Looking to compare TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR? Here’s what you need to know about all three programs so you can decide which (if any) is best for you.
Going to the airport today is a completely different experience than it was 20 years.
We live in a world of full-body scanners and biometric data. It’s a high-tech endeavor and, as such, it can be challenging for people unfamiliar with the process.
We’ve all been there — you got your items separated and ready to go but get stuck with someone who’s unsure if their shoes should come off.
Or attempts to walk through the scanner with keys in their pocket.
Or can’t figure out the liquid limits and takes the time to read the individual ounces of each bottle.
Normally I’m a patient person but when there’s a flight to catch, ain’t nobody got time for that.
That’s where programs like TSAPrecheck, Global Entry and CLEAR come in.
They help frequent flyers get to the gate (or through customs) quicker and can save a ton of processing time, especially on holidays or busy travel days.
Let’s review all three programs and discuss the benefits and costs of TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR.
What is TSA PreCheck?
TSAPrecheck is a program that pre-screens travelers via and application and interview process and allows reduced security screening upon arrival at the airport.
It is issued by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and is only available in America, at more than 160 airports.
You can use TSAPrecheck for domestic flights and international flights departing from the U.S., as well as connecting flights within the U.S. when returning from an international trip.
What are the benefits of TSA PreCheck?
With TSA PreCheck, you don’t have to wait in the regular security line. You have a dedicated PreCheck line which is shorter (most of the time).
You do not have to take off your shoes, coats or hoodies when you are a PreCheck member.
You also don’t have to go through the full-body scanner — you just go through the traditional metal detector.
Lastly, you don’t have to remove electronics or liquids from your bag.
What are the requirements for TSA PreCheck?
You need to be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national and lawful permanent resident to qualify for TSAPrecheck.
Visa holders do not qualify.
To apply, you fill out an online application and make an appointment to visit an enrollment center in person.
Once there, you’ll be interviewed by a staff member. You’ll be fingerprinted and need to agree to a background check.
You’ll also need to provide identifying documents like a driver’s license and birth certificate or Social Security Card.
What is the cost of TSA PreCheck?
TSAPreCheck costs $85 for five years and is a one-time fee.
There is no fee for children under 12 and active military members.
Several credit cards cover the cost of TSAPreCheck including the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, Capital One Venture Rewards card and United Explorer Card.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that provides expedited security for pre-approved, low-risk travelers returning to the United States.
It is available at more than 50 airports across the United States.
You need to enroll with the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Program online and make an appointment to go to your local Global Entry enrollment center.
You’ll need to bring your passport with you to that appointment.
What are the benefits of Global Entry?
Typically when you come back to the U.S. from another country, you first have to make a line to fill out your customs declarations form on a kiosk.
This line can get long as people do not know how to operate the kiosks and spend time reading every single question (hint — unless you’re bringing more than $10k or livestock back into the country, the correct answer to every question here is “no.”).
With Global Entry, you get a special line and kiosk. You put in your passport, fingerprints and answer the questions and get your form.
The second part of the process is to line up and present your form and passport to the customs officer.
Global Entry has a shorter, expedited line to see the customs officer, like going into the 10 items or less line at the supermarket.
What are the requirements for Global Entry?
To qualify for global entry you must be a U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident.
Additionally, citizens from the following countries are eligible to apply for Global Entry:
- United Kingdom
- South Korea
What is the cost of Global Entry?
Global Entry costs $100 for 5 years.
It is not free for children or military members.
Notably, Global Entry includes TSAPreCheck in its fee.
There are several credit cards which will cover the cost of GlobalEntry including the Bank of America Premium Rewards Visa card and IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.
What is CLEAR?
CLEAR is a private company that collects and stores your biometric data.
When you arrive at the airport, you don’t have to confirm your identify by presenting an ID to the officer.
Instead, you can identify yourself through your fingerprint or iris scan at the Clear kiosk and head straight to the security screening.
CLEAR is available at more than 30 U.S. airports.
It’s also available outside of the airport at places like stadiums, allowing you to skip the line to enter major events.
What are the benefits of CLEAR?
TSA PreCheck has been catching on, so much so that the PreCheck lines can at times exceed the regular security line.
CLEAR solves this problem.
When you arrive at security, you bypass all the lines and head straight for the scanners.
If you do not have TSAPreCheck in addition to CLEAR, you will skip the line to show your ID but go to the regular security screening area.
Also, TSAPreCheck can have limited hours. When they’re closed, CLEAR is still open.
CLEAR is currently the quickest way to get through airport security.
You can also use CLEAR to skip the initial kiosk at customs and head straight to the border agent.
What are the requirements for CLEAR?
Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents ages 18 and up are eligible for CLEAR.
Children under 18 don’t need to be added to the system — they can go through the CLEAR Lane for free when accompanied by a CLEAR member.
The application process is similar to TSAPreCheck and Global Entry. You apply online then make an in-person appointment to submit your biometrics.
What is the cost of CLEAR?
CLEAR is $179/year and the most expensive out of the three options by far.
You can enroll in a family plan, allowing you to add up to 3 adult members of your family for $50/year.
They do not need to be with you to access their program.
Delta airlines credit card members and status holders get a subsidy wherein they only pay $109/year.
Bonus: Mobile Passport App
I haven’t talked about the Mobile Passport App yet, but it’s a lifesaver.
When you’re coming back from another country, you can fill out your customs declaration form on your phone while you’re waiting for people to deplane (you know they take forever!).
Then you skip both kiosks and head straight to the customs officer with a barcode on your phone and your passport.
Best of all, it’s free! They have a paid option now where they store your information for you (previously a free feature) but nbd — take a selfie and enter your passport number. You got time.
I have been utilizing this method for the last couple of years and it has never failed me.
I am often one of the last people off the plane, and the very first one at baggage claim.
TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. Clear: The Verdict
If you want to spend the least amount of money possible, the cheapest way to get the benefit of expedited clearance is to purchase TSAPreCheck and pair it with the Mobile Passport App.
On the other hand, if you want the most bang for your buck and are a frequent international traveler then you should get Global Entry.
It’s only $15 more and includes PreCheck so it’s well worth the price difference.
Note that you don’t really need Global Entry given that the Mobile Passport App is actually quicker and skips a step of making you stop at a kiosk, but it’s uncertain if that will always be the case.
Finally, if money is no object and you just want to zoom past all the plebeians in the security line, then CLEAR is for you. Also Mobile Passport for the reasons mentioned above.
I hope this helps you discern the differences between TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR.
Which program do you use? Comment below and let me know why.
Till next time, safe travels!