TSA PreCheck vs Clear: What’s the difference?

Advertiser disclosure
TSA PreCheck vs Clear: What’s the difference?

Waiting in airport security lines isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time.

Luckily, there are numerous ways to expedite your airport security screening—in this article, we’ll explore two of them, TSA PreCheck and Clear. Both frequent flyer services shorten wait times for airport security procedures, but they have a few crucial and clear membership differences you’ll want to keep in mind.

While only one of the two frequent flyer programs may be right for you, there’s a potential third option in the TSA PreCheck vs Clear debate: you can combine the two services to reap both Clear and TSA PreCheck benefits. Before we explore the hybrid option, let’s break down some crucial and clear membership information about TSA PreCheck and Clear first.

Everything you need to know about TSA PreCheck

On an average day in November of 2021, over 1.9 million passengers boarded flights around the United States. Each and every one of them—plus airport and airline staff—had to proceed through the airport security line.

You might be wondering what does TSA PreCheck do? TSA PreCheck line doesn’t completely bypass airport security, but it reduces your time spent in the physical screening process. After enrolling in a TSA PreCheck membership, you can skip the following time-consuming procedures in the airport security line:

  • Taking off your shoes and belt
  • Removing laptops and other large electronics from your carry-on
  • Placing liquids from your carry-on into a separate bin

It’s easy to enroll and become a TSA PreCheck member — simply apply online, complete an additional screening process at an in-person enrollment center, and receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN). The $85 fee enrolls travelers for five years, and the TSA PreCheck renewal process fees are $70.

Everything you need to know about clear

An important difference between Clear and TSA Pre is which parts of the security process they expedite. While TSA PreCheck shortens the physical security checkpoint screening (placing carry-on items onto a conveyor belt, walking through a metal detector, and receiving a physical pat-down), Clear membership speeds up the document screening phase.

Typically, travelers proceed through three steps during airport security:

  1. They wait in line outside of the security checkpoint.
  2. They present their boarding pass and ID to a TSA officer.
  3. They proceed through the physical screening.

With the Clear lane, travelers skip the long line, scan their boarding pass at a digital global entry kiosk called a Clear pod, and confirm their identities with a retina scan or their fingerprints before proceeding to the physical expedited airport security screening phase.

A Clear member can also bypass long security lines at sports or concert venues. However, Clear pods aren’t yet available in every major arena, and fans will still have to complete any compulsory physical screening processes.

To sign up for the Clear lane, complete the short online Clear member application, enroll at a Clear pod in a participating Global Entry airport, and pay a $179 Global Entry member yearly fee.

Clear vs. PreCheck: Which is right for you?

Both TSA PreCheck members and Clear shave down your time spent in the most frustrating phase of air travel. But, which one is right for you? Don’t forget the third contender in the Clear vs. PreCheck debate: using both expedited security services.

Why choose clear?

Clear offers numerous advantages to frequent travelers, sports fans, and digital gurus alike:

  • Clear offers expedited security lines in airports and large sports or concert venues.
  • Clear is touchless—users can confirm their identities with a retina scan.
  • The Health Pass function stores a digital record of COVID-19 vaccine cards and tests.

Although it’s significantly more expensive than TSA PreCheck, Clear provides completely different services. If you’re a frequent traveler or simply hate waiting in lines, Clear will save you time and potentially keep you from missing a flight during peak air travel dates.

Why choose TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck passengers, while a more limited service, can benefit from inexpensive way to expedite your screening time in a physical security checkpoint. Since the average traveler proceeds through standard security checkpoints, TSA PreCheck members also experience shorter lines on their way to the document screening phase.

TSA PreCheck is perfect for:

  • Frequent travelers
  • Business travelers carrying laptops or other large electronics
  • Families with small children
  • Travelers frequenting high-traffic airports like ATL, CLT, or LAX
  • Travelers who rarely check a bag and often have liquid toiletries in their carry-on
  • Physically impaired travelers with limited mobility

For only $85 for a five-year enrollment, and only $70 per renewal, the convenience of TSA PreCheck membership is, even for infrequent travelers, worth every penny.

Can you use both?

While it requires a more-than-nominal financial commitment, using both services is an excellent way for travelers to reap the benefits of both services and expedite the entire airport security process.

For travelers enrolled in both Clear and TSA PreCheck, the airport security process is significantly different than the standard procedure:

  1. Travelers present their boarding pass and confirm their identity—via fingerprints or retinal scan—at a Clear pod.
  1. They skip the long lines of passengers waiting for their document screenings.
  1. They perform a truncated physical screening with a select few other travelers.

If you’re a very frequent flier—for business or pleasure—using Clear in combination with the TSA PreCheck will significantly cut down on your airport stress.

Is It Better To Have TSA Precheck Or Clear?

Each program has its own advantages but a traveler can use both, assuming he has applied for both programs. TSA Precheck is for the physical security process while Clear is for identification/documentation screening process. Both can be beneficial. However, Clear is much more expensive than TSA Precheck.

What If You Have Clear But Not Precheck?

If you have Clear, you can swiftly verify from the identification process. However, without Precheck you have to go through the regular physical screening process.

Does Clear Cover TSA Precheck?

No. TSA Precheck is not covered with Clear. However, if you have a Global Entry, then you have the benefits of TSA Precheck.

Are There Any Downsides To TSA Precheck?

Since it’s popular with regular travelers, more and more people are getting TSA Precheck. However, it’s better than going through the entire process of taking your shoes, laptops, etc.. out of your bag. 

How Much Does TSA Precheck Cost?

TSA Precheck costs around $85 and has a validity of 5 years.

How Do I Get TSA Precheck For Free?

There are certain credit cards that include TSA Precheck or they can reimburse the fee you pay for TSA Precheck by using their card to pay.

How Long Does It Take To Get TSA Precheck Approval?

You only have to wait three to five days to get approved with TSA Precheck. However, in some cases it could take up to 60 days or 2 months to process.

To avoid the hustle and bustle of getting a TSA PreCheck in person, simply fill out this form to apply for TSA PreCheck online right now.


Related articles