What is the Clear expedited airport security program — and is it worth it?


Editor’s note: This post is continually updated.

Since becoming a travel reporter in 2021, I’ve added many tools to my travel wheelhouse that have greatly improved my experience as a traveler. One way I improved my travel process was by becoming a member of Clear, the private sector’s equivalent of TSA PreCheck.

Since 2010, Clear has evolved as an expedited security program at 51 airports with more than 14 million members nationwide, including at stadiums and other large venues.

Clear is a secure identity platform that uses member data, including fingerprint and iris scans, to automate the identity verification step in the U.S. Transportation Security Administration screening process. Clear members go through a separate security lane with dedicated kiosks rather than waiting in line for a TSA agent to review their license or passport.

Once your identity is confirmed, a Clear representative will escort you to the front of the line for the traditional security screening machines. If you are enrolled in TSA PreCheck, you’ll head to the PreCheck screening lines and proceed as normal. If you don’t have TSA PreCheck, you’ll use the normal screening lines where you remove your shoes, unload your electronics, liquids, light jacket, etc.

For a year of access, Clear costs $189, compared to $78 for a five-year membership to TSA PreCheck.

To help you decide whether you should pay extra for Clear, here’s what you need to know about the expedited airport security program. This includes its benefits, potential drawbacks, and how to get a discounted (or free) membership.

What is Clear?

As mentioned, Clear is an identity validation system based on a secure platform with a database that houses your biometric information, including fingerprints and an iris scan, to verify your identity. It facilitates access through one level of security at locations such as airports and stadiums.

How Clear works

Clear requires passengers to complete two steps: identity verification and security screening. The identity verification occurs in a separate lane for Clear users only. Travelers submit to biometric authentication (a fingerprint or iris scan) at a kiosk instead of waiting for TSA to inspect their government ID and check their boarding pass. After the scanner verifies a passenger’s identity, a Clear representative will escort the traveler to the actual security screening area, bypassing everyone waiting in the first line.

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If you’re also enrolled in TSA PreCheck, you’ll go directly to the TSA PreCheck line. Additionally, if you’re traveling with children younger than 18, they may use the Clear line for free as long as they stay with you or another paid member.

United has added Clear checkpoints throughout the U.S., including at Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal C. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

Where Clear works

At this time, Clear is available at these airports:

  • Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS).
  • Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).
  • Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM).
  • Boise Airport (BOI).
  • Boston Logan International Airport (BOS).
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG).
  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE).
  • Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).
  • Dallas Love Field (DAL).
  • Denver International Airport (DEN).
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW).
  • Dulles International Airport (IAD).
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).
  • Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP).
  • Harry Reid International Airport (LAS).
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).
  • Kansas City International Airport (MCI).
  • John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH).
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).
  • LaGuardia Airport (LGA).
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
  • Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).
  • Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU).
  • Miami International Airport (MIA).
  • Midway International Airport (MDW).
  • Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE).
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).
  • Nashville International Airport (BNA).
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).
  • Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC).
  • Oakland International Airport (OAK).
  • O’Hare International Airport (ORD).
  • Ontario International Airport (ONT).
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO).
  • Palm Beach International Airport (PBI).
  • Palm Springs International Airport (PSP).
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).
  • Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU).
  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).
  • Sacramento International Airport (SMF).
  • Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).
  • San Antonio International Airport (SAT).
  • San Diego International Airport (SAN).
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
  • St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL).
  • Westchester County Airport (HPN).
  • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU).
  • Will Rogers World Airport (OKC).

Additionally, Clear is available at select entrances to the following stadiums during some events:

  • Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium — Austin.
  • State Farm Arena — Atlanta.
  • Coors Field — Denver.
  • Ball Arena — Denver.
  • Allegiant Stadium — Las Vegas.
  • T-Mobile Arena — Las Vegas.
  • SoFi Stadium — Los Angeles.
  • BMO Stadium — Los Angeles.
  • Miami-Dade Arena — Miami.
  • Barclays Center — New York City.
  • Madison Square Garden — New York City.
  • Yankee Stadium — New York City.
  • Chase Center — San Francisco.
  • Oracle Park — San Francisco.
  • PayPal Park — San Jose, California.
  • Lumen Field — Seattle.
  • Capital One Arena — Washington, D.C.

How does Clear compare to TSA PreCheck?

Clear further reduces airport security wait time by automating the identity verification process and whisking users to the front of the TSA line. However, having Clear does not automatically confer TSA PreCheck status, and it’s also currently available at far fewer airports than TSA PreCheck.

Plus, Clear doesn’t preclude you from using the streamlined TSA PreCheck security screening process; it’s simply designed to help you reach it faster than you would otherwise.

Unlike TSA PreCheck, whose members are not guaranteed PreCheck access every time they fly since they can be randomly excluded and sent to the standard line, Clear has no randomized exclusion of passengers. Also, everyone who enters the Clear line is a member of Clear and knows how to operate the system.

On the other hand, TSA sometimes adds nonmember travelers who have no idea how it works to the TSA PreCheck line; this sometimes holds the line up. Additionally, TSA PreCheck only works when traveling with a participating airline. In contrast, Clear works when traveling with any carrier.

With that said, Clear and PreCheck are restricted to certain hours and may not be available during your flight time.

The lines at the Denver airport can get very long. JON BAILEY/THE POINTS GUY

What’s the difference between Clear and Clear Sports?

You can also use Clear at select stadiums thanks to Clear’s Sports & Events access; it is free and available to all Clear members to allow expedited entry to games at participating stadiums. However, this membership doesn’t provide access to non-stadium Clear locations like airports.

To use Clear Sports & Events, simply download the Clear app and tap on the black “Sports & Events” tile. Log in to enroll before heading to the Clear lane to show your QR code to a Clear ambassador.

Remember, members can bring one adult guest through the Clear lane per day at stadiums and venues; children under 18 don’t need a membership and can go through the Clear lane when accompanied by an adult.

How to enroll in Clear

You can either start the enrollment process online and finish at a Clear location, or you can complete the entire process at a Clear location. The enrollment process takes about five minutes and requires no appointment.

Just note that you must complete the final enrollment steps at a Clear location. These steps include answering a few simple questions to verify your identity, showing a valid photo ID, providing a payment method and attaching your biometrics (fingerprints and a picture of your irises) to your newly created account.

To be eligible for Clear enrollment, you must be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident who is at least 18 years old. You also must have one of the following forms of photo identification: a U.S. driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a U.S. passport card, a U.S.-issued permanent resident card, a state-issued ID or a U.S. military ID.


How to save on Clear

Though the normal rate for Clear membership is $189 per year, there are many ways to avoid paying that full retail price.

To start, Clear members who refer friends to the program receive two months of free membership apiece.

Clear also has partnered with select airlines to offer the following special membership rates for their members:

Delta SkyMiles discounts

United MileagePlus discounts

To take advantage of these rates, enter your SkyMiles or MileagePlus number during enrollment, or link your SkyMiles or MileagePlus account after enrolling. Since it’s free to join Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus, any U.S.-based passenger can access the discounted membership rates by linking their SkyMiles or MileagePlus account to their Clear account.

Once you are a Clear member, you can log in to your account on Clear’s website and add up to three family members for $60 each per year. Children under 18 can use the lane for free when accompanied by a Clear member.

Which credit cards cover Clear fees as a benefit?

Certain credit cards afford users a free Clear membership. The following cards will reimburse you for up to $189 per year in Clear membership costs:

The information for the Amex Green Card and the Amex Centurion Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bottom line

If Clear is available at your home airport or one you visit frequently, the program could be a big timesaver for your future travels, regardless of whether you have TSA PreCheck. There’s often just a single TSA staffer checking documents for both the TSA PreCheck line and the regular security line, so enrolling in Clear can save you valuable time.

Plus, Clear members enjoy more predictable access to security. This means those who check in online without checked bags can arrive at the airport closer to their flight departure time than they normally would.

If you value a predictable travel experience and like having many options when it comes time for security, Clear is well worth your consideration.

Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson, Bill Fink and Jason Steele.

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