight reservations from that point forward.

TSA PreCheck expiration & renewal

Once the five-year membership is over, individuals who want to renew will have to pay the fee and go through a background check and in-person interview again.

Credit cards that offer free TSA PreCheck or CLEAR memberships

Many travel credit cards offer statement credits for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or CLEAR. These are our favorites:

The Platinum Card? from American Express

Up to $100 every 4 years to use towards TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership and an annual $189 CLEAR? Plus credit. Although The Platinum Card? from American Express has a high $695 annual fee, it also has extremely generous rewards and statement credits to make up for it. Read more in our Amex Platinum card review.

Chase Sapphire Reserve?

Up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership. Chase Sapphire Reserve? cardholders can also take advantage of hundreds of dollars in annual statement credits, a high rewards rate, and more. This card has a $550 annual fee. Read more in our Chase Sapphire Reserve review.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership. This card offers generous flat-rate rewards on travel with flexible redemption options, and it only has a $95 annual fee. Read more in our Capital One Venture Card review.

The Business Platinum Card? from American Express

Up to $100 every 4 years to use towards TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership and a yearly $189 CLEAR? Plus credit. Although The Business Platinum Card? from American Express has a high $695 annual fee, it also has extremely generous rewards and statement credits to make up for it. Terms apply. (see rates and fees) Read more in our Amex Business Platinum Card review.

United Explorer Card

Up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership. This card is great for United Airlines loyalists, providing generous airline-specific benefits and statement credits, all for a low $95 annual fee. Read more in our United Explorer Card review.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership. This premium travel credit card has a generous rewards rate and comes with exclusive airport lounge access, among other perks. Read more in our Venture X Rewards Card review.

What is CLEAR?

CLEAR is an airport security program that is offered by a private company in select airports nationwide.

With CLEAR, members who arrive at the airport can step up to a special kiosk and verify their identity with biometrics instead of government-issued identification. The CLEAR kiosk scans each member’s eyes or fingerprint to verify who they are, which speeds up the process dramatically.

From there, CLEAR members are moved to the front of the security line, where they place their baggage through screening as they normally would.

CLEAR benefits & eligibility

Nearly anyone can apply for CLEAR, although you do have to be a U.S. citizen or U.S. legal permanent resident over the age of 18.

Benefits of the program include:

Where is CLEAR available?

CLEAR is available in 50+ different airports, stadiums, and other venues nationwide, including popular options like Austin-Bergstrom, Birmingham, Detroit, Greenville-Spartanburg, Seattle, and more.

CLEAR application process and costs

CLEAR membership requires a non-refundable annual fee of?$189, although members can add up to three family members or friends to their account for just $60 each. Students can also qualify for CLEAR membership for just $60 per year, and there are special rates for government employees, active duty military, and veterans.

The application process begins online when applicants head to the CLEAR website to supply their basic personal information. From there, individuals can go to an airport with a CLEAR location with no appointment necessary and begin their membership by showing a valid U.S.-issued ID.

CLEAR expiration & renewal

CLEAR members can reactivate their membership after the first year by paying the $189 annual membership fee.

Is CLEAR worth it?

If you travel frequently, CLEAR could potentially save you a ton of time. If that convenience is important to you, it may be worth it. Additionally, some international travel credit cards and airline reward programs can give you a nice discount on the $189/year membership fee.

Application discounts & cards that offer CLEAR

A few credit cards will reimburse you for your CLEAR membership application fee, such as The Platinum Card? from American Express and The Business Platinum Card? from American Express.

If you’re a member of the Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus frequent flyer programs, you can qualify for application discounts toward your CLEAR membership.

Delta SkyMiles:

United MileagePlus:

Differences between TSA PreCheck vs. CLEAR:

The main differences between TSA PreCheck and CLEAR boil down to where you can use each program and what you actually get for your membership fees. For example, TSA PreCheck lets you enter a separate security line that is normally shorter, and you don’t have to take off your jacket or shoes or remove your laptop as you move through TSA. Meanwhile, CLEAR lets you bypass having to show identification at the airport altogether since it relies on biometric technology to prove your identity.

Here is a look at the pros and cons of both.

TSA PreCheck vs. CLEAR: pros & cons

TSA Precheck Pros
  • Membership is only $78 and lasts for five years
  • Broad availability at more than 200 airports nationwide
  • Kids 12 and under can move through TSA PreCheck for free with a parent or guardian who is a member
  • Speed through security lines without removing your jacket, belt, or laptop
TSA Precheck Cons
  • In-person interview is required to join (appointment required)
  • You get in a shorter line vs. skipping lines altogether
CLEAR Membership Pros
  • Available at many different types of locations: 50+ airports, stadiums, venues, etc.
  • Online application & no appointment needed to verify your identity
  • No need to show identification at the airport
  • Contactless ID verification via digital CLEAR kiosks
CLEAR Membership Cons
  • Membership is expensive at $189/year
  • CLEAR is available at fewer airports than TSA PreCheck

Is TSA PreCheck better than CLEAR?

It’s hard to say whether TSA PreCheck is better than CLEAR as many factors can influence this answer, such as the way you travel and where you travel from. That said, TSA PreCheck is less expensive ($78 vs. $189 for CLEAR) and membership lasts considerably longer (five years vs. one year with CLEAR), so most people would agree it’s a better deal.

Is CLEAR faster than TSA PreCheck?

Generally, CLEAR can help you move through airport security faster since you don’t have to stand in line to show US-issued photo identification. Instead, you step up to a CLEAR kiosk that verifies your identity using biometrics and fingerprint data. Both programs have gotten more popular in recent years, though, so some users report long lines during peak travel hours at busy airports.

How are TSA PreCheck & CLEAR different from Global Entry?

Where TSA PreCheck and CLEAR are meant to help you save time and hassle when you depart from eligible airports, the Global Entry program lets you move through customs and immigration faster when you arrive in the United States after international travel.

Which is better: TSA PreCheck or Global Entry or CLEAR?

Only you can decide which program of these three is best for you, or whether you should apply for more than one. That said, it’s important to note that Global Entry membership costs $100 and lasts for five years, and its members get PreCheck automatically. With that in mind, frequent international travelers can pay for Global Entry and get TSA PreCheck for free, then enjoy expedited airport security for arrivals and departures in eligible airports.

Should you get TSA PreCheck and CLEAR?

Getting both TSA PreCheck and CLEAR actually makes a lot of sense, especially if you’re a frequent traveler who flies out of participating airports often. After all, having both memberships means you can skip the line to check identification and complete this step with a CLEAR kiosk instead, then skip to the front of the TSA PreCheck line and avoid having to remove your shoes, laptop, light jacket, and more as your bags move through screening.

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FAQ: TSA PreCheck vs CLEAR

Do I need TSA PreCheck membership if I have CLEAR?

While you don’t need either membership and especially not both, it’s possible to benefit from both PreCheck and CLEAR. After all, having both memberships helps you skip the ID verification process and move through security lines faster.

Which is the best credit card for TSA PreCheck and CLEAR?

Very few credit cards cover both TSA PreCheck and CLEAR, which is why we love The Platinum Card? from American Express. With this card, you can get up to a $189 credit toward CLEAR Plus each year and an $85 credit toward TSA PreCheck every 4.5 years.

Which is better — TSA PreCheck or Global Entry or CLEAR?

Since PreCheck is more affordable and available at more airports nationwide, it’s typically considered a better deal.

Is CLEAR at the airport worth it?

CLEAR can be worth it if you frequently depart from participating airports and you want to move through security and get to your gate as quickly as possible. Of course, having this membership is an even better deal if you get it for free with a travel credit card or your elite status with a frequent flyer program.

What is the main difference between CLEAR and TSA PreCheck?

Where TSA PreCheck lets you enter a shorter security line that’s only available to members, CLEAR membership lets you bypass the ID check component of security altogether.

Is CLEAR faster than TSA PreCheck?

CLEAR is often faster than TSA PreCheck since it lets members verify their identity with biometrics instead of having them stand in line to show identification.

What is the cost of CLEAR at the airport?

CLEAR membership costs $189 per year.

Can you go through TSA PreCheck with CLEAR?

You can go through TSA PreCheck airport screening after you use CLEAR to prove your identity. However, the airport you’re departing from will need to participate in both programs.

Does CLEAR automatically include TSA PreCheck?

Unlike Global Entry memberships, CLEAR does not include TSA PreCheck.

* Opinions expressed here are those of the LA Times Compare Cards Team and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser or entities included within this content. See our editorial policy for more details.

All products or services are presented in this content without warranty. The information, including card details such as rates and fees, is accurate at the time of publish. Please visit each bank's website directly for the most current information.

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