I Just Registered For CLEAR, Should You?

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Let's face it, airports can be stressful places. To me, an airport is a fun place to go, but not everyone feels the same way. In fact, there are few other places you can go where you'll find so many irritable people gathering in one place. In his Critical Points post, Richard Kerr shares an interesting proposition; passengers should be rated based on behavior. I understand his position, but I feel that this would be an additional stressor. However, I ask: Can Clear help improve at least one of the points of stress when transiting airports?

What is CLEAR?

Clear is an expedited security service that uses your biometric data to confirm your identity and speed you through security. It's available at 60+ airports and other venues in the U.S., including hubs like Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, and New York.

TSA Pre✓ vs. CLEAR

There seems to be some confusion amongst travelers as to what the difference is, so here it is in short.

  • CLEAR is a biometric identifier (think electronic driver's license or ID).
  • TSA Precheck is a government service. It allows you to pay your way through expedited security clearance after having completed a background check.

If you have both, you should be able to pass through TSA/Pre✓ lines without carrying a license or passport for your domestic travels.

How TSA Pre✓ Works

The TSA states:

Keep moving. TSA Pre✓® saves you time and stress. With a 5 year, $85 membership, you can speed through security and don’t need to remove your: shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets. 

TSA Precheck claims to save time
TSA Precheck claims to save time

Credit Cards With Global Entry/TSA Pre✓ Fee Credits

Fortunately, many of our favorite reward cards offer ways to avoid paying for the fee out-of-pocket. The following credit cards could provide you with exceptional value because they will allow you to use your points or even outright cover your application fees:

CardCredit Frequency
The Platinum Card® from American Express (Terms Apply)4 years
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (Terms Apply)4 years
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (Terms Apply)4 years
Chase Sapphire Reserve®4 years
The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card4 years
United℠ Explorer Card4 years
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card4 years
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card4 years
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card4 years
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business4 years
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®5 years
Citi Prestige® Card5 years
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card4 years
TravElite American Express® Card5 years
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card5 years
HSBC Premier World Mastercard® credit card5 years - TSA Pre✓® only
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard® credit card5 years - TSA Pre✓® only

How CLEAR Works

Should you get Clear?
Should you get Clear?

Clear states that it is as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Arrive relaxed – Take it easy knowing you'll get through security in minutes.
  2. Confirm it's you – Check-in at a Clear location with your eyes or fingertips.
  3. Keep moving – Get where you're going with time to spare.

Simply step up to the Clear machines and staff will assist you with either a retina or fingerprint scan and scanning your boarding pass. Once that is complete and you've been identified, you will be able to skip ahead of others in the security line. They further suggest that using Clear combined with Global Entry/TSA Pre✓ will get you through even faster. Until very recently, many who've held multiple cards with a Global Entry/TSA Pre✓ fee credit have been unable to put these to use.

Not all cardholders need multiple fee credits for Global Entry/TSA Pre✓. A few months ago, American Express partnered with Clear to offer their members a fee credit that will finally assist them too with the Refreshed American Express® Green Card. It's not just a one-time fee credit either. It provides a $100 annual credit that could nearly cover the full cost of Clear each year in select circumstances.

American Express® Green Card
American Express® Green Card
Apply Now
Rates & Fees
(Terms Apply)
American Express® Green Card
Annual Fee$150
Welcome Bonus Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, from subway swipes and window seats to hotel stays and city tours.
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide.
  • Receive up to $100 per year in statement credits when you use the American Express® Green Card to pay for your CLEAR® membership at select airports and stadiums across the U.S. and Permissible Biometric Scanning Technology terms: eye scanning, irises scanning and fingerprints scanning.
  • Use the American Express® Green Card to purchase lounge access through LoungeBuddy to any of the lounges in the LoungeBuddy network - no memberships, elite statuses, or first class tickets required. Earn up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year on your LoungeBuddy purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $150 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Rates & Fees

How Much Does CLEAR Cost?

A standard Clear membership lists for $179 per year or $15 per month. The service can be used anywhere Clear is accepted including airport security, ballparks and stadiums, Hertz, along with many other Clear locations. Clear members can also add up to 3 adult family members to their account for $50/each per year. Children under 18 don't need to enroll and can tag along for free with a Clear member. Eligible students can receive Clear for $50 for four years.

However, as I mentioned above, there are some exceptions. Delta announced a partnership with Clear back in 2016 which provided discounts or free membership status dependent on your Medallion status. Not to be outdone, United also announced a partnership with Clear in July 2019.

Registering for CLEAR

While I've long-held the Chase United℠ Explorer Card, in August 2018, I achieved United Premier Silver Status. This allowed me to purchase an individual annual membership at a discounted rate of $109. Since I won't be re-qualifying for Premier Status in 2020, I figured I might as well jump on the deal. I did it because I had many upcoming opportunities to test it out. Children under 18 are included in a membership, but I also registered my wife for an additional $50. Therefore, my family is covered for $159 throughout the duration.

How to register for Clear
How to register for Clear

My Experience So Far

My expectations for Clear were set pretty high from friends and members of Award Travel 101 who've raved about how much time they've saved using the service. That said, I haven't found it worthwhile as of yet. In fact, it's actually slowed me down given my home airport's TSA Pre✓ line rarely has more than a few people in it. Much of the time I'm the first or second person in line, so proceeding through Clear actually slows me down. Clear is supposed to act as an alternative form of ID, and this should allow you to clear security without a license or passport.

Registering in-person was fairly painless. It took about five minutes for an agent to walk me through the process. You will need a valid form of identification with you on your first arrival. First, we did a couple of fingerprint scans. Next, we did the retina scans. After finishing my profile, we proceeded to the Clear booths which now identified me and scanned my boarding pass. It should be noted that Clear is still expanding. While they have stations in Cleveland, none of the other airports I've traveled to had Clear, or if they did, it wasn't available at the terminal I needed.

How it's worked for me

  1. CLE-ORD Registered me – Slower
  2. CLE-BNA Random ID check – Slower
  3. CLE-DFW Random ID check – Slower
  4. CLE-MKE No delay – Still Slower
  5. CLE-TPA Registered wife – Slower

At the time of my travels, Clear was being installed in Chicago (ORD), but it was not yet available. It isn't available in Nashville (BNA). It is available in Terminal E at DFW, but I was at Terminal D, so that wasn't any help.

Terminal Map of DFW
Terminal Map of DFW

Milwaukee and Tampa don't have the service either. Now to be “Clear,” I'm not flying out of a primary hub or large city, but even then, I've been seeing an alarming increase of social media posts showing the Clear lines as being longer than the TSA Pre✓ lines. I may be in the minority, but I'm not finding the service valuable. How has your experience been?

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: American Express® Green Card (Rates & Fees)

I Just Registered For CLEAR, Should You?
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Comments

  • Holly Jean Martin says:

    My home airport is MCO. Clear member since its inception. There is no other way to get around extreme lines at both standard and precheck lines.
    Worth every penny

  • I’ve had CLEAR and TSA Pre for a number of years now. It is a time-saver at some airports like Denver or Atlanta but I don’t think it’s worth it if you fly from smaller airports or fly from non-Delta or (now) non-United hubs for the most part. Even being in a different terminal may mean they don’t have CLEAR lines where you need to enter. The other problem is that as more people get CLEAR it will save less time of course. Also don’t forget that CLEAR also works with some Hertz locations and some major events like some NFL and MLB stadiums for example.

  • I have Clear and mostly fly out of BOS (only in terminal A), and there is never a line. Usually Pre-Check can be backed up, especially during peak business travel times.

    I have Global Entry through Amex and get discounted Clear through Delta, so it makes a ton of sense for me.

    I’ve seen clear at AUS, LAS, LAX, and others… It’s always been a quick way to get past the ID check lines.

  • I hope this is better than Global Entry. With Global Entry, “trusted Traveler”, they only trust you if you have the baggage check terminal mark that you have globally entry ibn your boarding pass.

  • I was enrolled for a CLEAR trial in the spring of 2019 at Detroit. On one trip, I was running late getting to the airport (my own fault), & CLEAR was the ONLY reason I was able to get through security fast enough to still make my flight.

    It’s been a pleasant experience at my home airport, Washington Dulles as well. Every time I’ve gone to the line, they’ve whisked me through the kiosk, & escorted me to the scanner line.

    I also enrolled my wife as part of my membership. We intend on getting Pre-check soon. I know the government is just nickel & diming me here for this stuff, but it certainly cuts down on the potential security screening time, & therefore reduces a stressful part of the equation.

    As they say, “Your mileage may vary”, but I’m willing to pay a bit of $ for less stress in life.

  • At ORD, CLEAR is only available at the United terminal.

  • This is a great comparison of TSA Pre✓ and Clear. Personally, I’m not going to pay a not insignificant amount for a Clear membership each year when I have Global Entry/Pre✓ that is almost always as fast as Clear in my experience, but that’s me.

  • Very good info! Thanks and happy new year!

  • Does CLEAR make the security line shorter? Definitely yes in my home town of NYC where my primary airline, Delta, has a hub! Do I like having my biological data stored in CLEAR computers? No. Who knows if they will be hacked? Is the cost reasonable? Yes, if you’re a frequent traveler using airports that have CLEAR. I got my membership for $50/yr as a family member of a Delta Diamond who gets it for free as a perk of Delta status. Would I recommend it? Yes. Realize that CLEAR lets you skip the TSA security line, but you still have to go through TSA security once through the line the same as everyone else (you just skip the line), and that process (putting your bags through a TSA scanner, waiting for the guy in front of you who forgot to remove his metal belt buckle) can still be inefficient (the non-CLEAR part), but it does make the line much shorter. Further, CLEAR often has a presence at large stadium arenas (e.g. Madison Square Garden) where you can also speed through the security lines. Also, CLEAR employees are always cheerful & friendly.

  • Is there any advantage of having “CLEAR” if you already have Global Entry?

  • I haven’t registered for CLEAR. I would have done so if I had gotten the 45000 Amex Green offer as it’s part of the benefits. This post doesn’t make it seem like it would be worth it, even with the significant discount.

  • It really depends on the airport. I’ve found in some DC area airports that the TSA pre-check line is often longer than the non-precheck line, since so many DC area residents have precheck. However, overall I’m happy with pre-check and don’t feel the need for Clear.

  • When flying out of airports like DEN and SFO clear has been great. I think it really depends on the location you’re flying from.

  • Michael Skelly says:

    Thanks for the overview. I haven’t jumped in to the TSA pre check yet, but I’m sure I will eventually. It’s good to know what is out there to choose from.

  • Yeah, Clear seems like all the bad and none of the good. I suppose I wouldn’t mind skipping ballpark security lines, but I kinda hate the whole idea otherwise. Paying the TSA $17/yr to have a pre-stored security check (and really fast lines everywhere – I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than 10 minutes in a pre-check line, and it’s usually just enough time to fish out my license and boarding pass) is way better than $150/yr to effectively broadcast your “status” by having someone escort you to a kiosk.

    It just kinda seems like an obnoxious lifestyle-brand choice to be better than “the rabble”, and the fact that it’s worse than Pre-check for 10x the price seems just about right for a business built around that.

  • I just registered using the green card benefit, delta discount, and cash back portal for a net of $9. I’ll be in Denver in 2 weeks to check it out but I don’t see it being super useful to me based on location but I figured it was worth a shot for that price.

  • Cool that you can use these to travel without id

  • Not needed if I have Global Entry.

  • Thanks for the data points. I’ve wondered about getting a Clear membership, but I usually fly out of LAX and rarely have I seen an indication that using it would be faster than Precheck. I’m intrigued to hear about its use elsewhere, such as ballparks, but I haven’t seen it at any stadium I’ve visited, except perhaps the (fairly) new LAFC stadium. If it were totally free, I’d try it out, but with a minor charge I think I’ll hold off.

  • Maybe I’m a bit too doomsday-ish, but I don’t know how I feel about this company having access to my biometric data like a retina scan. I don’t even remember if I’ve ever been finger-printed. Perhaps I took the novel 1984 a bit too seriously, but I feel like there is too much at risk to pay to have any company store records of my scans, especially when you consider how common data breaches are. For now I’ll continue to arrive at the airport early and wait my turn in the line.

    • My concerns as well. I experienced a minor identity theft incident many years ago. Even though it was minor it still took time and effort to untangle. I can’t imagine the consequences if my biometric data was stolen and then updated or refreshed by an imposter. The imposter then owns my name and ID. I would hate to have to untangle that sort of identity theft.

  • I think this is somewhat airport dependent as of now, but I would agree that so far the results aren’t that impressive.

  • It is a no brainer to sign up for these services, when your credit cards reimburse the fees.

  • Thank you for sharing your experience. Wow I was thinking about signing up but now will reconsider.

  • Thank you for sharing your experience. I was thinking about signing up but now will reconsider.

  • Good to know. I find a double-edged sword. Uncertain gain at the expense of further invasion of invidual freedom. I can’t forget Aynd Rand, though some situations seem inevitable to me in 2020 …

  • I suspect a lot more advancements will come to speed up the process.

  • Who is CLEAR run by? I’m quite weary of voluntarily giving out biometric data.

  • Something bothers me about having to pay extra for a basic government function, so I’m disinclined to do it – what are taxes for?!

  • There are no CLEAR locations in my state, not worth spending the money for me.

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    Anything that can reduce waiting times is valuable. I’m not convinced that CLEAR has met this goal as of yet. TSA pre-check is fine.

  • ron_vaughn@hotmail.com says:

    Clearly not for me (hope I am first).

  • germanejane says:

    How worthwhile is this for a UK national travelling to the US 4-5 times a year?

  • Can see why it doesn’t hurt to sign up if you have a card like that where the fee will be mostly covered, but most of the time I haven’t had big lines at Precheck that make me wish I had clear. Saturday before Christmas at IAD was the first time I saw a large precheck line that Clear would have been significantly faster. We ended up getting lucky as they opened a new line downstairs and grabbed a bunch off the end of the line and directed us there where we were through in a total of 10 min.

  • Thanks for the detailed review. Sounds like something that down the line might be worth it but not right now.

  • I did’n know that this service exists… Maybe it’s worth only for very frequent flyers who can take advantage of the time savings. I don’t think it’s worth for tourists.

  • Another “thumbs up” for Clear. Their service has saves me countless hours of time in the past two years.

  • Gregg Miner says:

    Great program. As a multi-million mile flyer CLEAR saves me a significant amount of time in every airport where they are.

  • If you have CLEAR at your home airport, its definitely worth it, especially if your home airport is like Denver.

    I have clear for about 3 years now and it has totally been worth it. Plus, you should never be required to pay the retail $179. The max is $119.

  • This is the first honest writeup I’ve seen. I did a trial membership, and it was ok, but maybe it saved me an average of 30 seconds each time. And there’s something seriously wrong with a system that should be all tech and automated but is ridiculously manual, with a person guiding you how to use the kiosk every time, then walking you over to another person, who then walks you over past the TSA desk.

  • I’ve seen this and at my home airport it would probably be helpful if I had a later flight in the day. I usually take early flights and don’t have to wait very long in TSA. I agree with some others, if it saved a good amount of time and was available at more airports and terminals then it might be worth it.

  • Great write up! Thx

  • Good news. If I already have a global entry, what is the benefit of the program?

  • It’s a win if it also alleviates the regular lines.

  • Very “Clear” and informative post. Thanks!!

  • CLEAR is pricey and is missing an immigration/customs component similar to global re-entry.

  • I have the Amex Green card with the Clear reimbursement benefit, but unfortunately my home airport doesn’t have Clear.
    Hopefully Clear will expand to more airports soon.

  • Is clear of any help if you already have global entry and tsa precheck?

  • I got clear on a recommendation and it was well worth the price. At my home as airport (AUS) it saves as lot I f time.

  • I’m able to go through global reception in Chicago. I registered for CLEAR and think it faster to go through global reception if you can rather than CLEAR.

    Has anyone else been able to compare the times for each method?

  • Don Andrews says:

    My wife and I did the free trial with Clear. We ended up staying with TSA Pre. It always seemed just as fast.

  • I have Glabal Entry and have been eyeing CLEAR for years. Over those years, the Prechek lines at the airports I regularly fly from have decreased and Clear had no location there. So, as far as I an concerned Clear is a no go.

  • Chuck Warren says:

    Sadly my home airport, KLEX doesn’t have this…yet…maybe someday

  • Unmesh Agarwala says:

    I have TSA-Pre and had been thinking about Clear but it doesn’t look like it will be that much value add for me from the comments

  • When I can use an airport with Clear and the Clear lane is open, it almost always saves time. Only once, in the years I have been a member has the regular (let alone Pre-Check) line been faster. In that case, it seemed it was a case of newer employees combined with a technology issue on Clear’s end. I should also point out, that the main airport I use does not have Clear. However, it is worth the price as most airports I fly back from do have clear.

  • The airport we fly out of is small and has little wait, so no reason to risk the hacks for us

  • You can add the Citi Expedia World Mastercard to the TSA Precheck list. But, with the caveat that it qualifies as one of the somewhat unusual and unclear things included in the annual $100 “Air Travel Fee Credit”, along with Global Entry fee.

  • For airports like DEN where the TSA pre line sometiimes is as long as the regular line, Clear has saved me a lot of time. So if your home airport is someething like DEN you will certainly appreciate Clear’s benefit.

  • Price appears to be a little steep given the fact it may actually not save any time at all.

  • price seen steep since it may not actually save you any time

  • My home airport normally has reasonably long lines so both my wife and I have really benefitted from Clear. I recommend it if your airport has it or you travel frequently through one that does.

  • For now I’ll just stick with GE. Don’t see where it would benefit me that much more for the extra outlay.

  • Very well summarized article and evaluation for the CLEAR service. If I find the CLEAR service for a discount, might try it. Otherwise will just wait.

  • If I have to choose from just one program, I’d say Global Entry and be done with it, since it includes TSA Precheck domestic routes.

  • I recently downgraded a Platinum Card to a Green card so I could preserve my membership rewards. Signed up for Clear since it is basically free with Delta status and the Green card. Home airport is Cleveland and our Precheck lines are normally pretty short, so we’ll see how much use it ends up getting. Curious to see how it will work for Indians games this summer.

  • Look out big brother

  • As i already have global entry/tsa pre, the big draw of this for me would be stadiums. i have seen clear at NYC area stadiums, but the line honestly seemed pretty long. just on first glance, i’m not sure how much quicker those people got into the stadium. i’d be curious if there are people here that have actually had a lot of success using clear at stadiums as compared to the regular lines. it seems like most of the comments thus far just highlight that clear is in place at a lot of stadiums, but not necessarily commenting on how helpful it has been. please share your thoughts

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