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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.
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:
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||4 years|
|The Business Platinum Card® from American Express||4 years|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card||4 years|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||4 years|
|The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card||4 years|
|United℠ Explorer Card||4 years|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card||4 years|
|IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card||4 years|
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card||4 years|
|Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business||4 years|
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®||5 years|
|Citi Prestige® Card||5 years|
|U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card||4 years|
|TravElite American Express® Card||5 years|
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card||4 years|
|PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card||5 years|
|HSBC Premier World Mastercard® credit card||5 years (TSA Pre✓® only)|
|HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard® credit card||5 years (TSA Pre✓® only)|
How CLEAR Works
Clear states that it is as easy as 1-2-3:
- Arrive relaxed – Take it easy knowing you'll get through security in minutes.
- Confirm it's you – Check-in at a Clear location with your eyes or fingertips.
- 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.
- 3X Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, from subway swipes and window seats to hotel stays and city tours
- 3X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide
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.
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
- CLE-ORD Registered me – Slower
- CLE-BNA Random ID check – Slower
- CLE-DFW Random ID check – Slower
- CLE-MKE No delay – Still Slower
- 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.
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?
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