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If you’ve gone through an airport recently, you’ve probably noticed two security lines – TSA PreCheck and CLEAR. Is there a clear winner between these two expedited traveler programs that promise to cut down on your waiting time? Is it better to choose CLEAR or TSA PreCheck? Must you choose only one, or can you use both together? Let’s compare CLEAR vs. TSA PreCheck to help resolve this dilemma.
If you fly at least a few times a year, you might want to look into a trusted or expedited traveler program to help you breeze through airport security lines. However, modern-day travelers have more than one option to explore, and they should pick the one that best meets their demands in terms of time away and money spent. So let’s find out whether TSA PreCheck or CLEAR better fits your needs.
What are the differences between CLEAR andTSA PreCheck?
CLEAR grants expedited access to the regular security line, while the PreCheck program grants expedited access to a separate line that does not require additional security screening.There are differences in their cost as well as the application processes. Here’s how CLEAR vs. TSA PreCheck stack up against each other
CLEAR vs. TSA PreCheck – Head to head
|Process||You can register online or in person but must go to an enrollment center to verify identification and set up biometric data.||You can apply online and book an in-person appointment for fingerprinting andbackground checks.|
|Advantages||CLEAR has a dedicated security line.|
You don’t need a photo ID and can verify your identity with a biometric scan.
|PreCheck also has a dedicated security line.|
You can do your physical security check without removing shoes, belts, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, light jackets, etc.
|Locations||CLEAR is available in 50+ airports, stadiums, and venues across the country.||PreCheck is available at 200+ airports and with 83 airlines across the US.|
CLEAR vs. TSA PreCheck – Pros and Cons
TSA PreCheck Pros
- The most obvious benefit of this first program is that TSA PreCheck is widely available. As a program run by the federal government, TSA PreCheck lanes are available at more than 80 airlines and more than 200 airports.
- The TSA PreCheck website says that as of October2022, 91% of TSA PreCheck holders went through security in less than five minutes.
- PreCheck members can get through security without taking out electronics or toiletries or taking off shoes, belts, and jewelry.
- TSA PreCheck is also the cheapest option and works well for people who mostly travel within the U.S. Only $85 is needed to be eligible for five years.
TSA PreCheck Cons
- Once you get your KTN or Known Traveler Number PreCheck works pretty smoothly. However, the fact that you cannot use the program until your conditional letter is a real con of this program. In addition, some enrollment centers, especially at big airport hubs, are full for the rest of the year and maybe even the next, so if you want an answer right away, you might have to go to a different enrollment center than the one closest to you.
- Also, because this program has become more popular over the years, the line for the TSA PreCheck lane may sometimes be longer than the line for regular security. So, just because you have a KTN doesn’t mean you’ll get through faster. In fact, having a KTN doesn’t even mean you’ll get TSA PreCheck. The TSA can choose not to put that famous green check mark on your boarding pass if they think it’s best. This is a rare con, but it could catch you off guard if you only fly domestically once or twice a year and don’t get PreCheck on one of those flights.
- The enrollment process for CLEAR doesn’t depend on how many appointments are open, so it’s possible to get cleared through CLEAR in a matter of days.
- After you finish the online part of the enrollment process, you can finish your enrollment by going to the CLEAR center, which is usually a group of pods near security. Again, you don’t need an appointment.
- Compared to PreCheck, CLEAR’s kiosks almost never have lines, so it also gets around the issue of regular security times being longer than PreCheck security times. You’ll breeze through it all!
- Another major win is that you can find CLEAR kiosks at some sports and concert venues because they can be used for more than just crossing borders.
- Hands down, the biggest problem with CLEAR is that it costs a lot at $189 a year. But there are ways around it. You can get a discount if you have an American Express Card or are a Delta or United Mileage Plus member. You can also add family or friends to your CLEAR account for $60 per person. This means that you can split the cost with other people.
- But here’s another con: even though the document check part of security is quick, CLEAR users still have to go through the rest of the security screening. If you don’t have TSA PreCheck, you’ll still have to take your liquids, electronics, shoes, etc., out of your carry-on bag. CLEAR has said that they want to work with TSA PreCheck formally in the future, so this worry may be unfounded in a few years.
Who can apply for CLEAR or TSA PreCheck?
Only U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents with government-issued IDs can use TSA PreCheck and CLEAR.
You can go to any CLEAR kiosk in the airport and sign up by showing a government ID and letting them scan your fingerprints and eyes. It takes about five minutes.
Joining TSA PreCheck takes a bit longer. To apply for TSA PreCheck, on the other hand, you have to go through a background check and security check, as well as a short interview at an acceptance center.
Clear ID is different from TSA PreCheck in another way – to join CLEAR, you don’t have to go through an interview.
Can you use CLEAR and TSA PreCheck together?
Yes, you can use both programs together. CLEAR speeds up the ID-checking portion of airport security, while TSA PreCheck speeds up the security line portion. So if you combine the two programs, you can pretty much breeze through the airport as quickly as possible.
Are they any age restrictions for CLEAR or PreCheck?
There are no age restrictions for joining TSA PreCheck, but you must be over 13 years to use it unaccompanied by an adult. CLEAR members must be over 18, but children under the age of 18 can use the CLEAR lane for free when accompanied by an adult CLEAR member.
Do I need TSA PreCheck if I have CLEAR?
Having CLEAR does not automatically give you access to TSA PreCheck. In addition, CLEAR is less widespread than TSA in terms of availability. Also, CLEAR does not offer the option not to remove shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts, or light jackets at the airport.
In our opinion, frequent flyers would do well to sign up for TSA PreCheck. And if you can afford to pay for both TSA PreCheck and Clear, go ahead. It’s the best way to get through airport security lines quickly.
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Since it is available at more airports and provides expedited security wait times as well as an easier screening process, the winner is TSA PreCheck. Those with Clear membership only have access to faster security lanes.What happens if you have clear but not TSA PreCheck? ›
If you have CLEAR but not TSA PreCheck, you'll cut to the front of the standard security line, where you'll need to take off your coat and shoes and remove any electronics in your bag. If you have both, you'll go to the front of the PreCheck line and make your way through even faster.Does clear get you through TSA faster? ›
Clear's biometric identity verification process will get you to the front of the security line faster than TSA PreCheck. TSA PreCheck will ensure a speedier, more straightforward screening process after an agent has verified your identity.Should you get clear if you have PreCheck? ›
If you have both, using Clear membership to get to the front of the TSA PreCheck line is the most “pro” move ever. Clear saves you time standing in line and TSA PreCheck keeps you from having to remove shoes and laptops at security. Without Clear, the TSA PreCheck line can sometimes be longer than expected.Is clear worth it for international travel? ›
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.Can you use clear for 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 you combine clear and TSA PreCheck? ›
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.Why do people not get TSA PreCheck? ›
This may be a random security issue. You aren't guaranteed PreCheck every time. Or it may be that the airline you are flying isn't a “participating airline.” You can check TSA's list at bit.ly/precheckairlines. Or it may be that the airport you're using is not a PreCheck airport.Does TSA PreCheck let you skip line? ›
You can explore choices such as TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, CLEAR and Mobile Passport. These all give you the chance to skip the line and get through the airport faster. TSA PreCheck membership lets you join the shorter PreCheck lines at security.How much faster is clear at the airport? ›
In our experience, CLEAR® can cut your time waiting in airport security lines in half or more. With both CLEAR® and PreCheck, I regularly get all the way through security in five minutes or less.
How long does it take to get approved? Most applicants receive approval notification in 3-5 days, though some applications can take up to 60 days.How long does it take to finish clear at the airport? ›
You can get started in about five minutes, and use CLEAR instantly once you're done. It's possible to start the process online, but you do have to finish with in-person enrollment at a CLEAR location. You answer questions to verify your identity and provide a valid photo ID and make your payment.Is it worth it to pay for TSA PreCheck? ›
TSA PreCheck can save you an enormous amount of time you would otherwise spend waiting in line for security. Not only can I attest to this personally, but 91% of PreCheck passengers reported waiting less than five minutes at airport security checkpoints nationwide in October alone, based on TSA data.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.Are there any downsides to TSA PreCheck? ›
Con: It's More Intense
If you're somebody who's very private or have some things in your past you'd rather keep hidden, then opting for TSA Precheck may not be for you. It's doubtful there's a person alive who particularly enjoys a background check and a nerve- wracking interview.