Remember the days when flying was a relatively easy process? You checked in, got your ticket, breezed through security and before you knew it, you were at the gate and ready to fly. Today, well times have changed and it’s increasingly more frustrating, complicated and slow. There are multiple lines to choose from now, there’s this giant machine that can see through your clothes, and the rules are constantly changing about what you can or can’t bring. That’s where CLEAR comes in.
In an effort to make things easier, a company called CLEAR in the US was created to cut a lot of the BS and streamline the the process. It’s made its way to over 30 different airports and sports stadiums. The question is though, is it worth it? How is this program different from the multitude of ones out there including Global Entry, NEXUS, TSA-PreCheck, etc.? Let me explain how this works in the United States and whether you should get it or not.
How CLEAR Works
It’s actually quite simple. In today’s world, going through security in a US airport consists of multiple lines. There’s the standard line and there’s a TSA-Pre line. What CLEAR has negotiated with major airports is to add an new line which for registered members.
Security consists of identity verification and security screening. Where CLEAR comes in is for the identity verification step. Instead of getting in one of the lines and waiting for the TSA offers to yell at you to step up to the podium, all you have to do is utilize biometric authentication (fingerprint or eye scan) at one of CLEAR’s kiosk.
Once you’ve completed the kiosk step, a CLEAR representative will greet you and take you straight to the security screening line. If you’re also enrolled in TSA PreCheck, you’ll be taken directly to the Pre-Check line. The rest is the same as before.
Signing Up For CLEAR
To be a member of CLEAR, you must first enroll online after which you’ll be able to visit one of the airport locations with the program where your identity is verified and biometrics recorded.
The good news here is that unlike NEXUS which takes months to get an appointment, you can do this quickly on the spot.
How Much Does It Cost?
CLEAR is a membership-based program that currently runs at $15/month and is billed annually at $179 annually. If you have kids travelling with you that are under 18, they are free to be part of your membership for free. In addition, you can add family members to your membership for $50 per person.
The first two months are free as part of a trial with this special link.
Where Are There CLEAR Lines?
Here is the list of locations where you’ll find CLEAR:
- Atlanta – ATL
- Austin – AUS
- Baltimore – BWI
- Dallas – DFW, DAL
- Denver – DEN, Coors Field
- Detroit – DTW, Comerica Park
- Houston – IAH, HOU
- Las Vegas – LAS
- Los Angeles – LAX
- Miami – MIA, Marlins Park, AmericanAirlines Arena
- Minneapolis – MSP
- New York – LGA, JFK, HPN, Yankee Stadium, CITI Field
- Orlando – MCO
- Salt Lake City -SLC
- San Antonio – SAT
- San Francisco – SFO, AT&T Park
- San Jose – SJC
- Seattle – SEA
- Washington D.C. – DCA, IAD
How Is CLEAR Different From TSA-Pre?
I can sense it. You’re probably skeptical at this point. If I’m part of another program such as TSA-PreCheck, why would I be interested in this?
So far, you’ve read that CLEAR will get you passed the identity verification process quickly enough but you still have to go through security screening all the same.
Advantages of CLEAR
- TSA PreCheck isn’t always open – I’ve flown through the US a number of times where TSA-Pre wasn’t running at that particular time for one reason or another. CLEAR is supposed to be always on.
- Exclusive company (for now) – What I mean by this is that as more an more people get PreCheck, the more newbie flyers there are which means it isn’t necessarily faster in that there will still be people to hold the line up. Everyone using CLEAR will know what they need to do and there aren’t that many members now so you’re guaranteed to breeze through.
- CLEAR works with every airline – Not sure if you knew this but TSA-Pre only works if you’re flying with participating airlines
To be clear though, this doesn’t allow you to skip security screening (x-rays conveyer belt and all that). This just helps you get there that much faster. Where it comes in handy are at times when you’re travelling during the holidays and the lines are insanely long and people are flipping out.
It’s in those moments when you are thankful to have something like CLEAR to get ahead.
How TSA-Pre is different
The reality is that TSA-Pre really isn’t a competing product to CLEAR, but rather a complimentary product.
The biggest advantage of TSA-PreCheck is actually at the security checkpoint where the perks are:
- You don’t need to remove your shoes.
- You don’t need to take your laptop out of your carry-on baggage.
- You don’t need to take your 3-1-1 liquids bag out.
- You don’t need to remove your belt.
- You don’t need to remove light outerwear such as a jacket.
How Is CLEAR Different From Those With Status Or On First Class?
In some airports, there’s an additional line as part of identity verification and this is for those with business or first class tickets and those with some sort of elite status. In Toronto, there’s even a separate line for AMEX members.
While this line can be shorter than the regular line, the inspection itself is still the same in that a TSA agent will need to UV scan your passport, scribble something on your boarding pass and tell you to move on.
The difference with CLEAR is that it’s agnostic to your ticket type or status. As long as you’re a member, you can automatically go through after you finish with the kiosk. Anyone can use it.
How is CLEAR Different Than Global Entry?
Global Entry was created by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for international travellers. By being enrolled in this program, you automatically get TSA-Pre but the real reason to get it is that it expedites your return back to the United States. On arrival, most people have to go through the painfully long immigration lines but with Global Entry, you go straight to the kiosks.
If we’re talking about Canada, many airports have Global Entry kiosks since immigration is done before flying into the US.
Similar to TSA-Precheck, this doesn’t necessarily compete with CLEAR because its benefits are past the manual boarding pass + ID check.
What About NEXUS and the Canadians?
NEXUS is a joint program between Canada and the United States which is effectively what Global Entry offers for Americans. The difference is that it works across all land and air borders between the two nations and is the only program available for Canadians. By being part of NEXUS, you automatically get Global Entry.
The truth is CLEAR won’t benefit Canadians as they haven’t expanded out to Canadian airports yet. This is exclusively for citizens of the US for now.
In analyzing the program, it’s not a convincing must-have when compared to the government programs (Global Entry and TSA-PreCheck) but if you’re looking to save even MORE time going through security, CLEAR is something worth considering.
Get it if:
- Your home airport or one you visit frequently has the CLEAR
- Like the idea of saving 5-10 minutes every time you go through security
- Like the idea of predictability of the CLEAR kiosk over the single TSA staffer checking IDs and boarding passes
Don’t get it if:
- $15/month is too much for you
- You live or travel to areas that aren’t covered by CLEAR
Still not sure but would love to give it a try?