If you’ve been in an airport recently, you’ve probably noticed two types of security lines: one for TSA PreCheck and one for Clear. Many of us already know of TSA PreCheck, a Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) that allows you to quickly move through airport security. But you may not be as familiar with Clear, an airport security technology and membership program.

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Here are the four biggest differences between TSA PreCheck and Clear:
  1. TSA PreCheck is offered through the government while Clear is offered through a private company.
  2. TSA PreCheck expedites both the identity and physical screening process while Clear further expedites the document and identity screening process.
  3. A Clear Plus membership costs $189 per year for individuals ($189 a year for families plus $99 per person), and a TSA PreCheck membership costs up to $85 for five years.
  4. Clear is also available for use at select sports stadiums and entertainment venues throughout the U.S. while TSA PreCheck is only available to use at airports.

But which is better: TSA PreCheck or Clear? Both programs have their advantages and disadvantages, and savvy travelers could use both programs to enhance their airport experience. We take a closer look at TSA PreCheck vs. Clear to help you decide which program is better for you.

What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck is a Trusted Traveler Program administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA PreCheck is available at over 200 domestic airports and more than 90 airlines, all of which can be found on the official TSA website. Even though many airports and airlines participate in TSA PreCheck, there are some locations where TSA PreCheck is not available.

TSA PreCheck benefits

As a TSA PreCheck member, you’ll be able to access the expedited TSA PreCheck security line and complete airport security without going through the hassle of removing your shoes, belt or light jacket. You’ll also be able to leave laptops and TSA-approved liquids and gels in your carry-on. As for speed, the TSA claims that about 99% of TSA PreCheck passengers enjoy wait times of less than 10 minutes.

Many people consider the designated TSA PreCheck security line and faster clearance through security to be the primary benefit of TSA PreCheck — but being able to keep your shoes on and keep laptops and approved liquids in your carry-on during the process is also a huge plus. Keep in mind that passengers are selected occasionally for additional airport security screenings, which could interrupt the expedited process.

TSA PreCheck application process and cost

If you are a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or a lawful and permanent U.S. resident, you are eligible to apply for TSA PreCheck — and the application process is simple. First, fill out a short online application on the TSA PreCheck website; it should take no more than five minutes to complete.

Then, schedule an appointment at a TSA PreCheck enrollment center to receive a background check and fingerprinting. After completing the TSA PreCheck application process and passing a background check, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that you can enter whenever you book a flight.

This two-step application process costs up to $85, depending on which enrollment provider you use ($78 for enrollments through IDEMIA and $85 for enrollments through Telos). Online renewals only cost $70, and your TSA PreCheck enrollment status will remain valid for five years. However, many travel-focused credit cards and loyalty programs offer statement credits for TSA PreCheck application costs, which is one way to offset the cost of applying for TSA PreCheck.

Plus, top travel credit cards often come with other cost-saving benefits, like travel insurance and airport lounge access. So if you’re a frequent traveler, you might want to consider adding a travel card to your wallet.

What is Clear?

Clear is a membership program that allows its members to quickly verify their identities at biometric security kiosks. The paid membership Clear Plus is required for use at airports, while membership is free for those who only use it to enter partner stadiums and arenas. Clear meets the TSA baseline for security and privacy controls and has been certified as a “qualified anti-terrorism technology” by the Department of Homeland Security.

You can find Clear kiosks at more than 55 airports and at stadiums and arenas across the U.S. In New York, for example, Clear is available at Barclays Center, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Madison Square Garden, Westchester County Airport and Yankee Stadium. Smaller cities and towns, on the other hand, may not have Clear locations. Use Clear’s location guide to see if it’s available in your area.

Clear benefits

Clear Plus passengers can use the Clear lane to speed up the first half of the airport security process instead of waiting in line for a TSA representative to check their boarding pass and photo ID. After getting through the biometric screening, a Clear Ambassador escorts you directly to the next stage of the screening process so that you can complete physical and luggage scanning. You’re then taken to the TSA PreCheck line, if you already have TSA PreCheck. Otherwise, you use the regular screening line.

The $189 annual fee for the Clear Plus individual membership allows you to pass through expedited airport security. Clear also offers a free sports and events pass through its app that helps shorten the time it takes to enter sports and entertainment venues.

Clear application process and cost

You’re eligible to apply for Clear if you are at least 18 years old and have a U.S. driver’s license, U.S. passport or U.S. state-issued ID. The Clear application process is similar to the TSA PreCheck application process. You’ll start by filling out an online application. Then, visit one of the more than 50 Clear airport locations to finish the process. You don’t need an appointment before visiting a Clear location, but you do need to bring a photo ID that matches the name on your application and prepare to share your biometric information.

A Clear Plus membership is more expensive than TSA Precheck, with individual membership costing $189 per year and family memberships costing $189 a year plus $99 per person for up to three adults (children under 18 can use the Clear lane for free when traveling with a Clear Plus member). And while a statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry applications is a common perk among luxury travel cards, Clear credits are much less common. However, members of Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus are eligible for discounted or free Clear memberships.

In addition, several American Express cards offer Clear benefits. For example, the American Express® Green Card offers up to a $189 Clear statement credit each year to help you cover part of the membership cost. There’s also The Platinum Card® from American Express, which offers up to $189 in Clear statement credits each year.

Which is better: TSA PreCheck or Clear?

When it comes down to choosing between Clear or TSA PreCheck, many travelers assume TSA PreCheck is better. TSA PreCheck is less expensive, is available at more airports nationwide and has the advantage of being backed by the federal government. Plus, many travel credit cards offer a statement credit that covers the cost of a TSA PreCheck application.

That said, Clear also has a few advantages over TSA PreCheck. As TSA PreCheck becomes more popular, having a Clear Plus membership can help expedite the ID check screening at airports to make it go even faster. If you don’t already have TSA PreCheck, this can be a huge benefit. And if you frequent partner sports arenas and concert venues, the ability to quickly pass through security may make Clear worth it for you — especially if you carry a credit card that offers a statement credit toward your Clear Plus membership.

Should you get both TSA PreCheck and Clear?

While it might sound odd to consider enrolling in both TSA PreCheck and Clear, there are advantages to being a member of both programs. The biggest advantage is the way the programs work together to ease your trip through airport security. You can streamline your travel document screening process through Clear, then enter the TSA PreCheck screening line and walk through security with your shoes on.

Here are a few more advantages to having both TSA PreCheck and Clear:

  • TSA PreCheck only allows you to expedite your airport security experience, but Clear can speed up your entry into airports, stadiums and other entertainment venues.
  • When available, Clear passengers always have access to the dedicated Clear lane at security.
  • Not all airlines allow you to use your TSA PreCheck membership to get through security, but Clear works no matter what airline you’re flying.
  • Clear’s Health Pass allows you to share medical or vaccination information, which may be required for travel or entry into venues.

Also, it’s worth noting that TSA PreCheck isn’t the only recommended TTP. If you’re curious about the difference between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry — another Trusted Traveler Program designed to help people get through U.S. customs more efficiently — check out our guide on how to decide between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.

The bottom line

If you want an affordable way to shorten the time it takes to get through airport security, TSA PreCheck might be the better choice for you. It’s also currently available at more locations than Clear. However, Clear provides access to expedited security lines at stadiums and arenas as well as airports, and you’re always able to use the Clear lane whenever it is available.

In the end, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons and decide whether you’d like to apply for TSA PreCheck, Clear or both. Either way, you’ll be able to spend your next trip breezing through airport security — which is a major plus.

Issuer-required disclosure statement

*Information about the American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by Bankrate. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.