Is CLEAR Worth the Cost? My First Time Using the Security Fast-Pass
When it comes to getting a fast pass through airport security, there are a few options. There’s TSA PreCheck, a government-run program, and then there’s CLEAR, a privately operated service. And they serve different purposes.
CLEAR basically allows you to cut to the front of the line. So on its own, you can skip to the front of the standard security line. In tandem with PreCheck, you can skip to the front of that shorter, faster line, keeping your coat and shoes on and keeping electronics inside your bag. That’s why we’ve called it our favorite airport time-saver.
Despite that hype, I had shied away from supplementing my TSA PreCheck and signing up for CLEAR – the sticker price of $179 a year was hard to swallow. But with TSA delays climbing amid the government shutdown and an easy way to cut the cost in half, I finally took the plunge and used it before a Friday morning flight.
After getting through a backed-up security line in about three minutes, consider me a convert.
The Basics Behind CLEAR
CLEAR is a privately run trusted-traveler program that takes both your fingerprints and iris scans to confirm your identity before security screening. Once you’ve signed up (more on this shortly) and finalized your registration, you simply head to the CLEAR lane, confirm your identity at a kiosk, and get whisked away to the front of the TSA line by a CLEAR ambassador.
The one hitch with CLEAR is that it’s not available at every airport – but its presence is growing fast. It’s available at 26 U.S. airports and counting, along with a handful of professional sports stadiums. Scan through the list and you’ll find plenty of Delta hubs, thanks to a close partnership between the two companies.
- Atlanta (ATL)
- Austin (AUS)
- Baltimore (BWI)
- Dallas (DFW)
- Denver (DEN)
- Coors Field (Denver, CO)
- Detroit (DTW)
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (FLL)
- Houston-Intercontinental (IAH)
- Houston-Hobby (HOU)
- Las Vegas (LAS)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Miami (MIA)
- New Orleans (MSY)
- American Airlines Arena (Miami, FL)
- Marlins Park (Miami, FL)
- Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)
- New York City-LaGuardia (LGA)
- New York City-JFK (JFK) – Terminals 2 & 4
- New York City-Westchester (HPN)
- Citi Field (New York, NY)
- Yankee Stadium (New York, NY)
- Orlando (MCO)
- Phoenix (PHX)
- Salt Lake City (SLC)
- San Antonio (SAT)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- AT&T Park (San Francisco)
- San Jose, CA (SJC)
- Seattle (SEA)
- Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD)
- Washington, D.C.-Reagan (DCA)
Signing Up For CLEAR
Signing up for CLEAR is easy. It’s the price tag that’s scary.
Head to CLEARme.com to register for your membership. At $179 per year, it’s a steep cost – especially considering a TSA PreCheck membership costs just $85 for a five-year membership.
But there are easy ways to drastically cut that cost.
For starters, all Delta SkyMiles members can enroll in CLEAR for just $99. So even if you’re not flying Delta, you can quickly sign up for a SkyMiles account to capitalize on this lower cost. But if you’ve got status with Delta or hold one of the co-branded Delta SkyMiles American Express, that drops to $79. And the lowest pricing of all is reserved for top-tier Delta Diamond status holders, who can select an annual membership as a free perk.
CLEAR is also currently offering a promotion in tandem with Lyft, offering a free, three-month trial in CLEAR. And once you’ve finalized your enrollment at the airport, you’ll get a $20 ride credit with Lyft . Just beware that this membership will auto-renew at $179 per year once your trial is up. So be sure to cancel before that renewal date or contact CLEAR to extend your plan at a cheaper price through your Delta cards or membership.
After signing up, you’ll need to finalize your enrollment at the airport before your flight.
Finalizing CLEAR Enrollment at the Airport
Don’t worry – it’s not hard.
After you’ve signed up and received a confirmation email from CLEAR, you’re all set. Just head for the CLEAR lanes at security checkpoints – with bright neon signs, they’re hard to miss – as if you’re ready to go through security. Tell a CLEAR ambassador you need to finalize your enrollment, and they’ll guide you toward a kiosk.
You won’t need anything but your boarding pass and an ID. A CLEAR ambassador will help you finish everything up. That includes getting fingerprints, thumbprints, and an iris scan. They’ll take a quick snapshot of your face and scan your driver’s license. And that’s it. The whole process of finalizing enrollment took about five minutes.
Using CLEAR to Cut to the Front of TSA Security
Once you’ve finalized your enrollment – or if that’s already taken care of – you’re off.
Show a CLEAR agent your boarding pass, and they’ll whisk you through their dedicated lane and drop you off in front of the TSA security agent. If you’ve got PreCheck, you head to the front of that lane. If not, you’ll go to the front of the standard screening lane.
CLEAR members don’t need to show their ID – that’s what CLEAR is for. Just show the TSA agent your boarding pass and you’re ready to go through the metal detectors.
After finalizing my enrollment at Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), it took about three minutes to run my baggage through the equipment, walk through, and grab it on the other end. TSA PreCheck on its own is great, but CLEAR can put it to shame.
There’s no denying that CLEAR is expensive. But considering how easy it is to substantially cut that cost, it could easily be worth it. You’ll never find a quicker way to get through TSA security checkpoints than by using CLEAR.
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.