TSA PreCheck® vs. Clear®: What’s the difference?

If you’re traveling, you probably want to get where you’re going fast. And waiting in line at airport security, especially as a frequent flyer, can be a drag.

TSA PreCheck® and Clear both offer ways to avoid lines at the airport. Compare the two programs and decide whether either or both are right for you.

Key takeaways

  • TSA PreCheck® and Clear can both help you move through airport security faster.
  • TSA PreCheck® is a Trusted Traveler Program offered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
  • Clear is run by a private company and uses biometrics to expedite the ID checks before security.

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What is TSA PreCheck®?

TSA PreCheck® is a government program that offers faster security screening in the airport. You can get in a shorter line. And you typically don’t have to remove your laptop and small liquids from your bag or take off your shoes, belt or light jacket.

According to the TSA, U.S. citizens, nationals and lawful permanent residents are eligible for TSA PreCheck®. 

TSA PreCheck® is available for flights departing from U.S. airports.

How to use TSA PreCheck® at the airport

Here are steps to become a TSA PreCheck® member: 

  1. Apply online: Start by completing the quick online application
  2. Schedule an interview: After applying, you can schedule an in-person appointment at an enrollment center. This will include fingerprinting, identification and payment.
  3. Receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN):  According to the TSA, it could take three to five days or up to 60 days to be approved. Once approved, you’ll receive a KTN to use when making flight reservations.
  4. Get through security faster: If you add your KTN when booking a flight with a participating airline, your boarding pass will show the TSA PreCheck® indicator. This grants you access to the expedited TSA PreCheck® line.

Keep in mind that TSA PreCheck® can’t guarantee faster screening.

What is Clear at the airport?

Clear is run by a private company and certified by the Department of Homeland Security. The program uses biometrics to offer quick entry into more than 50 airports in the U.S.

When heading to security, Clear members can skip the line for the boarding pass and ID check and verify their identification at a Clear kiosk instead. After, Clear members head straight to the front of the regular security line—but not the TSA PreCheck® line. So they’ll still have to remove things like their shoes.

Clear also offers expedited entry to events with its free sports and events pass. And the Clear health pass lets you show your COVID-19 vaccination status and negative test when needed.

Any U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident who is 18 or older can apply for Clear.

How to enroll in Clear at the airport

Enrolling in Clear requires a few simple steps, similar to applying for TSA PreCheck®. You can apply online with your name, address, date of birth and annual fee payment. Then you’ll visit a Clear airport location with your ID to scan your biometrics and finish enrollment.

What’s the difference between Clear and TSA PreCheck®?

While both TSA PreCheck® and Clear can help you move through the airport more efficiently, they aren’t the same. Here are some differences between Clear and TSA PreCheck®:

How the programs work

TSA PreCheck® can speed up your time in airport security by sending you to an expedited line. Clear allows you to bypass the ID check and scan your biometrics at a kiosk before getting in the security line.

Where the programs are available

TSA PreCheck® is an option in more than 290 airports with 85+ participating airlines. Clear can be found in more than 50 major airports.

Who provides the programs

TSA PreCheck® is run by the U.S. government. Clear is a privately owned company that’s certified with the Department of Homeland Security’s Safety Act.

Price of the programs

The fee for TSA PreCheck® is currently $78 or $85, depending on the provider. Membership lasts for five years. A Clear membership costs $189 annually.

Is Clear better than TSA PreCheck®?

Whether Clear or TSA PreCheck® is better for you will depend on your needs and preferences. Clear can help you get to the front of the screening line faster without having to show your ID. TSA PreCheck® can help expedite the actual security screening.

Some travelers use Clear and TSA PreCheck® together.

TSA PreCheck® vs. Clear in a nutshell

If you want to spend less time waiting in line at the airport and more time exploring your destination, TSA PreCheck® or Clear might be good solutions. Both programs can help you avoid some of the hassles of airport security screening.

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