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 Plus memberships 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.
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 Plus|
|Cost||$78 for five years||$100 for five years||$189 per year|
|Availability||200+ airports||75 airports||38 airports; 15 other locations|
|Eligibility requirements||U.S. citizens
Lawful permanent residents
Lawful permanent residents
Citizens of certain countries
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
|Speedy 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 $78 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.
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 $189 per year (for a CLEAR Plus membership). 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 a CLEAR Plus membership, 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 Plus 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.
CLEAR Plus vs. Reserve powered by CLEAR
Note that you might see multiple types of CLEAR lanes at an airport. One is the original CLEAR lane that's for paid CLEAR Plus members, while the other is a Reserve lane that's free to join.
CLEAR lanes for CLEAR Plus members are still likely the quicker option because you can use them in conjunction with a TSA PreCheck membership. Reserve lanes require you to make a booking ahead of time, show your ID to a TSA officer, and get routed through the standard TSA screening.
Compare 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 Plus 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||
|United℠ Explorer Card||$95 (waived first year)||2X miles on dining (including eligible delivery services), hotel stays (when booked with the hotel), and United Airlines purchases and 1X miles on everything else||
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||$95||2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel||
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||$695 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||
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 through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
You also have the opportunity to earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. Your everyday earning rate is 5X points on flights and 10X points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually; 3X points on other travel and dining & 1X points per dollar on all other purchases.
For more details, check out our Chase Sapphire Reserve review.
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 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months and 2X miles on dining (including eligible delivery services), hotel stays (when booked with the hotel), and United Airlines purchases and 1X miles on everything else.
For more details, check out our United Explorer Card review.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is an ideal travel card if you want a simplified earning rate and some helpful benefits. This card offers 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. And you can also earn a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
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.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express is a luxury card with loads of premium travel perks and benefits. You can get a $100 statement credit every four years for Global Entry or a $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 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $8,000 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 The Platinum Card® from American Express review.
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 for CLEAR Plus members. 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 Plus. 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 Plus can help expedite your travel document check process.
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 Plus 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.
Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards
- Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
- Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
- Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
- No foreign transaction fees
- Apply Now
- Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
- 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
- Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
- Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
- 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 18.24% - 28.24% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee applies to all balance transfers.
- If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
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- This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
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