TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR: Which is Best for You?

See which program(s) might make the most sense for you.
Last updated Nov 23, 2021 | By Ben Walker | Edited By Melinda Sineriz
Man at airport in customer service area

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Traveler programs — such as TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR — can help speed up certain screening processes at the airport. This could reduce the time you wait in long lines and improve your overall airport experience.

But which program is the best option? It likely depends on your travel situation.

Let’s compare the TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR programs to see what each of them has to offer and where they’re available. This will help you decide whether one of them makes more sense for you than another.

In this article

TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR: The basics

Here’s a quick look at how TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR stack up against each other:

TSA PreCheck Global Entry CLEAR
Cost $85 for five years $100 for five years $179 per year
Availability 200+ airports 75 airports 38 airports; 15 other locations
Eligibility requirements U.S. citizens
U.S. nationals
Lawful permanent residents
U.S. citizens
Lawful permanent residents
Citizens of certain countries
U.S. citizens
Lawful permanent residents
Must be 18 and older
Best for... Domestic travelers who want shorter wait times for security International travelers who want shorter customs wait times

Includes TSA PreCheck benefits

Speeding travel document review

What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck is a Trusted Traveler Program offered by the Department of Homeland Security. It’s available to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and lawful permanent residents at the cost of $85 for five years of membership. The point of TSA PreCheck is to provide a secure way to expedite the security screening process at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints for passengers departing from U.S. airports.

To become a member of this program, you have to go through the online application process and set up an appointment at an enrollment center. Your in-person appointment includes taking your fingerprints for a background check. If your TSA PreCheck application is approved, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number that you can add to your airline reservations. This will typically grant you access to TSA PreCheck lines at airports as long as your boarding pass has a TSA PreCheck indicator on it.

TSA PreCheck is often faster than waiting in the normal security lines because you don’t have to remove shoes, laptops, certain liquids, belts, or light jackets. In addition, the TSA PreCheck lines are typically shorter, which means you get to the front of the line quicker. The TSA website shows that 95% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes during the month of October 2021.

Children 12 and under can join a parent or guardian who has TSA PreCheck in dedicated lanes without needing a membership themselves. Children 17 and under who are traveling alone or without a parent or guardian with TSA PreCheck would need their own membership. TSA PreCheck is currently available at more than 200 U.S. airports with 80 airlines.

For more details, check out our guide to TSA PreCheck.

Premium Travel Rewards & Perks

Intro Offer

100,000 miles

Annual Fee

$395

Rewards Rate

up 10X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Welcome bonus: 100,000 bonus miles
  • Up to $200 in statement credits for vacation rental purchases
  • Up to $300 in annual statement credits when booking through Capital One Travel
  • 10,000-mile annual anniversary bonus
  • Up to 10X miles per dollar spent
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • Access to Capital One and Priority Pass lounges

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 100,000 bonus miles after spending $10,000 on purchases in the first 6 months (plus, earn up to $200 in statement credit for vacation rentals like Airbnb and Vrbo in the first year)
  • 10X miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel, 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel, and 2X miles per dollar spent on everything else

Who is TSA PreCheck right for?

TSA PreCheck could make sense for frequent travelers who use U.S. airports. It can speed up the process of physical security screenings, which can save you on time spent at the airport, as well as the hassle of removing certain items of clothing or taking specific items out of your bags.

However, TSA PreCheck is only designed for departures from U.S. airports and won’t help at foreign airports or for going through U.S. Customs and Border Protection screening when arriving at a U.S. airport.

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a Trusted Traveler Program offered by the Department of Homeland Security. It’s available to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, Mexican nationals, and citizens of Argentina, India, Colombia, the U.K., Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and Taiwan. The membership cost is $100 for five years.

To apply for Global Entry, you have to submit an online application and then complete an enrollment interview at a Global Entry enrollment on arrival location or at an enrollment center. Global Entry benefits do not extend to other individuals, including family members. To take advantage of Global Entry benefits, you must have your own Global Entry membership. Children 18 or younger must have permission from a parent or legal guardian to enroll.

Successful applicants will receive a Known Traveler Number (called a CBP PASSID for Global Entry members) to use for their Global Entry benefits. To use a Global Entry kiosk, you must use your passport or U.S. legal permanent resident card. You might receive a Global Entry card, but it won’t function at Global Entry kiosks, though it can be used as a valid form of identification, similar to a driver’s license, at TSA airport checkpoints.

If you’re considering Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck, Global Entry memberships include all TSA PreCheck benefits, as well as additional benefits at certain airports when returning to the U.S. from abroad. The inclusion of TSA PreCheck benefits typically gives you access to dedicated security screening lines when departing from U.S. airports — which can significantly reduce your wait times in line. You also get access to Global Entry self-service kiosks at over 75 airports. This can help reduce your time when going through U.S. customs after traveling abroad.

Who is Global Entry right for?

A Global Entry membership might make sense if you’re an international traveler who often uses U.S. airports. Global Entry has all the benefits of TSA PreCheck, but you also have the opportunity to skip long customs lines when returning to the U.S. from abroad. Between TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, they’re nearly identical programs, except TSA PreCheck has no international benefits while Global Entry does.

What is CLEAR?

CLEAR is a secure ID platform and traveler program that uses biometric technology (in this case, your eyes and face) to confirm your identity. Your biometric information is converted into an encrypted code that’s unique to you. CLEAR is available to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who are 18 and older at the cost of $179 per year. This program is designed to expedite the travel document check process at U.S. airports and other locations, such as sports arenas.

To sign up for CLEAR, submit an online application form and then finish your enrollment at any airport CLEAR location without the need for an appointment (just bring a valid government-issued ID). Once you finish your enrollment, you can immediately start using CLEAR. To use CLEAR, look for CLEAR lanes next to TSA security checkpoints at participating airports. Then, quickly scan your boarding pass at a CLEAR kiosk, confirm your identity with your fingerprints or eyes, and move on to the physical screening process.

Children under 18 can go through the CLEAR lane for free if they’re accompanied by a CLEAR member. You have the option to add up to three adults (18 or older) at a discounted rate to a family plan.

Who is CLEAR right for?

If you want an additional method for getting through airport screening lines quicker, on top of TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, consider CLEAR. This program doesn’t necessarily speed up the physical screening process or get you through customs quicker, but it opens up another security lane at participating TSA security checkpoints for checking travel documents, which can help expedite the experience for you.

Overall, CLEAR is more of a supplement program to TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, as it wouldn’t necessarily replace either one. For more information, check out our comparison of TSA PreCheck vs. CLEAR.

For more details, here's our guide to CLEAR.

The best credit cards for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR

Getting through airport lines quicker with these traveler programs sounds amazing, but it comes at a cost. Fortunately, you have multiple options for avoiding these program costs with certain credit cards. This includes cards with TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee reimbursements, as well as a way to get CLEAR credit through American Express.

Overall, loads of credit cards offer statement credits for some of these programs. But here are a few options we think are exceptional for travelers.

Card Annual fee Rewards rate What makes it special
Chase Sapphire Reserve $550 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, and hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel booked through Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else Up to $100 statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
United Explorer Card $95 (waived first year) 2X miles on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases and 1X miles on everything else Up to $100 statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card $95 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 2X miles on all other purchases Up to $100 statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
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 Up to $100 statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

Up to $179 statement credit per year for CLEAR

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is often regarded as one of the best travel credit cards because of its premium travel benefits and flexible travel rewards loyalty program. One of these benefits includes receiving up to $100 in statement credits every four years for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Other benefits include $300 in annual travel credits, Priority Pass membership, and getting 50% more value from your points when you redeem them toward travel.

You also have the opportunity to earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. Your everyday earning rate is 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, and hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel booked through Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else.

For more details, check out our Chase Sapphire Reserve review.

#1 Premium Travel Credit Card

Intro Offer

50,000 points

Annual Fee

$550

Rewards Rate

up to 10X points per dollar

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 50,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 10X points on hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2021
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee
  • Excellent credit required
Card Details
  • Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, and hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel booked through Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else


United Explorer Card

The United Explorer Card likely makes the most sense if you’re a United frequent flyer. You get benefits like a free first checked bag, priority boarding, two United Club passes per year, 25% back on in-flight purchases, and premier upgrades on award tickets. And that’s all in addition to the up to $100 statement credit you can receive every four years for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

New cardholders can receive 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months and 2X miles on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases and 1X miles on everything else.

For more details, check out our United Explorer Card review.

Best Rewards for United

Intro Offer

60,000 miles

Annual Fee

$95 (waived first year)

Rewards Rate

up to 2X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 60,000 mile sign-up bonus
  • 2X miles on United purchases, dining, and hotel stays
  • Free first checked bag
  • 2 United Club Passes annually

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee after year one
  • Best usage limited to United flyers
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 2X miles on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases and 1X miles on everything else


Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture is an ideal travel card if you want a simplified earning rate and some helpful benefits. This card offers 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 2X miles on all other purchases. And you can also earn 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

Throw in the up to $100 statement credit you can receive every four years for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry and you’ve got yourself a winner.

For more details, check out our Capital One Venture Card review.

Incredibly Flexible Rewards

Intro Offer

60,000 miles

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 5X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 60,000 bonus mile welcome offer
  • 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
  • No foreign transaction fees

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 2X miles on all other purchases


The Platinum Card from American Express

The Amex Platinum is a luxury American Express card with loads of premium travel perks and benefits, including over $1,400 worth of value from annual credits (the $179 annual CLEAR credit is included in this). You also get a $100 statement credit every four years for Global Entry or an $85 statement credit every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck.

Other benefits include Priority Pass and The Centurion Lounge access, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, Hilton Honors Gold status, and elite status with Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, and National Car Rental Emerald Club. Select benefits require enrollment, and the annual fee is $695.

New cardmembers can receive 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months and 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. Terms apply.

For more details, check out our American Express Platinum review.

Best Luxury Travel Benefits

Intro Offer

100,000 Membership Rewards points

Annual Fee

$695

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months
  • 10X points at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months)
  • 5X points on eligible flights and hotels
  • $200 hotel credit, $240 digital entertainment credit, $200 in Uber Cash, $300 Equinox credit, $200 airline fee credit
  • Access to Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounges
  • Select benefits require enrollment.
  • $695 annual fee. Terms apply.

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months, plus 10x points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (up to $25,000 in combined purchases during your first 6 months)
  • 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
  • Terms apply


FAQs

Which is better, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry?

Global Entry is the better program for most travelers because it includes TSA PreCheck and also offers additional benefits. With Global Entry, you would receive the expedited screening benefits of TSA PreCheck at U.S. airports. Additionally, you would also receive expedited U.S. customs screening when entering the U.S. on an international flight.

Are TSA PreCheck and CLEAR the same thing?

TSA PreCheck and CLEAR are not the same thing. TSA PreCheck helps expedite the physical screening process at U.S. airports, while CLEAR helps expedite the travel document check process. If you’re a member of both programs, you might find your entire airport security and screening process is quicker than only being a member of one.

Do you need Global Entry if you have CLEAR?

You may need Global Entry if you have CLEAR. Global Entry and CLEAR are different traveler programs with different benefits, which means one wouldn’t necessarily replace the other. But if you’re a member of both programs, you could find your travel experience at U.S. airports to be quicker when going through screening processes. Global Entry can help expedite your physical screening experience, while CLEAR can help expedite your travel document check process.

Bottom line

The best traveler program for you depends on your unique situation. Fortunately, you have multiple options to find the right fit. And even better, it’s easy to become a member of these programs when you have the right credit card.

If you compare credit cards, many travel cards offer credits or reimbursements for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or CLEAR memberships. For travelers, this is an easy way to potentially reduce your wait times at the airport without having to pay anything out of pocket. It’s an easy decision if you travel often, but first, you have to decide which program might be best for you.

Our #1 Travel Card

Intro Offer

60,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10% anniversary point bonus each year
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • Typically need to spend thousands to reap rewards
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Author Details

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