CLEAR: Get Through Airport Security Even Faster

Everyone has recurring nightmares. For some, it’s about showing up to work/class/wherever naked. For others, it’s being forced to give a big speech. And, of course, there’s the “It’s time to take the final and I haven’t shown up for class” dream. And then, there are those who travel frequently. Their nightmares? Showing up at security, only to find out that PreCheck is closed.*

Given the government shutdown, that nightmare may become reality more frequently. We saw it first-hand at Baltimore on Sunday, with massive security lines and PreCheck shut down. Under those circumstances, those with Pre don’t have to take their shoes off, but they still have to wait in line.

It took me about 30 seconds to decide to sign up for CLEAR (and only five minutesĀ  to complete the process). Goodbye, 30 minute line. You’ll need to sign up at an airport, but you can start the paperwork online. Everyone involved in the process was friendly and helpful, not something that you say about the airport too often.

CLEAR: Even faster Than PreCheck

Most people know about PreCheck, the TSA-operated security program that allows you to skip the main line. They do a background check on you, an interview and then you’re all set. It has a fee, but many credit cards will take care of it for you. Pre has a few downsides, though. The lines still get backed up at busy times, and it’s possible that you could be randomly selected to go through the regular lines, anyway.

CLEAR handles the identification part of the process for you (at participating airports). Instead of waiting in line to see the TSO at a podium, you go to a CLEAR kiosk. A representative will ID you by scanning your fingerprints and retina. Then, they walk you right to the podium. They’ll tell the TSO that you’ve been IDed, and you’ll be good to go. By avoiding the formal ID check, you’ll skip the longest part of the line. Remember the days of showing up at the airport 15 minutes before boarding? CLEAR brings you one step closer.

The Downsides To CLEAR


Open at 24 airports, as well as a few other random locations

Nothing’s perfect, including CLEAR. Here are a few issues you might face:

  • At this time, CLEAR is only available at 24 airports. It’s growing fast, but your home airport may not be there. If not, it’s only worth it if you travel frequently to one that (or if it’s free).
  • Naturally, it’s not free. List price is $179, but there’s no way that you should have to pay that. Delta SkyMiles members pay $99, while most elite members pay $79. Those with top-tier Diamond status get it for free. If you have Diamond status, there’s no reason not to get it. You can add adult family members for $50 each. Kids under 18 are free and don’t need a CLEAR account.

Nobody pays list price

  • CLEAR only gets you past the ID check. After they walk you past the podium, regular security procedures apply. That means that if you don’t have TSA PreCheck, you might still have to take off your shoes, use the full X-Ray machine, etc.

There’s no question that security has become a “class-system.” The more you pay, the faster you go. Whether it should be this way is a question for another column. Fair or not, though, it is how it is. Getting CLEAR membership will help you scoot through security a bit faster.


*I’m a “It’s time to take the final and I haven’t shown up for class” kinda guy.


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