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TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR: Which Program Is the Best?

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Standing around in security lines probably isn't anybody's favorite part about going to the airport. Fortunately, there are three expedited security programs that help you go through checkpoints more quickly: TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR.

Each of these programs gets you different benefits, and membership fees also vary significantly. In this guide to expedited security programs, we'll cover how they work and which one is the best choice.

Should you sign up for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or CLEAR?

Global Entry is the best expedited security program for most travelers because of its benefits and reasonable fee. It gets you through security faster when arriving to the United States, and it includes all TSA PreCheck benefits as well. A five-year membership costs $100, which isn't much more than the $85 fee for TSA PreCheck.

CLEAR can be valuable if you frequently fly out of airports that offer it. However, it's not available in nearly as many airports as the other two programs. The membership fee is also much more expensive at $189 per year.

Although Global Entry is the best option overall, the right program for you depends on your travel habits. Here's a full breakdown of what all three have to offer.

TSA PreCheck

Details:

  • $85 for a five-year membership ($17 per year)
  • Allows low-risk passengers to access TSA PreCheck security lanes and go through an expedited security screening
  • Available at over 200 U.S. airports on over 80 participating airlines
  • Children 12 and under can join a parent/guardian with TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck provides a faster security process at participating U.S. airports. Once you're enrolled, you receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN). Enter this number when you make air travel reservations, and your boarding pass will be marked with a TSA PreCheck icon.

Remember that being a TSA PreCheck member doesn't guarantee expedited screening every time. You must be at an airport that offers it and fly with an airline that participates in the program. The TSA can also still decide to require a regular or a more thorough screening.

At the security checkpoint, you can go through dedicated TSA PreCheck lanes instead of standard security lanes. You don't need to take off your shoes, belt, or a light jacket. You can also keep your laptop, food, and liquids that meet the liquid size requirements in your carryon.

Considering how much time it saves you at the airport, TSA PreCheck more than justifies its cost of $17 per year. Many of the top travel credit cards also cover a membership fee for either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. If you travel exclusively within the United States, then this is the program for you. If you travel outside the country at all, then Global Entry is the better choice.

How to enroll in TSA PreCheck

Here's how to enroll in TSA PreCheck:

  1. Go to the TSA PreCheck website and click "Apply Now."
  2. Fill out the application form and schedule an appointment at an enrollment center.
  3. Visit the enrollment center for your in-person appointment.

The nonrefundable $85 fee is due at the in-person appointment. If you have a travel credit card that covers your TSA PreCheck fee, make sure to use it.

Upon approval, you get your KTN that you must enter when booking air travel to receive TSA PreCheck benefits. If you forget or need to update an existing reservation, you can also add your KTN during the check in process.

Global Entry

Details:

  • $100 for a five-year membership ($20 per year)
  • Allows low-risk passengers to access expedited security kiosks when arriving in the United States
  • Available at over 70 airports
  • Includes membership to TSA PreCheck

Global Entry speeds up the process of going through immigration and customs when you arrive in the United States. As a member, you can go to a Global Entry kiosk instead of the immigration line. You then scan your passport or U.S. permanent resident card and your fingertips, answer questions for your customs declaration, and receive a receipt.

Only members can use Global Entry kiosks. Travel companions, including children and spouses, must have their own memberships.

By presenting your receipt from the kiosk, you can pass through the Global Entry immigration counter. You can also go through a Global Entry line at customs, which is typically faster than the standard line. Just like with TSA PreCheck, membership doesn't guarantee an expedited security process every time.

The entry process to the United States is much faster with Global Entry. While waiting in the immigration line can easily last half an hour or longer, using a Global Entry kiosk doesn't even take a minute.

Considering a membership costs $20 per year, Global Entry is a great value for international travelers. To make this program even better, it also includes a TSA PreCheck membership. You get all the benefits of both programs for being a member of Global Entry. And there are quite a few credit cards to get through airport security faster with a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit.

How to enroll in Global Entry

Follow these steps to enroll in Global Entry:

  1. Go to the Trusted Traveler Programs page on the website for the Department of Homeland Security.
  2. Click "Get Started" in the Global Entry section.
  3. Create a Trusted Traveler Programs account.
  4. Fill out the Global Entry application and pay the non-refundable application fee. Don't forget to use a credit card that covers the Global Entry fee if you have one.
  5. If your application is conditionally approved, you'll be able to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center.

You must bring your valid passport and one other form of identification to the interview. If you're a lawful permanent resident, then you must bring your machine readable permanent resident card.

After you're a member of Global Entry, you receive a membership card and your KTN. You don't need the membership card to use Global Entry benefits, though. Global Entry kiosks scan your fingerprint to verify your identity and membership status. When booking air travel, you can use your KTN to get your TSA PreCheck benefits.

Here are a few credit cards that offer statement credits toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

As of Jun. 29, 2022
Image for
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Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Apply Now for Chase Sapphire Reserve®

On Chase's Secure Website.

Credit Rating Requirement:

Good/Excellent (670-850) Info Icon Circle with letter I in it.

Credit Rating Requirement:

Good/Excellent (670-850) Info Icon Circle with letter I in it.

Credit Rating Requirement:

Good/Excellent (670-850) Info Icon Circle with letter I in it.

Welcome Offer: Info Icon Circle with letter I in it.

75,000 miles

Welcome Offer: Info Icon Circle with letter I in it.

50,000 points

Welcome Offer: Info Icon Circle with letter I in it.

60,000 points

Rewards Program:

2x miles

Rewards Program: Info Icon Circle with letter I in it.

1.5 - 2 points per dollar

Rewards Program: Info Icon Circle with letter I in it.

1x - 10x points

Intro APR:

Purchases: N/A

Balance Transfers: N/A

Intro APR:

Purchases: See Terms

Balance Transfers: See Terms

Intro APR:

Purchases: N/A

Balance Transfers: N/A

Regular APR:

17.49% - 25.49% Variable

Regular APR:

See Terms

Regular APR:

17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Annual Fee:

$95

Annual Fee:

$95

Annual Fee:

$550

Highlights:

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Enjoy two complimentary visits per year to Capital One Lounges or to 100+ Plaza Premium Lounges through our Partner Lounge Network
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs

Highlights:

  • Receive 50,000 online bonus points - a $500 value - after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means you could earn up to 3.5 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases.
  • No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire.
  • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill® accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center.
  • Get up to $100 in Airline Incidental Statement Credits annually and TSA PreCheck®/Global Entry Statement Credits of up to $100, every four years.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Low $95 annual fee.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

Highlights:

  • New Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on air travel and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Apply Now for Chase Sapphire Reserve®

On Chase's Secure Website.

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CLEAR

Details:

  • $189 for a one-year membership
  • Takes you directly to the front of the security line in U.S. airports with CLEAR service
  • Available at over 35 U.S. airports
  • Also available at select sports and entertainment venues

CLEAR has some notable differences from TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. While those are both programs run by the government, a private company operates CLEAR. Instead of getting you through the security process more quickly, CLEAR offers front-of-the-line privileges at some U.S. airports. Using biometrics, it allows you to bypass the standard document check at airport security.

When you're a member, you can go to a CLEAR kiosk and scan your irises and fingerprints. A CLEAR employee will then escort you to the front of either the standard security line or the TSA PreCheck line, depending on whether you're a member of that program as well.

This program isn't limited to airports. Certain sports and entertainment venues also have CLEAR service. Although this is a good additional perk, you don't need to pay for it. Anyone can sign up for a CLEAR Sports membership free of charge.

Whether CLEAR is worth getting depends on where and how often you fly. If you fly out of an airport with CLEAR kiosks several times per year, a membership could save you a lot of time. The main drawback is the high cost. Although there are sometimes discounts available, CLEAR costs much more than TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. There also aren't any credit cards that pay your entire CLEAR membership fee like there are for the other two programs.

How to enroll in CLEAR

Here are the steps to enroll in CLEAR:

  1. Go to the CLEAR website and click "Get CLEAR."
  2. Fill out the form to register online.
  3. Visit a CLEAR location so you can answer a few questions to verify your identity, provide a valid photo ID, and pay the membership fee.

If you want, you can complete the entire enrollment process at a CLEAR location. Registering online just makes the in-person process faster.

Once you're enrolled, you can start using CLEAR immediately. You could go to the airport, sign up for CLEAR, and then use it that day.

Do You Travel a Lot?: See if CLEAR is worth it for frequent flyers by checking out The Ascent's guide.

Picking the right expedited security program

If you want to cruise through airport security, you have a few options, and choosing between them isn't too difficult.

Just about every air traveler can benefit from TSA PreCheck. Since Global Entry includes that program and its own benefits for only $3 more per year, it's usually the way to go. The right credit card will also pay for Global Entry, so you wouldn't even need to pay that small cost difference.

While Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are useful for most travelers, CLEAR is more limited. You may decide it's worth getting in addition to Global Entry if you can use it enough. After all, getting front-of-the-line privileges at airports you frequent is nice. Or, you might feel that Global Entry is already enough and save yourself $189 per year.

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