There are so many different types of programs out there for expedited access through airport security and immigration that it’s difficult to keep up with. Each of these type of programs offer something unique but often there’s overlap between them so it’s important to do some research on the programs and learn which program would be best for you.
Some of the most popular options to research include:
But there’s another program out there called CLEAR. CLEAR is a privately owned service offered to passengers that allows them to bypass the lines going into airport security, whether you are going into the standard security line or the TSA Pre-Check line. It was originally part of the Registered Traveler program and although CLEAR is privately owned, it still in some ways has to work with governmental organizations, including TSA.
How does CLEAR work?
CLEAR works very simply. You find the CLEAR line leading to security which should have little to no line and then you simply scan your boarding pass and biometric data and then you’re off to the races and able to skip whatever line you would have been waiting on. You don’t even have to show your ID. And again, you’ll be able to jump the line regardless of if you’re headed to the TSA Pre-Check line or the standard security line.
How much does CLEAR cost?
Out of all of these traveler programs, CLEAR is by far the most expensive. It costs $179 per year.
They do offer different types of promos so you can get that for about $30 cheaper or try CLEAR out for free for a couple of months but in the long-run, it’s gonna cost you $179 each year, which is a lot compared the other programs that are closer to $100 and good for five year.
How do I sign-up for CLEAR?
You can start the registration process online by filling out some personal information and then you can finish the sign-up process by finding a CLEAR location at an airport near you (no appointment necessary).
Completing the registration process at the airport is only supposed to only take a few minutes. It consists of you inputting your details into a kiosk and then allowing them to register your biometric data including iris scan and fingerprints. As soon as you register, you’ll be able to use CLEAR instantly.
What airports have CLEAR?
One drawback to CLEAR is that it’s still growing and therefore you won’t find it at every major airport. As of June 2017, here are the locations that you’ll find CLEAR kiosks at:
Does CLEAR have any other benefits?
CLEAR also provides you with expedited access to arenas and stadiums, too. For example, there are several sports venues where you can find CLEAR. However, these are limited to just a few like Yankee Stadium, American Airlines Arena, (Miami) AT&T Park (San Francisco), etc. Hopefully we’ll see this list grow.
Is CLEAR worth it?
So the big question is CLEAR worth it?
I think that for some people it’s definitely worth it. If you are a frequent flyer who constantly make their way through airports that have CLEAR kiosks during peak hours in the day when even the TSA Pre-Check line can get backed up then I think that CLEAR could absolutely be worth it. If you combine CLEAR with TSA Pre-Check, your journey through airport security would be an absolute breeze.
However, if you don’t fly a lot or don’t frequent an airport with CLEAR then I think it’d be difficult to justify the $179/year expense. Also, if you’re like me and often fly in the wee hours of the morning then CLEAR may not be necessary.
I regularly fly out of HOU and IAH early in the morning and never have issues with waiting on the TSA Pre-Check line (and even the standard security line is not a problem. Thus, for me CLEAR hasn’t proven to be necessary.
There’s also the security concern of handing over biographical information and biometrics to a private organization. Personally, this doesn’t bother because it’s not like Ive got a safe in my house with $10,000,000 that someone is going to use my iris scan data to access.
Still, I know some people are very conservative when it comes to handing over such data and CLEAR did have some security/bankruptcy issues dating back to 2008 when it was owned by Verified Identity Pass, Inc. It’s now owned by Alclear, LLC and reportedly is on the right track since it’s relaunch in 2010.
CLEAR is a cool concept that allows you to make your airport experience even less stressful. The biggest issue to me is the price — the fact that I’d have to pay $179 per year means that I’d need to make sure I’m getting my money’s worth and based on my travel patterns right now, it just doesn’t seem necessary. But for others, CLEAR could definitely be worth it.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.