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TSA PreCheck vs Global Entry vs CLEAR: how to get through airport security quickly

Waiting in line at airport security is among the least enjoyable things about traveling. It's like being stuck in a traffic jam. But there are three very affordable programs that can help you skip the lines. Read more about each of them told the publication Clark.

Photo: IStock

TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and CLEAR will help you skip the security lines at the airport. But each of them requires a membership fee, and there are some obstacles that must be overcome in order to become a member of the program.

Table: ForumDaily

TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck is a five-year membership program from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Membership costs $85 and you can renew online for as little as $70 when your five-year term expires.

TSA reports that in July 2022, 95% of PreCheck customers experienced wait times of less than five minutes at airport security checkpoints.

How it works

TSA PreCheck, which can be used at over 200 airports, is designed for domestic travel within the United States.

Participants must attend an in-person fingerprinting and background check meeting. Once you have passed the required tests and been added to the approved list, you will be issued with a card that allows you to enter the special expedited security lines at airport security checkpoints.

Steps to apply

The Transportation Security Administration suggests the following steps for becoming a TSA PreCheck Member:

  • apply online: apply online in 5 minutes and make an appointment at any of the 380+ registration centers;
  • sign up for a meeting: 10-minute face-to-face meeting that includes fingerprinting for background checks;
  • travel with ease: add your traveler number to your flight booking for faster and easier checkout.

Global Entry

Global Entry is a five-year membership program from the US Department of Homeland Security. The program membership costs $100 and is for international travel, but this price includes a TSA PreCheck subscription for domestic travel.

Over 75 airports have Global Entry and over 200 have TSA PreCheck capabilities.

The application process is slightly more stressful than PreCheck due to the risks the United States associates with loosely controlled international travel. The need for a more detailed personal interview to obtain proper clearance makes it difficult to obtain membership.

How it works

You will receive expedited clearance through Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when you arrive in the United States, whether you arrived by air, land, or sea, as long as your destination is eligible.

CBP uses advanced biometric technology to expedite screening of approved Global Entry participants during entry and exit through international travel checkpoints.

Please note that for flights departing from the US, you will still need to comply with other countries' border controls. Global Entry only speeds up your return to the US.

Steps to apply

The US Department of Homeland Security offers four steps to apply for a Global Entry subscription:

  • create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account. Regardless of your age, you must have your own TTP account;
  • Log into your TTP account and complete the application. There is a non-refundable fee of $100 for each completed application;
  • upon acceptance of your completed application and payment, CBP will review your application. If your application is conditionally approved, your TTP account will indicate that you must schedule an interview at Global Entry Enrollment Center. Each applicant must schedule a separate interview.

You will need to bring a valid passport(s) and another form of identification, such as a driver's license, to your interview. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must show your green card.

CLEAR Plus

CLEAR Plus is an annual membership program offered by CLEAR, a privately held company operating in more than 40 US airports. Individual membership costs $179 per year, although family members can be added for an additional $50.

CLEAR bills itself as a "faster" alternative to the TSA PreCheck method without queuing at the airport. It offers, among other things, fast track entry to the stadium and facilities that require proof of identity (or, in some cases, vaccination status).

How it works

CLEAR Plus is positioning itself as a way to expedite document checks in the airport security queue. You will queue up at the CLEAR checkpoint and be able to bypass certain security measures as your identity can be verified through the CLEAR database.

Steps to apply
  • fill out an application for CLEAR registration site;
  • visit any location at the CLEAR airport to complete the check-in process. Appointment is not required. CLEAR says you just need to bring a valid ID with you.

Which is better

Now that you know a little more about each of these programs, it's time to decide which is best for you.

Some people may not need any of the above, while others may say "give me everything". It depends on how often you travel and your tolerance for airport security queues.

If you are a moderate traveler who mostly travels within the country, then you can be sure that TSA PreCheck is your easiest option.

If you are traveling around the world, choose Global Entry. Please be aware that your Global Entry subscription includes TSA pre-validation.

And if you're not sure if it's worth paying to subscribe to any of them, you can check your wallet before dismissing it as too expensive. Many credit cards offer a free subscription to one or more of these services as a cardholder perk.

CLEAR Plus is a more expensive option that probably only makes sense for frequent travelers. Be sure to check the airline rewards program to see if it offers a free or discounted membership. And for maximum benefit, you can take advantage of the discount provided to family members who wish to join as an addition to your membership.

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