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Navigating airport security can be a time-consuming and often frustrating experience. Between the long lines and complicated security protocols, just getting to your gate can be exhausting.
Trusted traveler programs like TSA PreCheck and Clear aim to speed up your journey through checkpoints with benefits such as expedited screening and biometric identity verification. By signing up for these programs, you can enjoy expedited security lines and even skip some of the more arduous parts. You can even get the fee waived with select travel credit cards.
TSA PreCheck and Clear both have their advantages and are very different programs. Each has its own application process, requirements, benefits and fee structure. If you’re having trouble deciding between TSA PreCheck and Clear, we've got you covered. Here’s a breakdown of each program to help you make an informed decision.
What is TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck is a trusted traveler program run by the Transportation Security Administration. PreCheck provides low-risk travelers with expedited security screening at over 200 airports in the US. TSA PreCheck members pay a $78 application fee and undergo a background check. Once approved, TSA PreCheck is valid for up to five years. Renewal fees are slightly cheaper at $70 and well worth it for some.
Travelers who are approved for TSA PreCheck can access a designated security lane at more than 200 US airports where they can keep their shoes, belts and light jackets on and leave laptops and compliant liquids in their carry-on bags, making the security checkpoint experience faster and more convenient.
Best for: Travelers who want expedited security screenings at a vast network of US airports.
How to apply for TSA PreCheck
TSA PreCheck is only open to US citizens, US nationals and permanent residents. You can apply online. An interview and background check are required. If you’ve had any criminal offenses on your record, your eligibility for PreCheck might be impacted.
Credit cards that cover TSA PreCheck application fees
While the $78 TSA PreCheck application fee is reasonable, you might not have to pay it out of pocket. There are plenty of credit cards that cover TSA PreCheck application fees. Most of these cards offer a $100 credit towards either Global Entry or PreCheck. While the Global Entry application fee is $100, you’ll automatically get enrolled in TSA PreCheck if you’re approved for Global Entry. So if your card offers an option, it’s worth going with Global Entry since you’ll get both programs for the price of one.
Here’s a complete list of credit cards that offer TSA PreCheck application fee credits:
- Aeroplan® Credit Card
- American Airlines Credit Union Visa® Signature credit
- Arvest Visa Signature® Credit Card
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
- Capital One Spark Miles for Business
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Venture X Business
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
- Certain American Express® Credit Cards*
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Choice Privileges® Select Mastercard®
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World EliteTM MasterCard®
- Citi Prestige® Card
- Commerce Bank® World Elite Mastercard®
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card*
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card*
- Diners Club® Carte Blanche® Corporate Card
- HSBC Elite World Elite Mastercard®
- HSBC Premier World Mastercard®
- IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card
- IHG One Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card*
- MasterCard® Black Card™
- MasterCard® Gold Card™
- Navy Federal's Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Card
- PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card
- Provident World+ Travel®
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
- Truist Business Travel Rewards credit card
- Truist Enjoy Beyond credit card
- Truist Enjoy Travel credit card
- UBS Visa Infinite Credit Card
- United ClubSM Infinite Card
- UnitedSM Explorer Card
- United QuestSM Card
- USAA Eagle Navigator™ Visa Signature® Credit Card
- U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card
- U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
- U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Gold American Express® Card*
What is Clear?
Clear is a trusted traveler program that uses biometric verification to expedite the identity verification process at security checkpoints. Clear is available at over 50 US airports and arenas. Instead of standing in line and showing their identification to a TSA agent, Clear members can use a designated kiosk to provide an iris scan or fingerprint before proceeding to security. While Clear uses biometric data to let you clear security, agents periodically conduct random ID checks.
Clear is ideal for frequent fliers who value time efficiency and convenience. These travelers typically fly out of large, busy airports where long security lines are common. Through Clear’s Reserve feature, members can reserve a spot in line at select airports.
Clear also appeals to those who don’t want to go through background checks required by TSA PreCheck. Despite its $189 annual fee (which is much higher compared to similar programs), Clear can save customers a lot of hassle and time while navigating the airport.
Best for: Travelers who want to expedite TSA identification checks via biometric data.
How to enroll in Clear
You can start the Clear enrollment process online or at an airport kiosk. The enrollment process is pretty quick and airport locations often have agents on-site to assist you. If you choose to apply online, you’ll still need to visit a Clear airport kiosk to validate your ID and provide biometric information. Clear is open to US citizens and legal permanent residents over the age of 18.
Clear membership costs $189 per year for individuals. A family membership allows you to add up to three adults for $70 each. Family members can use Clear regardless of whether they travel with the primary member or not. Children under 18 can accompany Clear members free of charge.
Credit cards that cover Clear membership fees
You can get the $189 Clear membership fee waived with certain credit cards or if you have elite status with Delta or United. Delta SkyMiles Diamond Medallion members and higher get a free annual clear membership, while Silver, Gold and Platinum members receive $40 off. Even non-elite members receive $10 off their annual Clear membership.
United Premier 1K and Global Services members also enjoy free Clear membership. Silver, Gold and Platinum members receive a $40 discount, while non-elite members get $10 off.
Lastly, you can get your Clear membership fee covered with credit cards. The following cards cover the entire $189 Clear membership fee (with exceptions noted):
- American Express® Green Card*
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card (discounted to $149 per year)*
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card (discounted to $149)*
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (discounted to $149)*
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card (discounted to $149)*
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card (discounted to $149)*
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card (discounted to $149)*
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express*
- The Platinum Card® from American Express*
- United Club℠ Infinite Card (discounted to $149)
- United Club℠ Business Card (discounted to $149)
- United℠ Business Card (discounted to $149)
- United℠ Explorer Card (discounted to $149)
Comparison between TSA PreCheck and Clear
Whether you're a frequent flyer or an occasional traveler, TSA PreCheck and Clear can significantly enhance your airport experience and save you valuable time. Both programs expedite airport security, but they function differently. TSA PreCheck focuses on expediting security checkpoints via dedicated lanes and less intrusive screening.
On the other hand, Clear uses biometric technology for identity verification, which speeds up airport identity check procedures. Once you've completed your verification process at a Clear portal, a Clear agent escorts you to the front of the security line without waiting.
The cost could greatly influence your decision between these two programs. The annual membership fee for TSA PreCheck is $78 for five years, while Clear charges an annual fee of $189. While TSA PreCheck requires a criminal background check, Clear doesn’t.
- Fee: $78 for five years
- Expedited security screening: Yes
- Expedited ID check via biometric scanning: No
- Requires background check: Yes
- Best for: Travelers who want expedited security screenings at a vast network of US airports.
- Credit cards waiving fees: 39 credit cards
- Credit cards offering discounts: N/A
- Airlines offering elite status discounts: N/A
- Fee: $189 per year
- Expedited security screening: No
- Expedited ID check via biometric scanning: Yes
- Requires background check: No
- Best for: Travelers who want to expedite TSA identification checks via biometric data
- Credit cards waiving fees: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express*; The Platinum Card® from American Express; American Express® Green Card*
- Credit cards offering discounts: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card*; Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card*; Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card*; Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express*; Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card*; Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card*; United ClubSM Infinite Card; United Club℠ Business Card ; United℠ Business Card; UnitedSM Explorer Card
- Airlines offering elite status discounts: Delta Silver, Gold, Platinum ($40 off); Delta SkyMiles members ($10 off); United Premier 1K; United Global Services members; United Silver, Gold and Platinum elite members ($40 off); United MileagePlus members ($10 off)
Which program should you apply for?
Consider your travel habits and priorities to determine which program is right for you. If you frequently fly domestically and want to breeze through security easily, TSA PreCheck may be the best option. PreCheck is available at over 200 US airports, providing plenty of opportunities to put this benefit to good use.
However, PreCheck can also get incredibly crowded at some points and not all travelers will enjoy a faster security check.
Clear’s biometric verification system allows you to skip the ID check portion at 51 US airports and select sports stadiums and concert venues. This can save tremendous time and provide convenience if you travel out of the small number of airports currently offering Clear. When deciding, you should choose the program that aligns best with your travel habits and needs.
With each program speeding up a different aspect of airport security, it could make sense to sign up for both – especially if you can get the application fees waived through credit cards and from having airline elite status.
Is Clear or TSA PreCheck better?
TSA PreCheck is generally the better option for most travelers because it offers expedited security screening at a lower cost and is available at more airports nationwide.
Does Clear allow you to go through TSA Precheck?
Clear and TSA PreCheck are separate programs, and having Clear does not grant you access to TSA PreCheck. You must apply for and be approved for both Clear and TSA PreCheck separately if you wish to use both services for expedited airport security screening.
What advantages does TSA PreCheck give you?
TSA PreCheck provides several advantages, including expedited security screening, shorter lines and the ability to keep your shoes, belts and light jackets on, as well as leave your laptop and liquids in your bag when going through security at participating US airports.
How long does it take to get TSA PreCheck approved?
The TSA PreCheck approval process varies, depending on how soon you can get an interview. Conditional approvals typically take 3-5 days, though they can take up to 60 days. Once you’re conditionally approved, you’ll need to schedule an interview to answer a few questions and verify your documents. You can do this on arrival at select airports around the world.
What is the difference between TSA PreCheck and Known Traveler Number?
A Known Traveler Number is issued to those who are approved for TSA PreCheck. When booking an airline ticket, you can enter the KnownTravel Number in a designated field. This ensures your boarding pass will note your PreCheck access so you can get access to expedited security screening.
* Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.