TSA PreCheck Vs. Clear: Which Is Right For You?

This article was update 3/30/23 to reflect that you do not need to be a paid member of the CLEAR Plus opt-in airport membership to use the expedited CLEAR lane at entertainment and sports venues.

For the most part, travel is an incredibly fun and rewarding experience. Seeing the sites, new and old, trying new foods, and gaining new life experiences can provide people with unforgettable memories and new perspectives about the world. However, nothing toughens up a new traveler quite like the airport experience. From the stress of getting there on time to wondering if your bag will be under the weight limit and getting through security, it can all be a bit much. 

Nowadays, there are both government-run and private programs that offer travelers a way to speed up the check-in process and get to their gates with less hassle than normal. The two main programs are TSA PreCheck and Clear. Both programs are only available in the United States and have associated fees and application processes to access them. Each has their perks, but you may want to consider getting one over the other or even both if you're a frequent traveler.

Perks of TSA PreCheck

If you've ever flown in the U.S., you've probably seen a small lane with a little blue sign and green checkmark that says "TSA PreCheck" on it. This lane is for travelers who are a part of the TSA PreCheck program, a screening program run by the U.S. Transportation and Security Agency (T.S.A.). This program pre-screens eligible travelers to assess whether they pose a security risk. Once you enroll for PreCheck, you can take advantage of its benefits at over 200 airports nationwide. These benefits primarily include an expedited security lane, and during your security check, you aren't required to remove shoes, belts, jackets or outerwear, laptops, or liquids (though you still need to be in compliance with T.S.A.'s 3-1-1 rules).

To apply, you simply need to submit an online application and then attend an in-person screening to provide your fingerprints and where they will also run a background check. The fee for the application is $78, but once this is done and you are accepted to the program, you don't need to reapply for another 5 years which can be done online for only $70. TSA PreCheck is great for any traveler who flies frequently and wants to bypass pesky security screenings. This can be especially useful during busy times of the year and at airports where security checks can get backed up.

Get in the Clear

On the other hand, Clear is a different program entirely. With Clear, travelers can sign up at an airport kiosk in just a few minutes with the help of a Clear Ambassador. Once enrolled, you can bypass the wait for a T.S.A. agent to check your documents and go directly to the security check areas. A plus if you have TSA PreCheck, too, is that you can go directly to the PreCheck lane to bypass regular security. So Clear and TSA PreCheck go very well together in terms of speeding up the security check process. 

The Clear program costs $189 U.S. dollars per year but it's not only limited to airports. If you're an avid sports fan or attend many concerts throughout the year, Clear kiosks are also found at entertainment venues around the U.S. This is a great added benefit for big, popular venues where you can wait in line for hours just to get in. You do not need to be a paid member of the CLEAR Plus opt-in airport membership to use the expedited CLEAR lane at entertainment and sports venues. With Clear, you can skip the line and get an expedited security check.