Is Clear a good option for speeding up security checks at airports?

Young man and woman waiting for flight at the airport lounge. Young man and woman waiting for flight at the airport lounge. Image:

In a Nutshell

Like TSA Pre✓®, Clear is an option to help hurried passengers get through security at airports more quickly. The service speeds up the part of security that involves a look at your driver’s license and boarding pass. However, it doesn’t get you through the physical check faster. Clear also doesn’t come cheap, although there are some ways to save on the cost.

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If you’re looking to save time at airports, a Clear membership may be a handy tool in your travel kit.

When it comes to getting to your departing plane more quickly, there are a handful of options to make different parts of the process faster, including Clear. Different than TSA Pre✓®, Clear is a private-company operation, not government-run — and it makes the document-check portion of the TSA security line faster by verifying your identity using fingerprints and an eye scan. Passengers then proceed to the physical check portion of security, where they can use TSA’s standard lines or TSA Pre✓® to move through faster.

We’ll take a look at how Clear works, what to expect when you enter one of its security lines, what it costs and how to save on membership. We’ll also give some tips for deciding if Clear is right for you.


What is Clear?

Clear is a company that has developed a method of verifying your identity without using standard documents like passports and driver’s licenses. Instead, the process verifies who you are through a scan of your fingerprints and a snapshot of your eyes that checks your irises.

Airport security screening involves two parts: a line for checking your identity, and a second line for physical screening and running carry-on items through an X-ray machine.

Clear is not a replacement for TSA Pre✓®, but can be an addition to it.

When using Clear at an airport, you can expedite the first part of the process — the identity check. It’s not a replacement for TSA Pre✓®, but can be an addition to it.

Once you’re in the Clear system, “you simply present your boarding pass to be scanned, then look into the eye scanner and put your fingers on the scanner,” explains Andy Abramson, a Southern California-based communications company CEO and Clear member who travels frequently. “You’re cleared in about five to 10 seconds.”

With your identity verified, a Clear staff member escorts you directly to the physical screening line. If you’re also a TSA Pre✓® member, they’ll take you to the TSA Pre✓® expedited lanes for physical screening. Either way, you’ll need to go through this second part of the screening process.

Program Cost Service
Clear $179 per year Expedited identification and travel document verification
TSA Pre✓® $85 every five years Expedited physical screening
Global Entry $100 every five years Expedited customs reentry to US, plus the benefits of TSA Pre✓®

Where is Clear available?

Be aware that Clear does not yet operate in every airport or in every terminal at its current locations. If you’re a member, you’ll want to check availability before arrival.

Below, you can find a list of the 27 U.S. airports where Clear is currently available. You can also check out the most up-to-date information on availability at Clear’s website.

Clear Airport Locations Gates, Checkpoints or Terminals
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Domestic Terminal South
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Checkpoints 1 and 2
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Checkpoints A, B, C, D and E
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport Terminal E
Dallas Love Field Terminal 1
Denver International Airport North and South Terminals
Detroit Metro Airport McNamara Terminal, North Terminal
Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Terminal 2
Houston William P. Hobby Airport Main Terminal
George Bush International Airport (Houston) Terminal A North and South
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport Concourse D
Los Angeles International Airport Terminals 1-7
McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas) Terminal 1, C Gates Annex Checkpoint and C/D Gates Checkpoint; Terminal 3 D/E Gates Checkpoint
Miami International Airport Checkpoints E and H
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Terminal 1 North and South Checkpoints
LaGuardia Airport (New York City) Terminals C and D
Westchester County Airport (New York) Main Terminal
JFK International Airport (New York City) Terminals 2 and 4
Orlando International Airport East and West Security
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Terminals 2, 3 and 4
Salt Lake City International Airport Terminals 1 and 2
San Antonio International Airport Terminals A and B
San Francisco International Airport Terminal 1, Checkpoint B and C; Terminal 2; Terminal 3, Checkpoint F1, F2 and F3; International Terminals A and G
San Jose International Airport Terminals A and B
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Checkpoints 1-5
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Terminals A, B, B/C and C
Dulles International Airport Main Terminal Ticketing Level

How much does Clear decrease time in security lines?

Clear can be a good complement to TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry to further reduce time in security lines.

“Being both [TSA Pre✓®] and Clear is like cutting ahead of everyone else in line and saves lots of time, especially in overcrowded airports,” Abramson says.

Clear can also feel like a more exclusive experience. Stephanie Miller, founder of The Scenic Suitcase travel blog, points out that while airport security sometimes may allow people to cut to the front of long lines for physical security check in order to ease wait times, the Clear line is always restricted only to Clear members. This makes Clear lines pretty dependably quick, while TSA Pre✓® can sometimes take longer than expected.

“I’ve breezed through airport security in less than two minutes on a holiday weekend when the regular security line was wrapped through the terminal and down the hall,” Miller says.

How do I apply for Clear?

To enroll in Clear, you must be 18 or older with valid U.S. identification. You can start the registration process online, but then you have to complete it with a five-minute visit to any Clear location (the same sites where you can use the service). For airports, the Clear website notes exactly where you can find the enrollment office. If you can’t or don’t want to do the first part of registration online, you can complete the entire process at the Clear enrollment center.

How much does Clear cost?

The standard cost for Clear is $179 per year. That membership allows you to add up to three family members (aged 18 and older) to your plan for an additional $50 per person per year.

However, there are some ways you can reduce or eliminate the full cost. Delta SkyMiles members have access to reduced or free memberships. Diamond Medallion members receive free membership, while Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion members can enroll for $79 per year. Delta SkyMiles members who don’t hold elite status can get Clear at a discounted rate of $99 per year.

To receive the Delta SkyMiles discount, start your application at ClearMe.com/Delta or at any Clear enrollment location and have your SkyMiles number available.

Is Clear right for you?

There are a few things to consider when deciding if Clear is a good option for you.

Jacob Fu, co-founder of the Local Adventurer travel blog, advises first ensuring your local airport has Clear. “You should also check to see what terminals they serve,” he says. “Even though they have a presence at the airports here, they don’t necessarily service every terminal.”

If your primary airport doesn’t have Clear, you might want to hold off until it does.

Fu also recommends considering how busy the airports are where you will use Clear most.

Large airports like JFK “have long TSA Pre✓® lines, so [Clear] definitely helps you save time. Small- to midsized airports may not deal with issues of long lines at TSA Pre✓®,” he says.

In other words, Clear may not be as helpful if your primary airport’s security lines are generally not long anyway.

For many people, the biggest downside to Clear is its annual cost of $179. However, if you can reduce or offset the fee through a Delta SkyMiles membership, it could be worth it for frequent travelers.