Clear vs. TSA PreCheck: Which Is Best?

Checking her boarding schedule stock photo
svetikd / iStock.com

Anyone who has ever taken a flight knows the hassles associated with security screening. Fortunately, programs like TSA PreCheck and Clear make it easier for airline passengers to quickly pass through airport security. Frequent flyers often opt for these programs to save time and promptly catch flights without going through the security queues.

Both TSA PreCheck and Clear have their own sets of benefits and challenges. Read on to find out more about which one might be the most suitable for you.

TSA PreCheck

Introduced in 2013, TSA PreCheck is an expedited screening program that helps flyers move quickly through airport security. It is backed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Passengers are evaluated exhaustively for possible risk factors during flying under the TSA PreCheck program.

How TSA PreCheck Works

Once you receive your TSA PreCheck membership, participating airlines will print the indicator on your boarding pass. This membership will allow you to move faster through airport security without the hassles of removing your shoes and belts or taking your laptops out for screening.

Make Your Money Work for You

Advantages of TSA PreCheck

  • The biggest benefit of having a TSA PreCheck membership is that you get speedy access to airport security lines.
  • Members do not need to remove their shoes, laptops, belts and jackets as they move through security.
  • You can save on the application cost when you apply through many popular travel credit cards.

Application Process

You have to first submit an online application on the TSA website and then schedule an in-person appointment. This appointment will include a thorough background check and fingerprinting at an enrollment center.

Clear

Clear is a traveler program that is owned by a private company and has been certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Users get the benefits of digitally verifying their identity and skip the hassles of manual scans in airports, stadiums and arenas across the U.S.

How Clear Works

When you have a Clear Plus membership, look out for dedicated Clear lanes at airports and other venues for digital verification. You simply have to step up to the pod and verify your identity with your eyes or fingerprint. Once you’re through the Clear check-in, you skip to the front of the TSA security screening line.

Make Your Money Work for You

Clear’s Check-In provides an easy and automated way to verify your identity for hotel rooms, car rentals, offices and events, as well as at airports. Clear’s Age Verification is a tool that helps verify your age by running database checks and matching your selfie to your driver’s license. Health Pass allows you to share your COVID-19 vaccination status and negative test reports with the concerned authorities.

Advantages of Clear

  • Clear helps you to quickly verify your identity with your eyes or fingerprints.
  • Because of the digital screening facilities, members don’t have to stand in line and wait for a representative to check their boarding pass and ID.
  • Members can share COVID-19 vaccination status and negative test results with the respective personnel easily through a few simple taps.

Application Process

You can begin your application online on the company website or go visit an in-person Clear location at any airport. Either way, the process must be completed at an airport, where a Clear ambassador will help you get set up at their pod by adding your eyes or fingerprint to your secure profile.

Clear vs. TSA PreCheck: Comparison

Now that you have an idea of how Clear and TSA PreCheck work, here’s a comparison of the cost, scope and availability of the two.

Make Your Money Work for You
Clear TSA PreCheck
Cost $189 annually for standard membership $78, valid for five years
Eligibility Available to US citizens and legal permanent residents who are 18 or older and have a valid government-issued photo ID. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, members of Global Entry, members of the U.S. armed forces or specified cadets of the U.S. military academy.
Scope of Operations Available at over 40 airports, various stadiums, sports arenas and other locations. Available at over 200 airports across the country.

Clear vs. TSA PreCheck: Which Is Best?

When it comes to affordability, TSA PreCheck is clearly a winner, because you only need to pay $78 for five years, which comes to just over a dollar per month. A Clear membership is much more expensive and many travelers might feel that it is not worth it to pay so much for just a few moments of convenience.

However, before coming to a decision, you should remember that Clear’s benefits extend beyond the walls of airports.

Make Your Money Work for You

Clear has multiple use cases, whereas TSA PreCheck is only a program to expedite the security screening system at airports. If you’re only using it to get through airport security faster, TSA PreCheck is the better option, but if you also want to expedite screening and check-in at events and for car rentals and hotels, Clear might be worth the additional cost.

Can You Use TSA PreCheck and Clear Together?

Yes, you can use TSA PreCheck and Clear together for a seamless airport experience. When you have Clear, you no longer have to wait in a queue to get your documents verified. With TSA PreCheck along with Clear, you can move straight to the TSA PreCheck lanes after online verification and expedite your airport security process.

Final Take

Both Clear and TSA PreCheck have their own sets of advantages. Since TSA PreCheck is extremely affordable and widely available across the U.S., it is more popular. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which one is more suitable for you.

You can choose to opt for both Clear and TSA PreCheck memberships for a smooth airport experience. Clear pods will speed up the verification process, while TSA PreCheck lanes will expedite security — you’ll be able to get to your flight in no time.

Make Your Money Work for You

FAQ

  • Is TSA PreCheck better than Clear?
    • TSA PreCheck is better if you just want to use it for airport security, because it's the more affordable option. However, if you want a program that gets you through screening and check-in at various venues, not just airports, Clear might be better for you.
  • Do I need TSA PreCheck if I have Clear?
    • You do not need TSA PreCheck if you have Clear, but you might want both if you travel frequently Clear gets you through identity screening faster, and TSA PreCheck gets you through the security line faster.
  • Which is better, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry?
    • Global Entry is better if you are a frequent international flyer because of the customs benefits. Moreover, TSA PreCheck benefits are included when you opt for a Global Entry membership.

Information is accurate as of March 20, 2023.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

BEFORE YOU GO

See Today's Best
Banking Offers