If you’ve gone through airport security lately, you may have seen signs and salespeople promoting the benefits of CLEAR. Currently, CLEAR is available in over two dozen major airports with more on the way. Chances are you were busy and didn’t spend the time to find out about it as you were checking your watch and grumbling about the people who still don’t seem to understand the rule about liquids in carry-on luggage.
Nevertheless, you may be curious about the benefits and the differences between the other trusted traveler programs. Many people have received a preview of CLEAR as part of a trial run by some airlines, including Delta. If you haven’t been lucky enough to get whisked to the front of the security checkpoint by a CLEAR ambassador as part of a pilot program, this post will help you decide whether it’s worth it.
In other posts, we have discussed the benefits of TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. We recommend that you click on the links to find out more details, but briefly, Global Entry works really well for frequent international travelers because passengers may skip the long lines at the border upon re-entry into the country, and TSA PreCheck helps U.S. passengers go through shorter security in the U.S. keeping shoes and coats on and liquids and electronics in hand luggage. TSA PreCheck costs $85 for a 5-year membership and saves passengers from the new TSA rules that require removal of any electronic larger than a cell phone in some airports. Global Entry costs $100, even if the government denies the application, but many credit card companies reimburse the application cost. If you get Global Entry, you also get TSA PreCheck, but just having TSA PreCheck does not get you the benefits of Global Entry.
Who is eligible for CLEAR?
Individuals 18 years of age and older who have a valid, unexpired, unamended photo ID, which must be one of the following: US Driver’s License, US Passport, US Passport Card, US-issued Permanent Resident Card, State Issued ID, or US Military ID. Children under 18 can use the CLEAR lane for free when accompanied by a CLEAR family member. The child does not need to enroll separately.
TSAPreCheck is a little stricter. Children ages 12 and younger may use the TSA PreCheck lane when traveling with a parent or guardian who has the indicator on their boarding pass. Travelers 13 and older who do not have a TSA PreCheck boarding pass must go through standard security lanes or apply for it on their own (with parental permission). Global Entry does not allow anyone to accompany a Global Entry member.
How much does it cost?
$179 per year or $15 a month. You may add up to three adult family members for only $50/yr each. CLEAR will refund the application fee if you are not approved. Global Entry, however, does not refund you if they reject you.
How do you apply?
You can apply in person or online. It took me less than 5 minutes to fill out the application online, but the fine print at the end of the application states, “Members who enroll online must also enroll in-person after submitting the online enrollment application in order to complete the process of establishing membership in the Program. At a minimum, in-person enrollment requires Member to (1) visit an authorized CLEAR enrollment location, and (2) provide identification documents, fingerprints, and any other form of authentication required as part of the CLEAR enrollment process, in CLEAR’s sole discretion. If Member’s application is not approved by CLEAR, CLEAR will refund the Charges.” The application for Global Entry (which also entitles you to TSA PreCheck), can take considerably longer because you must answer questions about your criminal history and places you have traveled, lived, and worked in the past five years, among other things.
How do you use it?
Even if you sign up online, you will still have to do the in-person process at the airport, which involves scanning your iris, fingerprints, and identification. Upon approval, which takes minutes, you just scan your boarding pass and fingerprints and go the front of the line, usually with the CLEAR ambassador. You don’t get guaranteed to go to TSA PreCheck screening, but you do go to the front of the screening line, either TSA PreCheck (if you’re already authorized) or TSA standard screening. See the CLEAR diagram below.
Where is CLEAR available?
As of January 2018, you can use CLEAR in the following airports: Atlanta (ATL), New York John F. Kennedy (JFK), New York LaGuardia (LGA), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), San Jose (SJC), Denver (DEN), Detroit (DTW), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Dallas Love Field (DAL), Houston Bush (IAH), Houston Hobby (HOU), San Antonio (SAT), Salt Lake City (SLC), Austin (AUS), Orlando (MCO), Miami (MIA), Las Vegas (LAS), Baltimore-Washington (BWI), Seattle (SEA), Washington Dulles (IAD), Washington Reagan (DCA), and Minneapolis-Saint Paul (MSP).
You can also use it for faster entry into some sporting events including Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in New York, Coors Field in Denver, Marlins Park and AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, AT&T Park in San Francisco, and Comerica Park in Detroit. We saw signups for the program at the NY Jets game in New Jersey last year.
Is it worth it?
If you have TSAPreCheck and want to go the front of the PreCheck line, then you’re in luck. CLEAR is integrated with PreCheck so if you are PreCheck eligible, then you go to the CLEAR lane and verify your identity. The CLEAR ambassador will escort you to the PreCheck expedited screening lanes. Of course, you have to have paid for CLEAR first.
If you travel on Delta frequently, CLEAR may make sense because there are special offers for SkyMile members. Membership in CLEAR is complimentary for Diamond Medallion® members and there is $79 preferential pricing for Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion members. Additionally, CLEAR offers a $99 annual membership rate for General SkyMiles members.
If you don’t have TSAPreCheck and you’re not a SkyMiles member, you have to decide whether it’s worth it to pay the $179 annual fee (or $15 a month). If you only travel once or twice a year, you may decide to get to the airport earlier, brave the long lines, and save your money for healthy snacks at the airport.
To test out the online enrollment process for this blog, I started the CLEAR application online and didn’t finish because I continued working on this post. CLEAR has just sent me an email stating, “Busy? You belong in Fast Class.” I guess I will finish the application after all. We already have Global Entry and TSAPreCheck but will give CLEAR a try and will report back.
Have you used CLEAR? Tell us about your experiences below.