Is CLEAR Worth It (And Does It Really Save Time at the Airport)?

CLEAR can make it easier to get through airport security lines, but it might not be worth it for everyone.
Last updated Sept. 25, 2022 | By Ben Walker, CEPF | Edited By Michael Kurko
airport security line

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Apart from flight delays and cancellations, waiting in security lines can be one of the worst experiences at the airport. Lines are often crowded, it can take a lot of time to get through them, and you typically can’t avoid them completely.

With paid programs such as CLEAR, however, you could reduce your airport screening times and get on to your gate and final destination faster. Learn how this new ID platform works and whether it might be right for you.

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In this article

What is CLEAR?

CLEAR is a secure platform that offers touchless ID verification in dozens of airports and sports and entertainment venues nationwide. The company was founded in 2010 by Caryn Seidman-Becker and Ken Cornick and has more than 1,000 employees and over 5 million members.

You might have already seen CLEAR at the airport close to a TSA security checkpoint. The blue and white kiosks are easily recognizable as are the friendly CLEAR employees standing nearby. The kiosks can help you avoid long airport lines by placing you directly at the physical screening section rather than in the line where you have to wait for a TSA agent to check your documents.

CLEAR offers a quick and touchless process for verifying your boarding documents as part of the standard security screening. Rather than interacting with a person, you use the CLEAR kiosk to verify your identity using biometrics. The kiosk may require an eye, face, or fingerprint scan as well as a scan of your boarding pass. From there, you’ll move on to the physical part of the TSA screening.

Who is eligible for CLEAR?

CLEAR is available to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who are 18 and older and have a valid government-issued photo ID. Legal, or lawful, permanent residents are sometimes known as “green card” holders. Although they aren’t U.S. citizens, they’re authorized to live permanently within the U.S and are eligible for CLEAR if they’re 18 or older.

Children under 18 can’t have their own membership, but they can accompany their parents (if they’re CLEAR members) for free.

Eligible forms of photo ID include:

  • U.S. driver’s license
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • U.S.-issued permanent resident card
  • State-issued ID
  • Global Entry card

Where CLEAR works

CLEAR is available in over 50 U.S. locations, including airports, stadiums, and other venues. To see whether CLEAR is available near you, check the CLEAR app or search for locations on the CLEAR website.

Airports

Travelers are likely to see CLEAR kiosks at major U.S. airports in these locations:

  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Boston (BOS)
  • Chicago (MID and ORD)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth (DAL and DFW)
  • Denver (DEN)
  • Houston (HOU and IAH)
  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Minneapolis-Saint Paul (MSP)
  • New York (EWR, HPN, JFK, and LGA)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Seattle-Tacoma (SEA)
  • Washington, D.C. (DCA and IAD)

Stadiums and venues

CLEAR kiosks can also be found in the following stadiums and venues:

  • AT&T; Center
  • Banc of California Stadium
  • Capital One Arena
  • Coors Field
  • Crypto.com Arena
  • FTX Arena
  • Globe Life Field
  • Madison Square Garden
  • Oracle Park
  • PayPal Park
  • Target Field
  • University of Texas
  • Yankee Stadium

CLEAR is free to use at sports and entertainment venues where it’s available, but you will have to upgrade to a paid membership to use CLEAR at airports. Using CLEAR at sports and entertainment venues allows you to use a dedicated CLEAR lane to enter the venue.

How do you get CLEAR?

Signing up for CLEAR is easy and straightforward. You start by registering an account online and then finish your registration in person at a CLEAR kiosk. You don’t have to make an appointment to complete your in-person registration. Simply walk up to a CLEAR kiosk at a participating airport and an employee will help you finish your enrollment.

The in-person part of your enrollment process typically involves answering a few questions and verifying your identity with a valid photo ID. You’ll also have to scan your fingerprints and eyes to attach biometric data to your account. You can pay for a membership during the online portion of your registration before you visit an in-person kiosk.

CLEAR charges $189 for an annual membership. This membership is good for one person, but you can add up to three adult family members to your account at a discounted rate of $60 per person.

CLEAR vs. TSA PreCheck

CLEAR and TSA PreCheck are often confused because they’re both programs that could help get you through certain airport security lines quicker. However, these are separate programs and neither replaces the other.

In general, CLEAR could help speed up the document verification process, whereas TSA PreCheck could help expedite the physical screening process. In many cases, it could be beneficial to have both if you want to maximize your chances of getting through long lines as quickly as possible

When you first get to a TSA checkpoint at the airport, you typically have to get in line until you get to a TSA agent who checks your photo ID and boarding pass. You then proceed to the physical screening portion of the checkpoint.

With CLEAR, you visit a kiosk to verify your identity, and then you’ll be brought directly to a TSA agent and let into the area for physical screenings. CLEAR effectively lets you skip the general line where you’d be waiting to see the first TSA agent.

TSA PreCheck lets you enter a TSA PreCheck lane separate from the general line. This often gets you to the first TSA agent quicker than the general line. You will also avoid the hassle of removing your shoes, belt, light jacket, laptop, or approved liquids during the physical screening process, which could reduce the time you spend there.

If you have both CLEAR and TSA PreCheck, you would verify your identity through the CLEAR lane to move quickly to the physical screening area. Then you’d be directed to the expedited area for TSA PreCheck members and speed through the process.

How to save on CLEAR

The standard rate of $189 per year for a CLEAR membership is fairly steep, especially if you don’t travel much. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to save on CLEAR.

CLEAR family plan

CLEAR’s family plan costs $189 for the main account holder and then $60 per additional family member up to a maximum of three additional members. That’s $119 in savings per year for each additional adult who gets in on the plan.

CLEAR student plan

CLEAR has a student plan that costs $50 per year for four years, which is $129 less per year than the standard rate. CLEAR partners with SheerID to verify your student address. You need a valid school email address and student ID to enroll in the student plan.

Delta SkyMiles

CLEAR also offers discounted pricing for Delta SkyMiles members.

Membership CLEAR pricing
Basic $119 per year
Silver Medallion $109 per year
Gold Medallion $109 per year
Platinum Medallion $109 per year
Diamond Medallion Complimentary membership

United MileagePlus

United MileagePlus frequent flyer members also enjoy discounted CLEAR pricing, and members with U.S. United credit cards receive a fixed discounted rate of $109 per year.

Membership CLEAR pricing
Basic $119 per year
Silver $109 per year
Gold $109 per year
Platinum $109 per year
Premier $109 per year
Premier 1K Complimentary membership

Credit cards

If you compare credit cards, you’ll see that there are a few options for getting a CLEAR membership for free or at a discounted rate. This includes the United cards from Chase mentioned above along with the following American Express credit cards. It’s uncertain whether other card issuers will follow suit, but Amex is the first to offer direct CLEAR perks with some of its cards.

Card Annual fee Rewards rate CLEAR benefits
American Express® Green Card $150 (Terms apply) 3X points on eligible travel and transit purchases, and at restaurants worldwide; and 1X points on all other purchases
  • $100 annual CLEAR statement credit
  • Enrollment in CLEAR is required
The Platinum Card® from American Express $695 (See rates and fees) (Terms apply) 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • $189 annual CLEAR statement credit
  • Enrollment in CLEAR is required

FAQs

Is CLEAR worth it if you have PreCheck?

CLEAR could be worth it if you already have TSA PreCheck because they can work together to expedite screening at the airport. CLEAR and TSA PreCheck are separate services, however.

CLEAR uses biometrics to quickly verify your identity and help speed up the document verification process at airports and certain venues. TSA PreCheck is a trusted traveler program that allows members to use expedited security lanes at TSA checkpoints. Using both services together could help get you through security quicker than using only one or neither of them.

Check out our TSA PreCheck vs. CLEAR comparison for more details.

Is CLEAR better than Global Entry?

CLEAR could be better than Global Entry if you typically don’t travel internationally. CLEAR offers expedited documentation and identity verification at select airports and venues, whereas Global Entry offers expedited screening when going through customs upon arrival in the U.S.

However, Global Entry also provides TSA PreCheck, which is likely more beneficial than CLEAR for expediting security screenings at TSA checkpoints.

Read our comparison of TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR.

Does CLEAR actually save time?

CLEAR typically saves you time at the airport, especially if you also have a TSA PreCheck membership. Having both often helps you get to the front of the line, including getting ahead of travelers in the TSA PreCheck line depending on the airport and how busy it is.

Bottom line

Getting CLEAR could be worth it if you frequently travel through airports with CLEAR kiosks. It’s not a replacement for TSA PreCheck, but it could provide additional benefits on top of a TSA PreCheck membership to help expedite airport screening. Purchasing a CLEAR membership could also be worth it if you have credit card benefits that eliminate all or most of the cost.

Keep in mind that CLEAR is relatively new and it’s not yet included as a widely available benefit on many credit cards. However, some of the best travel credit cards do offer free or discounted options for CLEAR memberships.

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Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF Ben Walker, CEPF, is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially sound decisions. For over a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben is a Certified Educator of Personal Finance and has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN, Debt.com, and Finder.com.