CLEAR - Expedited Airport Security
CLEAR uses biometrics to speed you through airport security. Get the details of the program and a list of ways you can sign up for a reduced price.
The Rundown on CLEAR
There's a lot to learn about CLEAR. It's not really an alternative to TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. It kind of sits off on its own as something that will be very useful for some and not-at-all useful for others.
Benefits of CLEAR
The true benefit of CLEAR is the extra layer of security it provides when checking into the airport. Biometrics is a significant step up in security beyond an agent glancing at your ID then back up to you to make sure you're the person you say you are.
While security is very important, the primary selling point for CLEAR at the moment is the fact that many don't have it. Glancing at an ID and looking into a biometric scanner takes about the same time, but the big difference is that very few people have CLEAR whereas very many people have TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. This means the lines for CLEAR will be significantly shorter and thus it will be the fastest option at the airports that have it. So until it gets more popular and becomes more mainstream, having CLEAR membership is basically like paying for VIP to skip lines at airports, stadiums, and other venues.
How Does CLEAR Work?
Using CLEAR is pretty straightforward. If you're at an airport or venue that has CLEAR, you'll usually see signs directing you towards the CLEAR kiosks. Once you're at the kiosks, one of the CLEAR agents will walk you up to it and get it started. You'll look into the retinal/face scanner, put your hand on the fingerprint reader (this may change due to COVID), and the machine will make sure that you are you. If all goes well, a ticket prints out that is given to the TSA Agent (the one that checks your ID and boarding pass before screening) and you're sent to start the screening process. Assuming there's no line (which there never seems to be) the whole process takes like 5 minutes.
Do note that some airports may have more than one CLEAR station such as Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) in which there's one CLEAR station for those with TSA PreCheck and one CLEAR station for those without it. This is mainly due to the fact that both lines are relatively far from each other.
CLEAR & TSA PreCheck
The only impact that TSA PreCheck has on CLEAR is whether or not you'll be taken to the expedited TSA PreCheck screening or the basic screening. The benefits of TSA PreCheck when you're at an airport that has CLEAR is limited to not having to take off your shoes, belt, and light jacket along with not having to take electronics or small liquids out of your bag(s). It can still be worth it to have TSA PreCheck if that matters to your or if you frequent airports that do not have CLEAR.
One complaint that I hear often is that CLEAR was created just to add on another way to pay for expedited access through the airport since TSA PreCheck already exists. The thing is, TSA PreCheck is expedited due to the fact that you do not have to take off shoes and belts nor do you have to take stuff out of your bag and this is because you are labeled as a low-risk traveler. This is what makes TSA PreCheck 'expedited' and faster than your normal screening line (most times at least).
Those who compare CLEAR to TSA PreCheck are comparing the wrong thing. CLEAR is to be compared to the TSA Agent that checks your ID and boarding pass before you enter the screening area. The TSA Agent that you have to go through no matter if you're in the TSA PreCheck line or normal screening line. This is an up-to-date security approach to that process, not an update to how fast you can make it through the line. CLEAR just doesn't have a large enough footprint yet and a lot of people do not have CLEAR membership, so it's going to be faster than TSA PreCheck for the airports that have it due to hardly ever having a line.
It's basically the equivalent of paying for a purchase with a paper check (TSA Agent) versus using a mobile wallet like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay (CLEAR). One option has a bit more security than the other. At some point (far in the future I assume), the biometric option will become popular and the lines will not be so lopsided. Until then, CLEAR will be the fastest option the majority of the time.
What Airports Have CLEAR?
CLEAR is available in 50+ airports, stadiums, and other venues nationwide. This includes a lot of the major airports such as:
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
- Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport
- Chicago O'Hare International Airport
- Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
- Detroit Metro Airport
- Los Angeles International Airport
- New York LaGuardia Airport
- John F. Kennedy International Airport
- Newark Liberty International Airport
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
- Ronald Regan Washington National Airport
There's a bunch more airports missing from that list as well as a number of stadiums and other venues. You can visit CLEAR - Where We Are to get the full list of locations. I recommend familiarizing yourself with the locations before you sign up to make sure that it's worth the cost.
How Much Does CLEAR Cost?
The cost for CLEAR is $179 per year. You can add up to 3 additional family members for $50 per person, per year. Do note that children under the age of 18 who are traveling with you can jump into the CLEAR for free, so no need to add them to the bill.
There's several ways you can obtain discounts of free months with CLEAR.
Delta SkyMiles Member Discount
Delta has been partnered with CLEAR since they re-introduced themselves to the airport security market. The discount you receive with Delta will depend on your Delta Medallion Status or whether you're a Delta SkyMiles Credit Cardholder. The table below has the breakdown.
|Diamond Medallion Members||Free|
|Platinum, Gold, Silver Medallion Members||$109/year - $70 Discount|
|Delta SkyMiles AMEX Cardholders||$109/year - $70 Discount|
|General Members||$119/year - $60 Discount|
The good thing here is that those with a general Delta SkyMiles account still receive a $60 discount. You can sign up for a Delta SkyMiles account for free on delta.com.
United MileagePlus Member Discount
|Premier 1K Members||Free|
|Premier Platinum, Gold, Silver Members||$109/year - $70 Discount|
|United U.S. Cardholders||$109/year - $70 Discount|
|MileagePlus Members||$119/year - $60 Discount|
Again, you can get an easy $60 discount for just being a MileagePlus member. You can sign up for a free United MileagePlus account on united.com.
Refer-A-Friend 2-Month Trial
CLEAR has a refer-a-friend option. When a friend refers you, you'll get two months of free membership. Once the trial period is over and you pay for your membership, the friend that referred you will receive 2 free months of membership. Since you're using names and biometric screening, this only works one time. Making multiple accounts or referring yourself will not work here. If you go this route, I recommend signing up shortly before your trip so that you can use the membership to it's full extent.
This is a great way to experience CLEAR before you pay for it. After your trial, you can add your Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus membership number to your profile to get the reduced pricing. You have up to 60 days after you've been billed to add your membership number to get the reduced pricing, so be sure to set a reminder.
Credit Cards With CLEAR Benefits
Outside of the line-up of Delta AMEX Cards and Chase United Cards, the only card that offers an actual CLEAR discount at the time of writing this is the American Express Green Card. This card offers a $100 CLEAR credit which is triggered when you use the card to pay for CLEAR. This can be membership for you, family, or a friend. As long as you're making the purchase through the CLEAR website, the $100 statement credit will be triggered. Combine this with the fact that you can get CLEAR for $119 for just having a free Delta SkyMiles or free United MileagePlus and you're looking at paying $19 per year for CLEAR which is pretty fantastic.
The AMEX Green Card also comes with a $100 credit for LoungeBuddy and earns 3x Membership Rewards Points across dining, travel, and transit. It's a great card to have if you frequently travel and you enjoying being in the American Express ecosystem. You can use the AMEX Green Card Point Calculator to calculate total points and cash value based on your spend, the benefits, and fees. You can also compare the results against any credit card including those you may have in your wallet.
The list below features the AMEX Green as well as Delta AMEX Cards, Chase United Cards, and any other credit cards that feature benefits with CLEAR.