Testing CLEAR Airport Security

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CLEAR, which lets you cut the line at airport security, has been around for years. However, it hasn’t been available at most airports I frequent. CLEAR recently started operations at LAX, which I fly in and out of pretty often, so I decided to take the dive and finally register. If nothing else, I thought it was worth doing so in order to be able to report back to you guys.

In this post I wanted to share the basics of CLEAR, where it’s available, how much it costs, my experience registering, and my initial thoughts.

What is CLEAR?

Essentially CLEAR lets you bypass the ID check at many airports around the country. Instead of lining up to have your ID checked in the regular line or Pre-Check line, you go to the CLEAR line, your biometric data is taken, and then you’re escorted past the ID checker and to the main line. With TSA Pre-Check lines often being longer than the regular lines nowadays, this lets you skip to the front of even that line.

CLEAR isn’t owned by the government, but rather is operated in cooperation with the TSA. Essentially the TSA trusts CLEAR to only let the correct people to the actual security checkpoint using their approved system.

What airports have CLEAR?

As of now the following airports have CLEAR (there are nearly two dozen of them):

How expensive is CLEAR?

The normal cost to join CLEAR is $179 per year. If you’re a member you can refer others, and when you do, they get an additional two free months, and you get an additional two free months. So it ends up really costing $179 for 14 months.

However, that’s not how you should sign-up. CLEAR has a special partnership with Delta:

Anyone can sign-up for a free SkyMiles account, so at most you should be paying $99 per year for a CLEAR membership. To take advantage is this special CLEAR pricing for Delta, follow this link, where you’ll be prompted to enter your SkyMiles number to unlock the special pricing.

Regardless of which plan you go with, you can add a family member for $50. This is available to one “family member” 18 or older who lives at the same address.

My experience enrolling in CLEAR — the online experience

This is significantly easier than signing up for TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, etc. The entire process takes less than five minutes online, and then five minutes in person at the airport.

To start the application process you fill out three pages online. On the first page you’ll be asked to enter your name, email address, zip code, and Delta SkyMiles number.

On the next page you’ll be asked for your gender, date of birth, address, and phone number.

Lastly, on the next page you’ll be asked for your credit card information to pay for the membership.

And that’s it. You’ll get confirmation that you’re a member, and that you just need to finalize your registration at the airport.

That wraps up the online experience, which should hopefully just take a few minutes.

My experience enrolling in CLEAR — the airport experience

To finish your CLEAR enrollment process, just head to any CLEAR line at an airport. There’s not a separate office, but rather you just go to the line as if you’re going through security (and that’s what I recommend doing — just register when you’d use it anyway, and then you can use it immediately).

I just told the CLEAR representative that I needed to finish my registration. He was so friendly, in stark contrast to the TSA.

There are a couple of kiosks, so he walked me through the process.

The process took about five minutes:

  • They took my biometric data, including left hand fingerprints, right hand fingerprints, thumb fingerprints, and an IRIS scan
  • I had to fill in my social security number, citizenship information, etc.
  • I was asked some verification questions similar to what you might get when looking up your credit score, including addresses you’ve lived at, cars you’ve owned, etc.
  • My driver’s license was scanned

And that was it!

Since I was eligible for Pre-Check, the friendly gentleman stamped my boarding pass with something that said “CLEAR PRE-CHECK,” walked me past the TSA ID checker, and yelled “CLEAR coming through.” I’ve gotta say, I felt pretty flossy.

Is CLEAR worth it?

I’ll need to have it for a while before I can be certain, though there are a few things I’ve realized since starting to look into this:

  • CLEAR isn’t as expensive as some might think, as it’s $79-99 at most, and you can add a family member for $50, making the average cost per person $65-75 per year
  • Registration isn’t a hurdle at all, which I initially feared; it takes just 10 minutes total, you don’t have to go to a registration office, etc.
  • Ultimately you’re interacting with really nice professional people, unlike at the TSA, so just not having to interact with one extra TSA agent every time you go to the airport is nice
  • Surprisingly I felt really special when using this, in the sense that they walk you past everyone
  • I suspect on average this will save me 1-10 minutes every time I clear security; that’s usually how long I wait to have my ID checked in a Pre-Check lane

I think this will more or less pay for itself, and on top of that, you get to interact with some friendly people, so I’m very pleasantly surprised so far, and would highly recommend it. It won’t be life changing but it’s a nice convenience to be able to eliminate the variability of TSA wait times. Now if only CLEAR were available at all airports…

If you have CLEAR, what do you make of it?

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Comments

  1. Being a DC area based travel Clear has been great so far. All 3 (DCA,BWI, IAD) have installed it. In this case I added my mom as the family member and we split the cost of the two memberships between us. Originally I thought I’d just keep it for the one year, but it’s been worth it.

  2. Don’t get it at all. All it does it get you to the front of the TSA PreCheck line basically.

  3. Had a terrible enrollment experience with CLEAR that took almost a month to be solved. I happen to have 2 last names and their stupid system could not understand that and always placed my first last name as middle name. Their people were so bad that they said their system was correct and my Government issued documents were wrong. Finally after a long battle I found a smart brain on their team that solved the issue. BTW, I only kept going because I got it for free from Delta. As for the use so far I have no complains but I also did not see much advantage. I still never had a time where TSA Pre lines were so bad that CLEAR would give me any advantage. I will keep using it as long as it is free.

  4. I love Clear. The value to me is an assured time through security every time at their airports. I’ve done same day changes and bought tickets last minute knowing if I can get to the airport, I’ll make the flight. For $99, if you fly through their airports often, well worth it to me.

  5. So far, the only time I tried CLEAR I was randomly selected for an ID check at the TSA counter 🙁

  6. Going to the front of the TSA Pre line can save a lot of time. In many airports, there can be a substantial wait for Pre, and sometimes it is not available at all. For people who travel regularly for work in the US, Clear can be very useful.

  7. Had issues in enrollement at airport , because the staff was poorly trained in handling guests with thin profiles. But got great guidance when calling customer service. Def. worth it when you travel out of Orlando Airport 3 times a week.

  8. I have it for about year. I travel from many different airports during a week. The pre-TSA lines are usually no more than 1-3 minutes wait time and Clear just lets me bypass that. I have not much advantage with it. DTW-Delta has Clear, but pre-TSA still requires to remove electronics, liquid, shoes and have very short line. This is the strangest pre_TSA location in the country. So here it has absolutely no advantage.
    Clear lets me bypass checking my driver license or passport by TSA agent. It is only a few seconds time.
    If Clear would let me bypass not just checking my driver-license/passport but also bypassing the XRAY line where the real slow down occurs, that would be sweet. Until that, I see no advantage.

  9. Try heading to LAS on a Sunday or Monday morning. CLEAR is fabulous. Jumped about 300 people in the basic line and about 40 in the TSA Pre line.

  10. I’ve had CLEAR for years – It’s not always a time saver, but when the DEN TSA Pre line is 100 people deep it’s absolutely worth it. When you fly every week it’s great to know you’ll breeze through the ID check.

  11. My primary airport is DFW and they only have clear at one of the three checkpoints in Terminal E (one of four terminals). If you fly Delta, it’s good. Until they expand to the other terminals at DFW, I wouldn’t do it.

  12. I’m wondering where are people heading that the PreCheck lines are longer than the regular lines? Flying out of SEA and MSP recently a bunch I have seen absolutely no evidence that PreCheck lines are longer than regular lines and even if they were, the fact that PreCheck individuals have to do significantly less in order to clear security results in an overall faster line anyways regardless of length.

    As others have said CLEAR is useful depending on the airport and times you fly. Again in MSP, though less in SEA, I have noted that the CLEAR is a significant jump for PreCheck cutting out about 15-20 minutes and would be dramatically more for the regular lines.

  13. I think it’s ABSOLUTELY worth every penny. I travel mostly out of TBIT (LAX) and during the late evening hours, the queue is so long. It’s quicker for me to head over to T4, go through CLEAR, security, and walk back to TBIT through the T4 connector, than it is to queue up at TBIT.

  14. I guess maybe I don’t travel enough, but I’ve never waited long at the Precheck line. Even if it looks longish it moves very quickly. The only time I think this might be helpful is if you travel a lot on airlines that don’t have Precheck. Skipping to the head of the regular line could save a lot of time. A hundred bucks to save “1-10 minutes” at a time doesn’t seem like a great value to me personally.

  15. Too many people complaining about not being worth it. It’s about saving time. The best locations to use MCO aand Denver for me. Usually 25 people in TSA Precheck line If your airport location has longer TSA line at least 7-10 people ahead of you, CLEAR works. They recently added CLEAR to my home airport at LAX. I am loving it

  16. I too was ambivalent about trying it and when I did I wondered why I waited so long. At SFO being able to skip to the front of the PreCheck line and not having to deal with the TSA at all is fabulous. There is never a line for Clear when I depart and it cuts a significant amount of time getting through security. Their employees are extremely friendly and appear to enjoy their job.

  17. My home airport is DFW and CLEAR is only located in Terminal E.

    I fly AA 90% of the time and I haven’t had an AA flight out of Terminal E since 2015. It’s just a handful of LUS gates in E.

    If I were to utilize clear, I would have to ride the Skylink nearly every time to my gate which negates any time savings that CLEAR offers.

    For now, I’m good with TSA PreCheck.

  18. Founderscard offers 6 months free, then a discount rate after. I might try it since I fly through most of the airports listed. 🙂

  19. I’ve had numerous instances where unexpected delays in the pre-check line would have caused me to miss my flight but CLEAR saved the day. Obviously this is a rare occurrence if you’re not travelling frequently, but I’ve avoided multiple 30+ minute waits for precheck using CLEAR (specifically at SEA, MSP and IAD). Those instances in and of themselves make it worth it to me, and I’d continue to pay for it even if my employer didn’t cover the cost.

  20. I think Clear is like backing up your hard drive every night. You may not need the backup for years, but boy, when you need it it saves you from suicide. I see where it gives you a warm feeling, but entering airports two-three times a week, for the year I have Clear, it haven’t saved me any time, may be a minute here and there.

    Side note, that I experience the regular TSA line being much shorter at many places than pre-TSA line lately. e.g CVG monday morning had 25 people in pre-TSA line and 1 !!! person on regular TSA line. In that case I didn’t mind removing my laptop and liquid to breeze through TSA.

  21. I have enjoyed Clear (was a lifesaver at MCO when I couldn’t find the start of the Precheck line) and hope it opens at ORD soon. HPN coverage is sketchy-open at 6am but not at 4pm.

    A note on registration-my drivers license was not accepted as a valid form of ID because my issue date did not match my expiration date on my IL license (can IL be the only state with this issue?) so I had to return with my passport. Not a huge issue but annoying and might be worth having your passport on hand when enrolling.

  22. I have used it for about a year now, get it free with Diamond status for Delta, but think I would pay for it, just for Denver alone. On Monday morning the precheck line could have 100 people in it.

  23. Yesterday, I was traveling from ATL, and the time it took me from leaving my car to being at the gate was 20 minutes. Awesome. I was a member of the first iteration of CLEAR, and only recently reactivated my account with the three months remaining. It’s great at ATL.

  24. I have it through a family +1 membership so didn’t pay anything my first year (plus my two hometown airports have it). So is that sense yes, it is worth it. Sometimes it saves a lot of time. Sometimes just a minute or two. One thing I do love about it is not taking your ID out. It’s simply less stuff to worry about misplacing.

    With that said, I don’t understand their business model. You need multiple staff just standing around checkpoints waiting for members and mostly directing lost folks away. If they could ever get TSA to approve an automated e-gate style system to feed you right into the correct precheck or regular lane it would be truly a next level improvement.

  25. Zero value for me until it shows up at ORD. Even then, I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait more than 10 minutes in a pre-check line, and usually less than that. Considering I’m habitually early I don’t know that it’ll ever really be worth it for me 🙂

    Also, anyone else find it kind of funny that the first time Lucky’s trying out this premium service it’s on his Spirit flight? There probably aren’t too many Spirit boarding passes out there with that stamp 😛

  26. Last time I flew out of ATL (which I do 8-10 times a year), the regular lines were 90 minutes, the TSA lines were about 30 minutes, and the CLEAR line was 2 minutes. Totally worth it just for ATL.

  27. @SeanS:

    The TSAPre lines at SFO can be abysmal. There have been several instances where people who joined the non-TSAPre line at the same time I joined the TSAPre line were not only to security but *through* it by the time I was getting to the ID checker. In that instance, the only benefit of TSAPre was not having to take things out of my carry-on. Otherwise, had I been in a rush, I’d have been super pissed off at the time-suck that TSAPre seems to have become.

    Personally, I’m hoping my new home airport of SAN will get it in the near future. The TSA at SAN deigns to open an *actual* TSAPre line only on days ending in the letter Q. The TSA there is already a monstrous joke, and the fact that we’ve essentially paid for a non-existent service always chaps my ass. This is all on top of the already-inept and useless, and surly-as-all-get-out TSA trolls literally yelling at people. Yelling. And SD is a tourist destination mostly, so I cringe every time I see a foreigner in line being harassed by some TSA dipshit. Great impression of the US and California to leave them with…

  28. It’s really silly how many different systems you Americans have because your immigration and security checks are so cumbersome. This is literally not necessary in most developed countries I’ve traveled to.

  29. I’ve had CLEAR for about eight months. I fly out of DC where everyone has precheck so that line can be nasty. It has saved me tons of time. And it’s insurance in case of a problem. In Denver recently I wasn’t marked TSA pre for whatever reason and I didn’t have time to go ask it be changed. But the regular line was at least 30 minutes long. I went right to the front. CLEAR just lets you skip the line.

  30. Please no one else get CLEAR. Its nowhere near as nice as it sounds, why would you want to miss out on interacting with other PreCheck members in the line by simply cutting to the front?? Also, and more importantly, if everyone figures out the value of CLEAR it will end up like PreCheck – amazing at first but now way overcrowded and often with morons who don’t know if water counts as a liquid or that they don’t really need to remove their wallets, shoes, laptops, jewelry, jacket, etc etc and hold up the queue. So please if you’re reading this, don’t sign up, just stick with PreCheck. Thanks!

  31. @Cal: I agree but at least in the US you get some consistency. You TSA where you need to get shoes off, computer and liquids out, etc… You get TSA Pre where you don’t need to worry about anything but walk through the x-Ray and Clear is just does TSA Pre with “priority” in line. Problem I face in Europe is that every country has a different way to handle. in the UK for example they are a huge PITA, you need all electronics out, liquids in a bag and they made a huge trouble with even a lip moisturizer that I even didn’t know was in my backpack. In Greece, they made me turn on every single electronic I had, open my camera lens, etc… In Canada, I had a very small Swiss pocket knife that I used as a keychain taken from me because that was not allowed but I went trough with the in the US for years.

  32. I had the original CLEAR back in the 2008ish period, when they used employee lines. That said, once they came back and were in a few airports, I restarted it. The past 2 years have been great, even before they were at my home airport. The biggest help has been SFO, LAX, LAS and MCO given the length of pre-check (or any) security line.

    The escort to the front saved me about 20+ minutes one morning in SFO, and we’ll occasionally it’s been only a couple people jump, most of the time is has saved substantial time. And yes, as a whole they are super friendly.

  33. It’s a line skipping service, plain and simple. Nothing more “secure” about it. I think it’s a sham.

    Very misleading too to show the full airport list and not individual terminals…very few like DEN that have central security where it can be a massive benefit.

  34. CLEAR has been a game changer at the ATL airport where seemingly everyone has TSA Pre-Check making those lines longer than the regular security lines, particularly at peak business travel times. Getting to the head of a 10-30 minute TSA Pre-Check line is great. The downside, as Lucky noted, is that Delta is really pushing CLEAR (they even have sign-up kiosks in a lot of their Sky Clubs) because they ultimately plan to use it as an option for club check-in. They’ve started testing this at the DCA Sky Club. The advantages to being CLEAR are going to rapidly diminish as more people sign up, not unlike TSA pre-check over the past several years. Though it will likely continue to be great at leisure airports like MCO for much longer.

  35. I dont like the ethics behind this.

    Pay a private company to skip the line, a line caused because comparing an id to a face apparently takes 30 seconds per person and has to be done by a human.

    Other countries have this too. It’s called giving someone in a uniform $10 to take you around the line.

  36. Have had clear for a few years. Based out of SFO and has saved me significant time virtually every time I use it.
    My experience at SFO are that TSApre usually has 20-30 people which is a lot less than regular, but Clear gets me through that much faster!

  37. I just used it for the first time recently when travelling on a non-Precheck airline, since I had a free trial for 4 months. There were only 2 x-ray machines and 1 body scanner, so I bypassed about 70 people (including ~30 post ID check), going right up to the bag station. The registration process was pretty smooth, except that my passport didn’t scan and they asked for a DL (which I left at home). It’s a good thing I had my passport card on me; I’m not sure if the GE card would’ve worked for enrollment.

  38. I’ve tried to use it twice flying out of my home airport of ATL. Both times, the Clear person said I couldn’t use it at the location where I found them near TSA pre-check, but that I had to walk to another location to use it. The amount of time it would have took me to walk to the other location would be roughly the same time it would have taken me just to stand in line at pre-check, which is what I did instead.

    I was able to use it with ease leaving LGA last weekend, but there was only one person in TSA pre-check, who I got to jump in front of. Waiting to see the true value of this…

  39. I use CLEAR all the time and love it! Never had a problem. I do wish TSA had more consistency with pre-check at airports that use CLEAR. Some airports, you have to rescan your boarding pass at TSA pre-check stations. Not a big deal, but no sure why, as fingerprint and photo ID for CLEAR seems more secure than TSA photo ID and boarding pass. At other airports (e.g. SFO) TSA does not require you to scan your boarding pass again. You can go straight from CLEAR, to putting your bags on the pre-check conveyer, by-passing the TSA pre-check station.

  40. I signed up today as a Delta FF Medallion status member! I travel to DFW often from Indy. While Indy won’t help me with Clear, DFW’s long TSA precheck lines may make it worth while

  41. very disappointed in the way CLEAR has opened up in certain airports in NEW YORK and LA. I was led to believe they had great depth, but they don’t. I think they should focus in the bigger markets and do more airports in fewer cities. The service is great, but have not used it since my enrollment.

  42. Had CLEAR for some time, and all they needed to see back then was my Driver License and my Social Security Card. My wife is German, and they won’t let he have CLEAR …. too bad !!

  43. I got it back in January, and have really appreciated it. Worth the $79/year so far.

    That said, I admit that it’s only saved me time in about 50% of my travels. But 40% of the time, it saves me 5-10min, and that 10% of the time when there are major interruptions, it’s HUGE. I got caught in Delta’s meltdown back in April… having CLEAR got me through a 100+ person precheck line in seconds. My flight was cancelled within 5min of me clearing security, and my boarding pass disappeared from my phone. Had I been in that TSA line, I’d have had to go back to the counter (I saw several people get caught by this).
    Instead, I was in the Delta lounge rebooking my flight, drinking a beer, and watching the line for service in the lounge grow to dozens of people.

    Also worth noting that this replaces your ID for security. So if even if you lose your ID, you can still board. Thankfully not something I’ve had to contend with, but good to know, and good to not be juggling my licence as I approach the x-ray scanners. It also works for all airlines — so if you’re flying on one without TSA precheck, it’ll still jump you to the front of the line.

  44. I’ve had Clear since it came out and am glad that they are expanding. One agrees with all that it clearly (sorry for the pun) saves time at major hubs. I regularly travel TPA-ATL return on a single day. The TSAPre lines in the afternoon at ATL are massive and Clear (south side only) saves 20-30 minutes. I have a colleague who does Not have TSAPre and he finds the same in the regular lines. I can’t wait until they introduce it at the Sky Clubs. At times it takes 15 minutes just to check in the Terminal B Sky Club.

  45. My only problems with TSA lines comes when I am coming back from Asia, must clear Customs and Immigration at my first entry point (usually SFO or LAX) and then go back through security to catch my connecting flight for onward travel in the US.

    I have Global Entry, so Customs and Immigration is not a problem. Are there CLEAR lanes in close proximity to TSA for connecting flights?

  46. I’ve been a member of CLEAR since they first began operations, and I find it to be well worth the “price of admission,” so to speak. The only problem I’ve ever experienced that that, sometimes the scanner has a difficult time reading my fingerprints and when that happens, they switch to the retinal scan and all is good. Love CLEAR!

    /\/\/\/\/\

    @Daniel —> You wrote, “Don’t get it at all. All it does it get you to the front of the TSA PreCheck line basically.”

    Well, YES and NO. It doesn’t really take you to the FRONT of the TSA PreCheck line — putting you in front of TSA agent who checks you ID — it puts you at the end of the *second* TSA PreCheck line — that is, after the agent checks your ID and you get in line to put your carry-on and laptop through the x-ray machine — and THAT can save MAJOR time! Depending upon which airport you depart from, and what time of day, the time saved can be significant.

    At SFO, for example, or LAS, the Pre-Check lines can be very long. Even with PreCheck, some people in front of you don’t have their boarding pass and ID ready when they get to the front of the line. Even with PreCheck, I’ve waited as long as 10 minutes (or more!) just to get to the front of the first line so the TSA agent can check your ID. I’ve only had to wait *once* at a CLEAR line, for about two minutes, because both agents were scanning other people. Typically, they ask if I’m a CLEAR member as I am still walking towards them, and without slowing even a step, they escort me through to the scanner(s) and then right past the TSA to the back of the second TSA line (for the scanner/x-ray machine).

    Ten minutes may not seem like much, but a) it can feel like a lifetime; b) it adds up; and c) it can be crucial if you’re running late due to traffic, a meeting that took too long, etc., etc.

  47. I fly AA from LAX Terminal 4 once a month and use the Flagship exclusive curbside entrance to check-in. I then go through the Flagship check-in area and take the elevator upstairs to the Pre-Check TSA lane. I noticed a week ago there is a CLEAR lane located two feet across the Pre-Check TSA lane. My question is where are the CLEAR Biometric machines located in LAX Terminal 4. It would not be practical to walk to the main check-in entrance if the CLEAR Biometric machines are located there. Anyone have second thoughts? Thank you very much.

  48. Can foreigners sign up for clear? I went to their website FAQ but didn’t see a definite answer. I have US driver license obviously..

  49. Lucky, I followed the directions to enroll online but the interface would not allow me to enter my dob nor my phone number. How do I work around that? Is there a phone number to call to complete the application? Will a Delta Airlines operator be able to take the application? Can I do the application at LAX? At which terminal? Thanks.

  50. Not logical Clear bypasses the govt agency…TSA and GOES… process charged with contolling security. Paying for Clear…a service…is no different than paying for GOES, Wwhich enables TSA Precheck inside the US. Not obvious from the explanation that Clear is as rigorous in jits security backgroud check. So, it seems very wrong to barge Clear holders into line agead of GOES, TSA.

  51. @Gary —> Whether it’s logical or not, I *love* having Clear. Yes, it *jumps* me past all the people in the TSA Pre-Check line (PRE-SCREENING) — in other words, if you think of Pre-Check as being TWO separate lines — 1) “PRE,” up to the time you show your boarding pass and ID to the TSA agent; and 2) “POST,” from after the agent lets you past up to the X-ray machine/metal detector/scanner — Clear allows me to go straight to the END of the “POST” line. I do NOT jump all the way up to the scanner, only to the end of the second line.

    I fly often enough that, in airports without Clear, I miss it. It *does* take longer to get through Security without it, and if I’m traveling at peak times in a busy airport, it saves me as much as 15 minutes (or more!), though typically it’s between 5-10.

    Still, that’s nowhere near as much as the time I save with GOES.

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