Is CLEAR Worth the Cost? A Review of the Fast-Pass Program
CLEAR Airport Security

Is CLEAR Worth the Cost? A Review of the Security Fast-Pass Program

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When it comes to getting through airport security faster, 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 drastically different purposes.

CLEAR essentially 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, too.

So what’s not to love about CLEAR? For one thing, the price: It starts at a whopping $179 a year, though fortunately there are a handful of ways to drastically drop that cost (or even make it free). Still, that’s a tough price tag to swallow.

While getting CLEAR won’t make sense for each and every traveler, there’s no question it can get you through security faster. And in the new age of touchless travel after the COVID-19 pandemic, CLEAR is more valuable than ever, in my experience.

From signing up to getting through security, here’s our review of using CLEAR at the airport.

 

CLEAR vs TSA Precheck: The Basics

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.

There’s no need for another ID check once you make it to the front of the TSA lane: Just flash your boarding pass to the TSA agent and you’re on your way. If you’ve got TSA PreCheck too, you’ll head to the front of that line – otherwise you’ll cut to the front of the standard TSA line.

Read our full guide on how CLEAR works!

 

Clear review

 

The one hitch with CLEAR is that it’s not available at every airport – but its presence is growing fast. It’s available at more than 30 U.S. airports and counting, along with a handful of professional sports stadiums. Scan through the list and you’ll find plenty of Delta and United hubs, thanks to a close partnership between the two companies.

 

AirportTerminal(s)
Atlanta (ATL)North & South Domestic Terminals
Austin (AUS)Checkpoints 1 & 2
Baltimore (BWI)Checkpoints A,B,C, D & E
Birmingham (BHM)Main Terminal
Boston (BOS)Terminal A
Chicago-Midway (MDW)Main Terminal
Chicago-O'Hare (ORD)Terminal 1 & 2
Cincinnati (CVG)Main Terminal
Cleveland (CLE)
Center & South Checkpoints
Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)Terminal E
Dallas-Love Field (DAL)Terminal 1
Denver (DEN)North & South Entrances
Detroit (DTW)North & McNamara Terminals
Fort Lauderdale (FLL)Terminals 1 & 2
Houston-Intercontinental (IAH)Terminals A, B, C and E
Houston-Hobby (HOU)Main Terminal
Las Vegas (LAS)Terminals 1 & 3
Los Angeles (LAX)Terminals 1 - 7
Miami (MIA)Checkpoints E & H
Minneapolis−Saint Paul (MSP)Terminal 1
Nashville (BNA)
New Orleans (MSY)Concourse D
New York City-John F. Kennedy (JFK)Terminals 2 & 4
New York-LaGuardia (LGA)Terminals C & D
Newark (EWR)Terminal C
Westchester County (HPN)Main Terminal
Orlando (MCO)East & West Security
Phoenix (PHX)Terminals 2,3 & 4
Sacramento (SMF)Terminal A & B
Salt Lake City (SLC)Terminals 1 & 2
San Antonio (SAT)Terminals A & B
San Francisco (SFO)Terminals 1-3, International Terminals A & G
San Jose (SJC)Terminal A & C
Seattle-Tacoma (SEA)Checkpoints 1-5
St. Louis (STL)Terminal 2
Washington, D.C. -Dulles (IAD)
Main Terminal & East Security Checkpoint
Washington, D.C.-Reagan (DCA)
Terminals A, B & C

 

There’s also a growing list of professional sports venues offering CLEAR.

 

Sports VenueCityWhere to Access
SunTrust ParkAtlanta, GAChop House, First Base & Third Base Gates
Oriole Park at Camden YardsBaltimore, MDGate C
Progressive FieldCleveland, OHE. 9th Street Patio Gate
Globe Life Park in ArlingtonArlington, TXFirst Base Gate
Coors FieldDenver, COGates C & D
Comerica ParkDetroit, MIGate A
STAPLES Center
Los Angeles, CAFigueroa Street Entrance
Banc of California Stadium
Los Angeles, CANorthwest Plaza & Northeast Gate
AmericanAirlines ArenaMiami, FLGates 1 & 2
Target FieldMinneapolis, MNGate 34
Yankee StadiumNew York, NYBabe Ruth Plaza, Suite Entrance, & Gate 6
Citi Field
New York, NYJackie Robinson Rotunda & Seaver Gate
Madison Square Garden
New York, NY7th Ave South Entrance
Oakland-Alameda County ColiseumOakland, CAGate C & D
Oracle ParkSan Francisco, CAWillie Mays Gate & King Street Gates
Avaya Stadium San Jose, CAMain Gate
T-Mobile Park
Seattle, WAHome Plate & Left Field Entrances
CenturyLink Field
Seattle, WANorth Plaza & Southwest Entrance

 

Signing Up For CLEAR Airport Screening

Signing up for CLEAR at the airport 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.

 

clear review delta costs

 

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 free 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 has also partnered up with CLEAR to offer similar pricing to its own members.

 

clear review united costs

 

Not sold yet? CLEAR occasionally offers free two- to three-month trials, which allows you to give the program a test-run before ponying up for a full membership. Late last year, they offered free six-month trials.

But it can potentially get even cheaper … or even free.

The Platinum Card® from American Express was recently overhauled, with a higher annual fee and a slew of new benefits – some better than others. But one great new benefit is an annual credit of up to $179 a year that covers CLEAR enrollment. It’s the only travel credit card that currently covers the entire cost of signing up for CLEAR.

Just pay for your membership with your card and voila: A statement credit will kick in automatically to cover the cost.

Related Reading: How to Use the Amex Platinum Card’s CLEAR Credit…For Two!

 

amex platinum card

 

Click Here to learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express

 

The American Express® Green Card also carries a smaller annual $100 credit towards the cost of CLEAR membership.

 

amex green card

 

Click Here to learn more about the American Express Green Card.

All information about The American Express Green Card has been collected independently by Thrifty Traveler. The Amex Green Card is no longer available through Thrifty Traveler.

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 takes about five minutes.

 

clear review

 

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.

Just head for the CLEAR lane at the security checkpoint with your boarding pass in hand. A CLEAR agent will once again bring you to a kiosk for a quick scan of your eyes or fingerprints, glance at your boarding pass, and then escort you to the front of the TSA line. CLEAR members don’t need to show their ID – that’s what CLEAR is for.

From there, you’re ready to go through TSA security.

 

clear review

 

Over the course of the last year, I’ve used CLEAR about 10 times. While security checkpoint lines have grown as travel rebounds, CLEAR and TSA PreCheck lines have been short – or even nonexistent. Without fail, I’ve made it through security in less than five minutes every single time at every airport. Sometimes, that’s more like just two to three minutes total.

 

 

Prior to the pandemic, I was more skeptical of CLEAR and its value. But a quick, touchless trip through security is paramount these days.

Is that worth it for everyone? It depends on how much you travel – and how much you’d wind up actually paying for CLEAR. At $179 a year, it’s hard to make sense of paying for CLEAR if you travel just once or twice a year. But if you’re flying five-plus times a year, you may be able to easily justify the cost – especially with such an easy way to drop that to at least $119 a year with a free Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus account.

And if you can cut that cost even further using credits from the Amex Platinum or Amex Green Card? Well, why not?

 

Bottom Line: CLEAR vs TSA Precheck

There’s no denying that CLEAR airport screening is expensive. But considering how easy it is to substantially cut that cost, it could easily be worth it.

In our experience, CLEAR can cut your time waiting in airport security lines in half or more. With both CLEAR and PreCheck, I regularly get all the way through security in five minutes or less.

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

28 Responses

  • CLEAR is super inconsistent and support is non-existent. Sometimes they’ll escort you to the front of a 5 person line. Other times, they’ll scan your finger prints and point you to the long line you could have joined without spending $200 per year. Want to complain? Good luck. They have no means of speaking or communicating with anyone.

    • I do not understand this comment. It would make no sense to put you in a standard line if your clear is active.
      Can you give more details to the situation, or situations that have led to you being placed at the end of either line?
      I would truly like to know. I have been a clear member for like 4 years. I have never been placed at the end of any line anywhere I have used clear in the country.

  • I’ve had Clear for a couple months now (got it because of a Founders Card promo) and it has been nothing short of great. I fly from Atlanta and the lines there are always congested even with PreCheck (which I’ve had for years). With Clear they take you to the very front of the PreCheck line (if you are PreCheck). My security screening time is usually 5-7 minutes (5 minutes when I have no carry-on). We will see how it works during the Turkey Day holiday… Definitely going to re-up when my 3 month trial is up. I haven’t figured out how it works at the baseball park yet.

    • I’ve had CLEAR for over a year now, traveling from ATL every week and I’m yet to see the benefit. It’s super inconsistent. One day you cut to the front of the line and the next day you find General boarding passengers passing through security way before you, line today) Only one entrance through the south checkpoint if you don’t have both (pre-check and CLEAR) and there’s usually only two TSA lines operating. It is very common to see CLEAR passengers switching to general boarding line because it’s faster. So, it’s just a matter of luck not a reflection of a great product worth the expense. I wasn’t lucky today I hope to be next week. From JFK works great. From LAX doesn’t make much of a difference either. I enter at the same time than my coworkers without CLEAR. Hope this is useful. I’m still giving it a chance because of the frequency with which I need to travel plus I’m hopeful they will catch up with the increasing demand.

  • I used it for the first time and received the full TSA check with all its inconveniences. Laptop out of the bag, shoes off, complete scan etc. So other than a shorter line it was not much of an improvement.

  • Just tried to enroll for Clear using my United Mileage number and pay with an Amex green card, but it would not give me the $100 discount for the Amex card. Called member services, they told me I wasn’t allowed to use both discounts. That was contrary to your report.

    • That’s not our experience, and not what we’ve heard from other readers, either. It may be worth calling again or emailing CLEAR to see if a different agent gives you a different response.

    • Thomas, according to the article you need to hold a United credit card (or Delta). A frequent flyer account isn’t enough.

  • I think Thomas misunderstood the Amex green benefit. All you do is pay with the Amex Green and you’re automatically credited the $100 by Amex

  • I think it also depends on the airport– I watched in Orlando as someone was ushered to the front of the security line by a Clear rep. to have the ID checked–but that’s not where the real line is. The real line is kept behind the ID check and before the metal detector/x-rays, etc. So I watched a family “skip” a line that took as much time for us to go through as it did for them to go through the process at the Clear kiosk, and then get ushered into the same 20-25 minute line everyone else was waiting in.

  • absolutely not worth it nor does the corporation care if it works or not. my last email to staff: As we continue our quest for many months (I think since July 2019) of clear not working. It is so frustrating that we cannot get logged in at airport like it was at the first of sign in. We had these two and others say they will get it fixed but it is not. I cannot remember what airport I was at after the so call re-boot. I got to airport extremely early; got re-scanned of both finger print and eyes. Spent like an hour just to get over to actual check in and would not work. That guy, cannot remember said we will get it done. OF course going thru Dallas a few weeks ago produced no results. We have gone through about 8 times since the last reboot at Orlando, Dallas, and Minneapolis with no results. Our last trip to Dallas yesterday departure 12/21 I did not even try it. I told the front person I was Clear but knew it would not work. You know what the response was; ” oh well sorry it is not the best and TSA is short line today”. Meaning I could care less if we produce a service or not.

    Therefore with this continual negligence in service, getting our clear to work without delay and controversy, not having anyone to step up and get control of this, not having anyway to contact upper management, and just having proven ‘I could care less attitude from everyone within Clear’ my question is if I cancel what credit do I get of unused service?

    • Sorry you had a bad experience, I am from nyc and usually it’s a 20 minute or so wait when you leave mid day. However one day I was flying to Orlando as usual and it took me 3 hrs just to get to the metal detectors of course I missed my flight. Signed up for clear and global entry for a trip I had to India back in October and literally got from entrance of airport to boarding area in 10 minutes with both clear and pre check combined. “This is the way”

  • It used to be great before they started offering discounts. Over the last few months, the Clear line at ATL has been 2 to 3 times the length of the standard TSA line. Don’t waste your money like I did.

  • Sounds like 3 lines at the airport may be in order. The General Line. TSA Precheck and A line For TSA Precheck passengers with Clear. As other companies with the same or better security as Clear come into the market their names will need to be added to the list for the TSA PreCheck with Clear. However, If clear continues to improve their security, biometrics and coordinates with other countries competition may be later rather than sooner. I would like to see an option to add documents to the account that would help to identify a person should there ever be a mishap in another country. DNA, Biometrics, Copy of Personal Documents, Next of Kin or contact person for medical emergency Etc. It would be nice if all countries required Iris scans and fingerprints. Anything to keep the terrorist out of every country would be wonderful.

  • So let us discuss the actual facts.
    1) fingerprint and eye scan database in a corporate entity’s log files. No future mention of rights or logistics with privacy or expiration.
    2) allowing access of HIPA private data of personal/health information to said corporate entity (affiliates?)
    3) pay to “cut the line/express” experience for travelers, which sets a tiered bar yet again with a capital caste system of “money first” mentality.
    4) future oversight and minimally mentioned long term goals/effects of such a system and corporate oversight.

  • For a frequent traveling family -very worth it! As stated, kids are free, so 2 discounted adults + 2 free kids makes the cost very reasonable. Once our kids are over 18, we might relook at options.

    • No, you can use your CLEAR membership flying any airline so long as CLEAR is available at your terminal.

  • Upon sign up at the airport, person said I could also enroll up to 3 family members for a special promo of $50 for one year along with my new sign up (United promo of $119). When I was going through the sign-up process to add everyone, it only offered a $60 per year per person fee for each of the additional 3 family members (additional $180). I called Clear who told me that there was no such offer (??). In addition, tried to upload my vaccine card through the app, which did not work. Asked the Customer Service person about this also and she said they were working on fixing the issues (??) and I should reboot my phone and try again. Nope that didn’t work. Not a good start and for now too costly…let’s see how it does at the airport.

  • Enrolling was not that easy and there was no indication that they would start charging from the day I gave them a credit card number, which is to say one week before I made it to the airport to finish the process. I signed up for the two monthj trial but apparently too late; a clear rep online I believe fixed this, but in the process my vax card disappeared. Also do not understand the difference between a vax card and a health pass, and getting the latter seems to require doing much of the process again. Finally, I did this on one IPhone but it doesn’t seem to transfer to the other and while the ads are the usual blather I found the actual instructions incomplete. AMEX is paying but I am not sure whether I will do this again.

  • TSA provides same for far less. How did this private company get to profit from the government run processes? i dont trust them one bit.

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