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CLEAR vs. TSA PreCheck: What’s the difference?

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CLEAR and TSA PreCheck are tools that expedite your preflight airport experience, allowing you to breeze through the check-in and security process. However, they’re not the same, though they are complementary to each other.

The three main differences between TSA PreCheck and CLEAR are:

  1. TSA PreCheck is government run while CLEAR is run by a private company.
  2. CLEAR reduces the document screening and identification process with a special kiosk where you’re verified with biometric screening. TSA PreCheck expedites the physical screening with a separate (usually shorter) line and relaxed screening requirements.
  3. The cost for TSA PreCheck is $78 to $85 for five years while CLEAR costs $189 a year.

Frequent travelers may benefit from having both and can even get reimbursed for their enrollment fees by taking advantage of the perks that come with several premium travel credit cards.

TSA PreCheckCLEAR
Regular application fee$78 to $85$189
Membership length5 years1 year
Total airports supported200+ airports and 90+ airlines55+ domestic airports
Do credit cards offer free enrollmentYes, see below for a list of cards that offer this benefitYes, see below for a list of cards that offer this benefit
Used for venues other than airportsNoYes
Adding family members$0: Children 17 and under (when traveling with adult PreCheck holder)

No special pricing for additional adults
$0: Children 17 and under

$99: Adults (up to three)

TSA PreCheck is a government-offered program that allows travelers a way to expedite the security process before flying. The TSA says that 99% of people get through security in under 10 minutes with PreCheck. You can go through security without removing outerwear like belts, shoes and jackets, and you also get to leave laptops and liquids inside your carry-on bags. With these special policies, the security screening process is sped up significantly, especially if you’re traveling with young children.

Applications are open to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and lawful permanent residents. Upon approval, you receive a Known Traveler Number. You can store this number in your frequent flyer account, or enter it when you make your airline reservation. Your boarding pass will have an indicator that designates you as a vetted traveler. With this, you’ll be able to go to a designated security lane at more than 200 domestic airports and 90 airlines that participate in the program.


If the indicator doesn’t appear on your boarding pass, you should look up your TSA PreCheck Known Traveler Number and confirm that your membership hasn’t expired. If it hasn’t, confirm your Known Traveler Number and personal information for accuracy with the airline. If there are still issues, call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673, submit an online form or contact them on @TSA on X or Facebook Messenger.

TSA PreCheck benefits

  • Skip the long lines in the regular security lanes
  • Enjoy an expedited security check
  • Leave on outerwear items, like shoes, belts and light jackets
  • Keep your laptop and 3-1-1 liquid items in your carry-on
  • Membership is affordable and valid for five years

You can get TSA PreCheck for free by signing up for the right credit card. More than 20 credit cards offer TSA PreCheck reimbursement as a benefit of card ownership, though you won’t find this benefit with a no-annual-fee card. However, with most premium credit cards, the annual fee is easily offset by travel perks, shopping credits and even airport lounge access.

Note that in most cases you’ll have to pay for your TSA PreCheck application with the specific credit card. And because your PreCheck membership lasts for five years, the credit is only available once every four or four and half years.


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Tip

To ensure continued membership, set a reminder on your calendar for your next renewal date. Give yourself a few months of buffer time to allow for processing.

Cards that offer free TSA PreCheck

IssuerCards
American ExpressThe Platinum Card® from American Express
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Bank of AmericaBank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
Capital OneCapital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Venture X Business Card
ChaseChase Sapphire Reserve®
United℠ Explorer Card
United Quest℠ Card
United Club℠ Infinite Card
IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card
IHG One Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
CitiCiti® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
PenFedPenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card
U.S. BankU.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

 

 

How to apply for TSA Precheck

Applying for TSA PreCheck is simple and can be done mostly online. You can choose from two enrollment providers: Telos® or Idemia. Telos® costs $85 to apply and is offered at 26 locations and Idemia costs $78 and has more than 620 locations. Generally your credit card reimbursement will cover either provider.

  1. Choose an enrollment provider from the TSA website.
  2. Click on the “Apply Now” button to be directed to an online application.
  3. Fill out information including contact information; physical characteristics; up to five years of past addresses and qualification questions, and select the photo ID and citizenship or immigration documents that you’re using. Note: Make sure that your documents are not expired and use the same name.
  4. Create an appointment. A list of Universal Enrollment Centers gives you the locations and available appointments of the centers nearest to your home address. Choose the one that works best for you.
  5. Submit your application.
  6. Take your documents to your scheduled appointment to complete the process, which includes having your picture taken and paying the enrollment fee.
  7. Receive your Known Traveler Number by email or phone in three to five days, though sometimes it can take up to 60 days.

CLEAR Plus is a privately run trusted traveler program that offers a faster alternative to waiting in line for the identification portion of the security process at airports.

After checking in with the airline, CLEAR Plus members go to a CLEAR Pod, where biometric technology is used to verify your ID and boarding pass with just your eyes or fingerprints. Once verified, you proceed to the security line.

If you are enrolled in TSA PreCheck, you’ll head to the front of the PreCheck line where you’ll enjoy a speedier security screening. If you don’t have TSA PreCheck, you’ll go straight to TSA security screening. You’ll need to remove items from your carry-on, take off your shoes and walk through the metal detector.

Frequent travelers may find that it makes sense to enroll in both CLEAR Plus and TSA PreCheck to save time and potential frustration that often comes with going through security checkpoints.

CLEAR members also enjoy benefits with Avis car rental. You can get faster verification at more than 50 Avis airport locations and discounts up to 35%. You may also receive complimentary upgrades (when available) and earn bonus Avis Preferred Points on every dollar spent.

A drawback of CLEAR Plus is that it’s not in all airports — currently there are just over 50 participating airports. You can look here to see if your preferred and most frequented airports are on the list.

CLEAR offers a free, basic service that gives you faster access to sporting events and concert venues. It also stores vaccine records, if you choose to upload them, for venues that require proof of vaccination. You can download the CLEAR app to sign up.

CLEAR Plus benefits

  • Biometric verification for expedited security screening
  • Same-day approval
  • Not limited to airports
  • Reduced price for up to three adult family members or friends

How to apply for CLEAR Plus

You can apply for a CLEAR Plus membership at the airport in a matter of minutes (for convenience, you can start the process online). However, you’ll need to do your biometric scans at a CLEAR airport location with your government-issued ID.

  1. Visit the CLEAR website.
  2. Select an individual or family membership. You can also add up to three adult family members or friends.
  3. Input your payment information
  4. Continue the application process as directed.
  5. Complete the biometrics at an airport with a CLEAR ambassador.

Once your biometrics are scanned, you are finished and can begin using CLEAR.

Alternatively, you can show up at a CLEAR Pod at a partner airport and go through the application process before your flight.

CLEAR Plus is available to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents 18 and older, and you can apply for CLEAR online or in person at an airport. You will need a valid form of government-issued identification which includes:

  • U.S driver’s license
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. State-issued ID

All forms of identification must have a photo and be valid, unexpired and not amended.

You can get a free CLEAR Plus membership if you have a credit card that offers it as a cardholder benefit. Generally, you’ll need to pay your CLEAR Plus fees with the card in order to receive the statement credit.

There are also a few airline loyalty programs that offer free or reduced prices on CLEAR Plus and military members may be eligible for discounts, too.

Loyalty programTierPrice
Delta SkyMilesDiamond Medallion$0
Platinum MedallionGold MedallionSilver Medallion$149
Skymiles members$179
United Mileage PlusPremier 1K members$0
Premier Platinum
Premier Gold
Premier Silver members
$149
United U.S. Credit Card members$149
MileagePlus members:$179
Alaska AirlinesMVP
MVP Gold
MVP Gold 75k
MVP Gold 100k
$179 (plus 1,500 miles for enrolling in CLEAR Plus for the first time and 1,250 miles at renewal)

Military service members and government employees: Eligible for CLEAR Plus at a discount rate, though you’ll need to inquire at an airport location for more details.

The information related to the Venture X Business Card, U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card and U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card has been independently collected by LendingTree and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are separate programs offered through U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The main difference is that Global Entry offers expedited entry back into the United States when you have been abroad, while TSA PreCheck is for travel departures within the United States.

Note that enrollment in Global Entry comes with TSA PreCheck at no additional cost. If you travel internationally even once or twice a year, it’s well worth your time to spend a little bit more for Global Entry. On your departing international flight, you can speed through security with TSA PreCheck and then upon arrival back in the United States, Global Entry allows you to skip long waits in the customs line.

No, CLEAR Plus and TSA PreCheck aren’t the same. CLEAR Plus helps you skip the security line and go straight to TSA screening, while TSA PreCheck helps you go faster through TSA screening.

No, children 17 and under do not need their own CLEAR or TSA PreCheck accounts when traveling with an enrolled parent or guardian.

For the most current regulations and guidelines for less common travel situations, visit the TSA PreCheck and CLEAR websites.

Yes, CLEAR Plus or TSA PreCheck applications are open to United States legal permanent residents who have U.S.-issued identification, such as a U.S. driver’s license or a U.S. state-issued ID.

Applicants of any nationality must have the required photo identification and pass security screenings.