Why I Broke Down and Got CLEAR to Get Through Security Faster

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One of the best things to happen to air travel in the last decade was TSA PreCheck. With PreCheck, I know that 95% of the time my family can get through security in ten minutes or less and without all the extra drama of taking off shoes, pulling out electronics and snacks, etc. There is no question in my mind that Global Entry and PreCheck are worth the $100 fee every five years. In reality, many of us don’t even pay that fee directly since we have a rewards earning credit card or two that can cover that fee for us.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

For years, PreCheck and Global Entry were more than enough for me to get through the airport without an issue. However, increasingly, I have been in some situations where I’ve thought about whether we may need to add CLEAR to our travel back of tricks. I was not excited about the idea of paying for yet another travel-related membership, but I have booked more and more tickets on airlines that operate out of my home airport in Houston in a part of Terminal A where there is not a regular PreCheck line. As a result, I’ve pondered CLEAR more than once.

Why I bought CLEAR today in the airport

Today, I was again waiting in the regular security line in Terminal A at IAH when a CLEAR employee walked up to me and said she could get me through the line in four minutes or less with a one month free trial of CLEAR. The line I was in was going to certainly take longer than four minutes, so that was the tipping point to give CLEAR a try.

She helped me scan my fingerprints and eyes, take a profile photo, scan my driver’s license, and within the promised four minutes, I was passed the TSA agent. Not only did I save time in security on this trip, but my CLEAR profile has now been set-up and is ready for even quicker use the next time around. CLEAR is currently available in 30 airports and sports stadiums around the country.

Who should get CLEAR

For a family who travels once or twice a year, CLEAR is not even worth a consideration, so just ignore it completely. I’d argue that TSA PreCheck is worth it even if you only fly twice a year, but CLEAR most certainly is not if you are not a frequent flyer. However, if you find yourself in the air every month or so, especially at airports or terminals where there is not PreCheck line or where the PreCheck line can get long, CLEAR might be worth the investment.

How to save money on CLEAR

CLEAR can cost you $179 per year, but you do not have to pay that much. In fact, please don’t pay that much. Delta SkyMiles members pay just $99 per year for CLEAR, so that is an easy way to shave $80 off the cost of a year of CLEAR. If you happen to have Delta elite status or even just an eligible Delta credit card, then you can get CLEAR for just $79 per year.

Eligible Delta cards for the $79 CLEAR annual membership include:

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit CardGold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card, Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card, or Delta Reserve Credit Card.

You can also add up to three family members onto your Clear membership for an $50 extra per person per year. However, you may only need to add your spouse or partner as children under 18 can follow you through Clear for free. My plan will be to pay $79 for my Clear membership thanks to having an eligible Delta Amex and then add Josh for $50 annually. My girls don’t need their own Clear membership since they are under 18. I was able to chat with a CLEAR rep online to change to the $79 per year plan from the full priced plan that was entered at the airport.

If you are considering CLEAR for yourself in the future, stay on the lookout for Amex Offers to help you save some money. Earlier this year, there was an Amex Offer for a $50 statement credit with $179 spent on CLEAR. There are also often free trials available for the first month or two so you can see if it is worth it before making an annual investment in getting some of your time back, so Google around for those codes or I believe my CLEAR Refer-A-Friend link will get you two free months.

Have you used CLEAR? If so I would love to hear your thoughts and tips!

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. I got clear on a 4 month free trial (homebase airport seattle, travel atleast 3 times a month), and it is honestly not worth it, at all.

    Unless you’re someone who likes to cut it too close when arriving at the airport, I fail to see why any of the well-travelled folks who typically have mobile-boarding passes, no bags to check, tsa-precheck plus lounge access plus priority status etc, would need this. They may WANT it, but its not a need at all.

    Tsa precheck lines even in worst cases would take what … 5 minutes? 10 minutes? How much are you cutting close your airport arrivals to need Clear?

    If you’re a typical frequent traveller who arrives at the airport 1 hour in advance, with a mobile boarding pass and no bags to check, all that Clear will do is make you wait longer post-security for your flight.

    Only if you’re changing your airport arrival habits to cut it close is it “worth it”. If you’re not changing your airport arrival habits, then all you’re doing is paying a company so you can spend extra time post-security before the plane flies. Because the plane will still not leave earlier.

    • You could certainly put me in the cut it close category when it comes to work trips for sure, but I totally agree that not everyone needs this. Certain airports and certain terminals make it more useful than others, as do your travel patterns.

    • The TSA Pre-check worst case scenario is actually being one of the ‘randomly chosen’ to have to go through the regular security line, which threw us to the back of an hour line and had us miss our flight …. TWICE within the last 3 months! I’m seriously considering CLEAR for this very reason that TSA Precheck is not a 100% guarantee, only a 95% guarantee.

      • I knew TSA can always do extra screening on a passenger, but didn’t know a Pre-check passenger can be sent to the back of the regular security line. That would be the pits.

        • I’ve never had that happen unless my boarding pass doesn’t actually say pre-check. You normally have an extra screening in the precheck line itself if you are randomely selected.

  2. I have had Clear for many years because my office covered it. They shut down the first time and then I reactivated the time left on my account when they came back around. I actually even forgot I had it until you posted this. I hardly used it and it just recently was added back to my local airport. Looks like it’s still good until 10/2018! Maybe I’ll check it out again if there is a long line. My husband & I both have PreCheck….so this may not be useful unless I’m traveling alone AND the lines are long. We’ll see if I even renew in Oct.

  3. The TSA PreCheck line was estimated at 45 minutes (yes) the morning my wife and I flew out of BWI. Thanks to CLEAR, we, uh, cleared security (no pun intended) in about four minutes. That gave us time to grab some food and leisurely walk the bazillion miles to our gate (as opposed to standing in the PreCheck line then rushing to the gate).

    Also, as a frequent Vegas traveler, CLEAR is a godsend at LAS.

    • Tomtravel, if you get Global Entry that includes PreCheck and I think at $100 for five years and use across the country it is the way to go for most families and leisure travelers.

  4. I have a similar opinion as B.
    I WANT to like CLEAR. I travel 3-4x a month, and CLEAR is only available in certain airports, and even then, there isn’t much of an advantage for me. As previously mentioned, my time through PreCheck is pretty quick (often < 5 minutes), and I just don't see why I should spend that much money just to shave a few minutes off of my "security time."

    • For sure. It doesn’t make sense for most, but if you notice PreCheck lines long or unavailable where you fly then give it a try. If not, stick to PreCheck. I was happy with PreCheck for years and years and still am 90% of the time.

  5. I was an original member, and re-upped when it returned with the Delta discount. It’s been wonderful. It makes all the difference in the world at my 3 most transited airports, ATL, DCA, and SFO. The PreCheck lines at DCA usually aren’t that long, but on a few Monday mornings it’s saved me several minutes. The big time savers have been ATL and SFO. As long as I’m flying semi-regularly, I will continue to be a CLEAR member. I really like it.

  6. So, I put off getting CLEAR for a long time, then I spent an hour in the PreCheck line at DEN, my home airport. Yes, one hour in PreCheck. The regular lines were worse. Then I realized that between my DL status and card, I could get it for effectively nothing, I jumped on it. It’s actually fine, though I couldn’t see paying a lot for it. I press my thumbs on the clear kiosk, then the Clear rep whisks me over to the PreCheck scanner and I’m through. Went through DEN south, what might be the worst security station in the country, and while the airport’s website was saying 90 minutes one day last week, I was through in less than 5. That’s worth real dollars.

  7. I have had clear for several years now because the security at my home airport (Orlando) is a nightmare pretty much all the time. As of last year clear had some issues with tsa at my airport and they no longer offer the cut to the front service they used to as of right now. They claim that they are trying to get their own line and resolve the issue but it has been over 6 months and the most compensation they were willing to offer was an additional 3 months free. I have always loved clear but I decided to cancel my membership because it is simply not worth it if they are only getting me a few people in line. I have written to them and even talked with someone from management but it is truly sad that they are not willing to offer any additional compensation and that they don’t see it necessary to keep their clientele. It is especially wrong that they list orlando as one of the airports that clear serves when you will not receive the same experience you do at other airports. Until they find a way to fix the issue I will not return to clear.

  8. CLEAR has worked well for my family far more often than it hasn’t. It gets us through security quicker, especially since as an Australian citizen I’m not eligible for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. If we’re lucky, the CLEAR agent even helps us in the security line to manage our bags (this happened in LAX). However the last time I used CLEAR (in ATL), it was slower than the regular security line. They were not using each CLEAR kiosk, and the CLEAR line was moving *slower* than the non-CLEAR line. In addition, presumably to combat child trafficking, the CLEAR staff wanted to hear my two year old daughter call me ‘daddy’ before letting me through. My two year old daughter doesn’t like speaking to strangers, and the repeated requests about who her daddy is seemed like a game to her, a game she had fun not participating in. Displaying passports with the same last name did not assuage the CLEAR staff. After some time my daughter relented. Even without this insistence, CLEAR would have been slower than the regular line – with this insistence, I thought that I was glad I’m not currently paying for CLEAR (they have given me two free three month membership periods).

  9. I would never give a private company, like CLEAR, my biometrics – NEXUS (which includes Global Entry and Pre-Check) for $50 for five years works fine. What happens when CLEAR gets hacked and your biometrics are stolen.

  10. CLEAR has been a game changer at LAX and many airports I have flown and fly out of. Massive time savings. I’d add that when flying with minors, not even your kids necessarily, they get to fo through with you.

  11. I can see needing CLEAR if your home airport has TSA PreCheck issues but I’ve never had a problem (knock on wood) in my 4 years of having it. I’m up for a renewal next July and it will be covered by my CSR.

    LAX is my home airport and I just don’t have an issue. I’m always through within 5 to 10 minutes.

  12. CLEAR doesn’t seem like that good of a deal for IAH. If you aren’t checking a bag, you can always go to C/E for better staffed screening. If you are checking a bag, the mickey moise train in the basement can get you to a better checkpoint faster. Am I missing something?

    • William, that is a great plan if you build in some extra time. Frankly, I’m just flying for work way to much right now to build in that much of a buffer on every single trip. But 100% agree most people don’t need CLEAR.

  13. Dear Santa,

    Why?!?!?

    TSA Pre Check lines are purposely being backed up (one scan line open and a massive backup), while CLEAR sets up shop right next to it and trial members breeze through … (Hello LGA)

    Reminds me of when the EZ Pass push (let’s create massive delays for cash paying lanes MTA) …minus the part of we already pay for the TSA Pre Check privelage (a family pays through the nose) …..

    • I agree just a way to get more $$$$ out of us . I didn’t know that 1/3 of a airport’s profit is the SHOPs . They cut McDonalds out of MDW so they could raise the rent on others . It went for me and workers $5 for BK and little wait to $11 and LONGER wait so eat on the way .

      CHEERs

  14. Any advice on which card to use to pay for Clear? Is Clear rebatable as a travel expense as part of Chase’s $300 CSR travel rebate? I’m a bit surprised no card, not even a $450 one, has Clear packaged in some way with it (e.g. a free year of Clear) particularly with how ubiquitous Global Entry rebates have become.

    • The visa supplier locater website lists CLEARME.COM as having an MCC of 7299, which is “PERSONAL SERVICES”. You’ll probably want to use a card for generic spend.

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