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||Atlanta, GA||ATL||North & South Domestic Terminals|
|Austin||Austin, TX||AUS||Checkpoints 1 & 2|
|Baltimore||Baltimore, MD||BWI||Checkpoints A,B,C, D & E|
|Birmingham||Birmingham, AL||BHM||Main Terminal|
|Boston||Boston, MA||BOS||Terminal A|
|Cincinnati||Cincinnati, OH||CVG||Main Terminal|
|Chicago-O'Hare||Chicago, IL||ORD||Terminal 1|
|Cleveland ||Cleveland, OH||CLE||Center & South Checkpoints|
|Dallas-Fort Worth||Dallas, TX||DFW||Terminal E|
|Dallas-Love Field||Dallas, TX||DAL||Terminal 1|
|Denver||Denver, CO||DEN||North & South Entrances|
|Detroit||Detroit, MI||DTW||North & McNamara Terminals|
|Fort Lauderdale||Ft. Lauderdale, FL||FLL||Terminals 1 & 2|
|Houston-Intercontinental||Houston, TX||IAH||Terminals A, B, C and E|
|Houston-Hobby||Houston, TX||HOU||Main Terminal|
|Las Vegas||Las Vegas, NV||LAS||Terminals 1 & 3|
|Los Angeles||Los Angeles, CA||LAX||Terminals 1 - 7|
|Miami||Miami, FL||MIA||Checkpoints E & H|
|Minneapolis−Saint Paul||Minneapolis, MN||MSP||Terminal 1|
|New Orleans||New Orleans, LA||MSY||Concourse D|
|New York City-John F. Kennedy||New York, NY||JFK||Terminals 2 & 4|
|New York-LaGuardia||New York, NY||LGA||Terminals C & D|
|Newark||Newark, NJ||EWR||Terminal C|
|Westchester County||New York, NY||HPN||Main Terminal|
|Orlando||Orlando, FL||MCO||East & West Security|
|Phoenix||Phoenix, AZ||PHX||Terminals 2,3 & 4|
|Salt Lake City||Salt Lake City, UT||SLC||Terminals 1 & 2|
|San Antonio||San Antonio, TX||SAT||Terminals A & B|
|San Francisco||San Francisco, CA||SFO||Terminals 1-3, International Terminals A & G|
|San Jose||San Jose, CA||SJC||Terminal A & C|
|Seattle-Tacoma||Seattle, WA||SEA||Checkpoints 1-5|
|Washington, D.C. -Dulles International||Washington D.C.||IAD||Main Terminal & East Security Checkpoint|
|Washington, D.C.-Ronald Reagan||Washington D.C.||DCA||Terminals A, B & C|
As mentioned there is also a growing list of professional sports venues offering CLEAR which can be found below.
|Sports Venue||City||Where to Access|
|SunTrust Park||Atlanta, GA||Chop House, First Base & Third Base Gates|
|Oriole Park at Camden Yards||Baltimore, MD||Gate C|
|Progressive Field||Cleveland, OH||E. 9th Street Patio Gate|
|Globe Life Park in Arlington||Arlington, TX||First Base Gate|
|Coors Field||Denver, CO||Gates C & D|
|Comerica Park||Detroit, MI||Gate A|
|STAPLES Center||Los Angeles, CA||Figueroa Street Entrance
|Banc of California Stadium||Los Angeles, CA||Northwest Plaza & Northeast Gate|
|AmericanAirlines Arena||Miami, FL||Gates 1 & 2|
|Target Field||Minneapolis, MN||Gate 34|
|Yankee Stadium||New York, NY||Babe Ruth Plaza, Suite Entrance, & Gate 6|
|Citi Field||New York, NY||Jackie Robinson Rotunda & Seaver Gate|
|Madison Square Garden||New York, NY||7th Ave South Entrance|
|Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum||Oakland, CA||Gate C & D|
|Oracle Park||San Francisco, CA||Willie Mays Gate & King Street Gates
|Avaya Stadium||San Jose, CA||Main Gate|
|T-Mobile Park||Seattle, WA||Home Plate & Left Field Entrances|
|CenturyLink Field||Seattle, WA||North Plaza & Southwest Entrance|
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 $119. 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 $109. 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. United recently partnered up with CLEAR to offer similar pricing to its own members.
But it can potentially get even cheaper. The American Express Green Card was recently updated with a host of new benefits including an annual $100 credit towards the cost of CLEAR membership. That means you could potentially get the service for only $9 each year if you pay for it with the Green Card and are an existing United or Delta credit cardholder or have status with either airline.
If you don’t meet either of those criteria, simply signing up for a frequent flyer account with either airline allows you to get CLEAR for only $19 each year if you pay with the Amex Green Card.
Click Here to learn more about the American Express Green Card.
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.