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With the airports crowded with travelers, you might consider signing up for the airport security fast track program TSA pre-examination. But what about Clear, a privately operated line skipping service? It’s more expensive and works a little differently, but it also gets you through the wires faster. In fact, signing up for these two complementary services is your best bet for skipping the lines – especially if you’re a frequent flier willing to spend the money.

This is how the TSA PreCheck works

TSA PreCheck provides a separate, shorter line through airport security (typically five minutes or less) operated by the Department of Homeland Security. To use this hotline, apply online and in person to register as a “trusted traveler”, which will give you pre-authorization to get through security faster. In addition to a shorter queue, with a PreCheck membership you don’t have to remove shoes, belts, laptops or TSA-approved liquids from your hand luggage. TSA PreCheck is available at 200 domestic airports and costs $ 85, and your TSA PreCheck registration status is valid for five years.

This is how Clear works

Like TSA PreCheck, Clear offers a separate, shorter line through airport security, but it also works for events in stadiums or other concert or sports venues and can share your COVID-19 vaccination status. Although it is a privately owned service, it is operated with the permission of the Department of Homeland Security. As with the TSA PreCheck program, enrollment is a two-part process that takes place online and in person, although it requires clear scans of your eyes, face, and fingerprints.

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The advantage of using this biometrics is that you can verify your identity at a kiosk at the top of the queue, which means that a TSA representative does not need to verify your boarding pass and photo ID. Clear is available at more than 50 airports and other locations in the United States, and an annual subscription costs $ 179 per year or $ 15 per month – much more expensive than PreCheck.

Which line skipping service is better?

Since Clear and TSA PreCheck offer two separate lines to choose from, it is less about “better” than about flexibility. PreCheck has 10 million members compared to Clear’s 1.5 million members, which means PreCheck is more likely to have longer queues (this is especially true at peak times). This means that Clear could be a good backup option when TSA PreCheck is busy or unavailable and vice versa.

However, at $ 15 a month, Clear is much more expensive than PreCheck, but it has some additional benefits:

  • It can be used for other venues.
  • In contrast to PreCheck, you are not selected at random for an additional security check.
  • In contrast to PreCheck, Clear works for all airlines as long as it is available at a specific airport.

Bottom line

In this case, two services are better than one – whether the extra $ 15 per month for Clear is worth it depends on your aversion to lines and the frequency of your trips. If you are not a frequent flyer but still want to skip the queues, you should register for the TSA PreCheck first, as it is much cheaper and available at more airports.

Before signing up for Clear or PreCheck, make sure they are actually available at your local airport (here and here) as it will affect whether the program is worth it for you. Also, consider paying for these services through an existing benefit on a Travel Rewards credit card, as many offer free memberships to TSA PreCheck and, to a lesser extent, Clear.