We’ve all been there: Arriving at the airport with what we think is plenty of time, only to get caught up in long security lines. Sometimes we make our flight, sometimes we don’t, but the experience is almost never a pleasant one. In fact, it just adds a whole lot of stress to the beginning of a trip.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the time spent clearing security before a flight. The state department offers several Trusted Traveler Program options, and many airports now also host CLEAR kiosks. Both programs help you avoid some of the more onerous and time-consuming security processes, allowing you to enjoy a more comfortable travel experience.
What is TSA PreCheck®?
TSA PreCheck® is a program that expedites most of the pre-boarding security process at airports in the United States. After being accepted into the program, you will be assigned an identification number that you can enter when purchasing an airline ticket. A barcode will be added to your boarding pass, allowing you to bypass security lines at the airport and use the designated TSA PreCheck® line. This line will allow you to enter the security area quickly, and you will only have to undergo an abbreviated security screening: You can keep your shoes, belt and even a light jacket on. You can also keep your laptop and approved liquids in your carry-on bags.
There is a two-part process for applying to this program. First, you will fill out a form online, and then you will visit a TSA PreCheck® center for fingerprint and background screening.
Am I Eligible for PreCheck®?
Most US citizens and legal residents are eligible for this program. Ultimately, the state department will determine whether you qualify, but unless you have a criminal history, or a record of engaging in inappropriate conduct, such as refusing to wear a mask while using US transportation systems, you are eligible for the program.
Children under the age of 17 who are traveling with a parent or guardian who is enrolled in PreCheck® can also use the PreCheck® line, although teenagers may be subject to individual screening at the discretion of TSA personnel.
How Much Does PreCheck® Cost?
As of 2021, the cost is $85 for five years. Online renewals are $70 and $85 for in-person renewals. If the cost concerns you, contact your credit card company. Some credit cards offer reimbursements of PreCheck® fees as a perk for their customers.
What is CLEAR?
CLEAR is a program that offers people the option of avoiding checks of their identity cards. The program operates in airports as well as stadiums. CLEAR allows you to skip having your government-issued identification verified by an agent, so you can move directly to entrance lines. In an airport, this means that you don’t have to stand in line to have your ID examined by a TSA agent. Instead, you visit a CLEAR kiosk and, after verifying your participation in CLEAR, a CLEAR agent will escort you to airport security clearance. Unless you are a PreCheck® member, you will still need to undergo a standard security clearance, but you will not have to stand in line to have your ID cleared by TSA.
Am I Eligible for CLEAR?
Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible for the CLEAR program. You will need to visit a participating airport to complete the process.
How much does CLEAR Cost?
CLEAR ID will cost you $179 for a year’s membership. You can also add family members for $50 per person per year. Some credit cards, along with airline mileage programs, offer credits that can offset the cost of CLEAR.
Is Precheck or CLEAR Right for me?
The question of TSA PreCheck® Vs. CLEAR is primarily one of convenience. Both will speed up the process of clearing security at an airport in the United States. CLEAR offers the advantage of being able to bypass identification screenings at airports as well as stadiums and other large public venues. PreCheck® will allow you to bypass the most onerous aspects of security screenings at airports.
If you are a frequent air traveler, TSA PreCheck® may make the most sense for you. CLEAR can be an excellent option if you travel by air and frequently visit venues that participate in the CLEAR screening program.