TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or CLEAR: Which Program Is Right for You?
Let’s face it: no one likes to wait in those super long lines at the airport, whether at security or immigration and customs. The good news is that there are several programs available now that can save you time by advancing you to the front of the queue. The best part is that many airline and travel rewards credit cards will cover the application fees to such programs, meaning that you can skip the crowds for free!
So, if you’re convinced that you’d like to sign up for an expedited airport process, how do you know which program to choose? Keep reading for my thoughts on the differences between TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR to decide which option is best for you.
According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), last month, 94% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes at airport security! That’s because TSA PreCheck travelers proceed through dedicated security lines and expedited security checks at more than 200 US airports. When you’re a TSA PreCheck traveler, there’s no need to remove your shoes, belt, or light jacket from your person, nor do you need to remove your laptop or liquids from your luggage. On top of that, you go through a traditional metal detector rather than a full body scanner. TSA PreCheck travelers may bring children under 12 with them, as well. You can receive all of these perks for just $85 for 5 years.
I recommend TSA PreCheck for those who rarely travel abroad and for those without a US passport. To apply, simply submit a questionnaire online and then schedule a 10-minute in-person appointment at one of 380 enrollment centers nationwide. At the appointment, you’ll present your documents and undergo a brief background check and fingerprinting. In less than 30 days, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that you add to your flight reservations. The TSA PreCheck logo will then appear on your boarding pass, and you’re good to go!
Global Entry travelers receive all of the perks of TSA PreCheck plus expedited clearance through immigration and customs after international travel. Global Entry travelers need not fill out entry paperwork or wait in line to be interviewed by border officials; instead, they enter through automatic kiosks at select airports. There, they scan their passport and fingerprints or face and complete a digital customs declaration. The kiosk prints a receipt to hand to an officer before exiting. Unlike TSA PreCheck, children may not accompany guardians with Global Entry without their own membership. Global Entry perks, which include TSA PreCheck, cost $100 for 5 years. I recommend Global Entry for those who travel internationally at least once a year, especially because these added benefits only cost an additional $15. To apply for Global Entry, create a Trusted Traveler account and submit an application. Then, you’ll complete a 20-minute interview, including a background check and fingerprinting, at one of more than 100 enrollment centers.
CLEAR uses eye and fingerprint scanning instead of traditional IDs to verify your identity at 35 US airports. Upon arrival at the airport, CLEAR travelers report to a kiosk for scanning, then a representative escort them past the ID/boarding pass screening directly to the person/baggage screening. CLEAR’s security bypass features are also available at some sports and music venues in major US cities. CLEAR costs $179 per year for the primary member and $50 per year for up to three additional family members. Children under 18 may use CLEAR for free. If your airline or travel rewards credit card doesn’t cover CLEAR, there are discounts available for Delta and United frequent flyers. I recommend CLEAR in conjunction with TSA PreCheck or Global Entry for those who regularly fly through one of the 35 US airports that CLEAR serves. To apply, create a CLEAR account online, and pass through an airport with CLEAR services to complete the biometric scan. If all of this talk of jumping the airport queue has you excited to get back to flying again, drop me a line so that we can get started planning your stress- and hassle-free vacation today. Wherever your travels take you, I’m wishing you the pleasure of being at the front of the line.