A CLEAR Answer to Saving Time in Airport Security Lines

Written by on June 29, 2017 in Travel Tips

TSA PreCheck is a no-brainer — even for casual travelers flying a few roundtrips each year. But as PreCheck’s popularity grows, so does its lines. The answer to this problem is CLEAR.

What is CLEAR?

CLEAR is an expedited airport security program using biometrics to identify travelers. Once a CLEAR member presents her boarding pass and verifies her identity via fingerprint scan at a CLEAR kiosk, she is escorted directly to the appropriate TSA carryon and body scan queue. (PreCheck members go to the PreCheck area. Non-PreCheck members head to the standard security area, though every CLEAR member I’ve ever seen has PreCheck.)

Antalya, Turkey - September 10, 2016: Security and passport control at Antalya International Airport, Turkey.

Who needs this?! (Photo ©iStockphoto.com/MariusLtu)

No More Showing My Driver’s License or Other Photo ID?

Nope! Keep that ID and wallet in your carryon! Your fingerprints and/or retinas verify your identity. Pretty Mission:Impossible, huh?

The only document you present is your boarding pass.

Is CLEAR Available at All Airports?

*sigh* One can dream. For now, though, CLEAR is available at over 20 major airports:

  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Austin (AUS)
  • Baltimore (BWI)
  • Dallas (DFW)
  • Denver (DEN)
  • Detroit (DTW)
  • Houston Intercontinental (IAH)
  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Minneapolis/St.Paul (MSP)
  • New York Westchester (HPN)
  • New York John F. Kennedy (JFK)
  • New York LaGuardia (LGA)
  • Orlando International (MCO)
  • San Antonio (SAT)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • San Jose (SJC)
  • Seattle International (SEA)
  • Washington Dulles (IAD)
  • Washington National (DCA)

CLEAR registration/enrollment location at Las Vegas McCarran Airport.

How Much Does CLEAR Cost?

$179 per year. $99 for Delta SkyMiles members. $79 for Delta Silver, Gold, and Platinum Medallion elites (Diamonds receive a complimentary membership).

Is CLEAR Worth the Cost?

As with most expenses, it really depends on how much you’ll use it. For frequent travelers who base out of CLEAR airports — or frequently visit one — $179 might be worth the cost.

If you have children, though, consider this: kids under 18 are free when traveling with you. Depending how often you travel with children, not waiting in the TSA line might be worth a few bucks.

My Delta medallion status knocked the cost down to $79 a year — which is absolutely worth it. Now that CLEAR is available in most LAX terminals, I’ll use it close to 20 times this year alone (at LAX and other CLEAR airports). For me, the $80 is a great deal. Yes, I survived nearly four decades of standing in line without CLEAR. But there have been times when traffic snarls and other unforeseen delays nearly caused me to miss a flight. CLEAR has saved me. It’s also allowed me more time to get work done, grab a bite before a flight, enjoy a cocktail in a lounge, etc.

This leads me to:

Does CLEAR Really Save Time?

Yes and no. It depends on security line lengths.

CLEAR saved my wife and me 45 minutes — that was the PreCheck line’s estimated wait — at Baltimore’s BWI airport one morning last year. (We later heard the wait was closer to an hour!)

I’ve used it in Las Vegas about a half-dozen times in year I’ve been a member. CLEAR has saved me between ten seconds and a few minutes. (Admittedly, though, most of my return trips have been on Monday afternoons. Sunday nights, though, are a different story.)

How Do I Sign Up for CLEAR?

Visit ClearMe.com to start the process. Next time you’re at an airport where CLEAR is offered, visit an enrollment station to complete the process. They’ll scan your fingerprints and retinas (an easy and painless process). The whole process takes about five minutes.

A new CLEAR member has her fingerprints scanned the CLEAR enrollment center at Las Vegas McCarran Airport.

A new CLEAR member scans is fingerprinted at the CLEAR enrollment center in Las Vegas McCarran Airport.

Is CLEAR Safe?

I know people who won’t enroll in Global Entry or TSA PreCheck because they don’t want the government to have their fingerprints. (The government probably already does. Remember when we were fingerprinted in grade school?) That’s a valid concern, though I don’t worry too much about it. CLEAR is a private company — their having one’s fingerprints and retina scans will totally freak out the people who refuse Global Entry and PreCheck. (Many of these people also use debit cards everywhere without a second thought.)

Personally, I’m not terribly concerned about CLEAR getting hacked or selling my biometrics to anyone.

Are You All CLEAR?

Do you use clear? Do you love it? Hate it? Share your comments below!


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About the Author

About the Author: Chris Carley is a writer, media consultant, voice over artist, dog owner, husband, and recently became a dad! He loves talking all things points and miles. You'll likely find him in an airport lounge while on a trip that involves the most circuitous route possible leading to his ultimate destination. .


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3 Reader Comments

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  1. CarolK says:

    I love Clear. Clear with precheck can be amazing!

  2. Roger says:

    what airports will CLEAR be coming to next? Is Tampa in the near future?

    • Chris Carley says:

      @Roger: Not sure. (For your sake, I hope so! :-)) Their website (Clearme.com) has a contact phone number and chat function — maybe they’d know?