CLEAR: Our Favorite Airport Time Saver
Back in 2015, I took the plunge and finally enrolled in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Global Entry program and haven’t looked back. Between the benefit of expedited entry upon return to the U.S. from abroad and the included TSA PreCheck, it really is one of the best ways to greatly improve your airport experiences. Not to mention, once you are in the program, it is good for five years.
Back in February, CLEAR arrived at my home airport, Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP), and I became very curious. What was the service all about? What would be the advantage of the service if I already had TSA PreCheck? After using the service three times now, I am happy to report that it is a great new service that I will have a hard time doing without.
What is CLEAR?
If you are not familiar with CLEAR, it is a private, trusted-traveler program that uses both fingerprint and iris identification technology to confirm a traveler’s identity. After enrolling on their website, travelers can go to any airport offering the service to complete the registration process (takes roughly five minutes).
Once you have been cleared at the CLEAR personal kiosk, an ambassador will escort you to the front of the metal detecting and baggage scanning lines depending on your TSA eligibility. This means that if you have TSAPreCheck, you will then be escorted to the front of the PreCheck line (see diagram below). Because CLEAR authenticates your driver’s license or passport during the enrollment process, you never have to take your identification out when checking in through CLEAR. Just scan your boarding pass and you will be on your way within minutes.
Where is CLEAR Available?
Up until the beginning of 2017, CLEAR was only available at a select amount of airports. However, the list is quickly growing. Airports and professional sports venues currently offering the CLEAR service are as follows:
- Atlanta (ATL)
- Austin (AUS)
- Baltimore (BWI)
- Dallas (DFW)
- Denver (DEN)
- Coors Field (Denver, CO)
- Detroit (DTW)
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (FLL)
- Houston (IAH, HOU)
- Las Vegas (LAS)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Miami (MIA)
- American Airlines Arena (Miami, FL)
- Marlins Park (Miami, FL)
- Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP)
- New York (LGA, HPN, JFK)
- Citi Field (New York, NY)
- Yankee Stadium (New York, NY)
- Orlando (MCO)
- Phoenix (PHX)
- Salt Lake City (SLT)
- San Antonio (SAT)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- AT&T Park (San Francisco, CA)
- San Jose, CA (SJC)
- Seattle (SEA)
- Washington D.C. (DCA, IAD)
CLEAR Service Cost?
An annual membership in the CLEAR program is $179, which is a steep price to pay. However, there are many discounts available (including simply being a Delta SkyMiles member). As you may have noticed from the list above, many of the CLEAR airports are located in Delta airlines hubs. In April of 2016, a partnership was announced between Delta and CLEAR to bring the service to more airports around the country.
As a part of this partnership, Delta offers the service at a discount for all SkyMiles members. You can receive membership for $79 just for holding one of the co-branded American Express Delta SkyMiles credit cards or for being a Platinum, Gold, or Silver Medallion member. Further, the service is free for their Diamond Medallion members. General SkyMiles members can join the program for $99.
My Experience With CLEAR
As of writing this article, I have used the CLEAR service three times. After filling out the online enrollment form, I completed my in-person registration at the Las Vegas airport (LAS). My CLEAR ambassador was helpful and the process took roughly 5 minutes (fingerprint, iris, and drivers license scans). The day I was traveling out of LAS, there was no TSA PreCheck as they were doing 100% of the security as canine screens. As you can imagine, the security line was backed up. After my check-in with CLEAR, I was expedited to the front of the line and passed about 300 people in line! I was sold.
A few weeks ago, I was traveling from Minneapolis to Atlanta on business. I was able to use the CLEAR service at both airports and couldn’t have been more impressed. Check-in took less than 2 minutes and I was expedited to the front of the TSA Pre Check line during both experiences. Combined, I spent less than 10 minutes in security lines during my trip.
We’re big fans of the CLEAR service but feel the full price of $179 is too expensive, but luckily even basic Delta SkyMiles members can get it for only $99. We highly recommend the service if you can snag it for a discount. It will be interesting to see what Delta’s long-term play is with the CLEAR partnership. Will we see CLEAR included with American Express co-branded Delta SkyMiles credit cards? We hope so.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.