What Is Clear® at the Airports and How Does It Work?

Update: Since this post was initially published, the regular non-discounted CLEAR membership pricing has increased to $189 from the previous $179. Accordingly, this post’s phrasing surrounding cost/pricing is updated to reflect the fee change.

CLEAR is a novel, cutting-edge technology that makes it easy to verify individuals’ identities at airports and other packed places like sports stadiums. (It feels like they may expand to other venue types as well).

Most prominently, CLEAR booths or pods can be conspicuously seen at the airport security check lines, and you might have wondered about what CLEAR is.

How CLEAR Works at the Airports

How CLEAR Works at the Airports
How CLEAR Works at the Airports. Image Credit: The CLEAR website.

CLEAR utilizes your biometrics (fingerprints and or eyes, etc.) to confirm that the person trying to get in to board the plane is really you. This is precisely the main difference between using CLEAR booths and having your identity verified with a TSA agent.

With the former, you get your biometrics confirmed and keep walking. It’s fast, smooth, efficient, takes less time, and is hassle-free. With a TSA agent, you need to provide an accepted form of identification. In contrast to CLEAR, working with an agent takes more time and is slightly inconvenient — even if you have TSA Pre.

CLEAR Application, Membership Pricing, and Discounts

Anyone can apply for CLEAR from their website. Typically, the process comprises of two steps:

  1. Filling out the online application.
  2. Then, heading over to a CLEAR location/enrollment center to get the inceptive biometrics scan of yourself — which might be a combination of a few fingerprint impressions and those of your irises.

The application is effortless, straightforward, and only takes minutes. Plus, unlike global entry, there isn’t an interview; however, you would need to go to a CLEAR location to finish the application as mentioned. The “system” needs to gather your biometrics first before you start benefiting from it.

Alternatively, suppose you’re already flying somewhere. In that case, you can fill out the CLEAR application, head to the airport early, get the initial scans done to finish the application, and if all goes well & timely, you can start using CLEAR right after. Why do this? Because you can save an extra trip to the airport or an accepted CLEAR facility to complete your application in its entirety.

How Much Does a CLEAR Application Cost?

Without any discounts or affiliations, the fee is $189 per year per person for adults.

Although, if you belong to one of their partner airlines, you can get pretty sweet discounts depending on your membership level with that airline. Additionally, there are concessions for adding family members.

Currently, CLEAR has partnered with Delta Airlines and United Airlines.

A Few FAQs

How Does CLEAR Differ From TSA Pre?

Any airport security usually consists of two steps. The first is identity and or boarding pass verification, and the second is the physical screening where they check you, your bags, etc. With TSA Pre, you will save time because there is generally a different line for it, and physical screening is more convenient as you do not have to remove your shoes and belt — along with all the advantages of TSA pre.

Where CLEAR comes into the picture is for identity verification. Again, you don’t deal with a TSA agent. You go straight into a CLEAR booth, verify everything through biometrics, and proceed directly to physical screening. The identity verification is where you save even more time than TSA Pre.

In fact, CLEAR can be used in conjunction with TSA Pre. After your biometrics, you can go to the physical screening line that’s dedicated to folks holding TSA Pre status.

Side note: You do not need TSA Pre to get CLEAR or vice-versa.

Is CLEAR at the Airport Worth It?

My opinion is that it is if you genuinely fly a lot! Otherwise, justifying a $189 spend, assuming you do not get a discount, may seem a little far-fetched for some people. The question isn’t about if you can afford it, and yes, what’s worth and what isn’t is relative to an individual, but having TSA Pre alone saves a good chunk of time already. So keep that in mind, and also that you need to pay for CLEAR membership every year. At least, with how things are right now.

In comparison, TSA Pre costs $85 for five years, and global entry (which includes TSA Pre) costs $100 for five years also.

At What Locations Is CLEAR Available?

To stay current on locations (it feels like they keep adding), the best way to know is to keep a pulse on their official website, where they delineate their presence in the country. In there, you can find the list of Airports and stadiums with CLEAR. Possibly, other unique venue types as well.

Are There Any Other Requirements To Join CLEAR?

Yes. According to Experian, the only people eligible to apply for CLEAR are U.S. citizens or permanent residents over 18 years of age. If children under 18 are accompanied by an adult who has CLEAR, they can use the CLEAR kiosks/lanes for free.

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Ready To Try CLEAR?

If new technological innovations excite you, you should undoubtedly give CLEAR a try.

With carefully planned out discounts for you and your family, the worse that can happen is that you pay for a year membership, and then cancel if it doesn’t jibe well with you.

Howbeit, if you lie on the spectrum of constant and frequent travel, then CLEAR is made for you!

Bonus tip: If you happen to have the Amex Platinum Card®, you can get up to $189 back in statement credits every year as a benefit of having that card. You can read more about it in my post here.