Is Clear worth the cost?
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Airport security lines can be one of the most tedious parts of traveling. Luckily, a few frequent traveler programs now offer a way around long security wait times — for a cost.
Clear is one such program, and today you can find Clear lanes in several major U.S. airports and even stadiums. It’s an identity verification program that uses biometrics such as eye scans and fingerprints to confirm your identity and allow you to move more quickly through security lines.
Here’s what you need to know about Clear membership, its benefits and the price tag:
- A Clear Plus membership costs $189 per year, making it the most expensive of the expedited security options. In comparison, TSA PreCheck costs $85 for five years — and Global Entry, which includes TSA PreCheck, costs $100 for five years.
- Clear is available at over 50 airports and stadiums, but not all. You should check the program’s location map to see if it’s available where you live or travel most.
- There are many ways to get a discounted or free Clear Plus membership, which could make the cost more worth it.
How much does Clear cost?
Clear costs $189 per year for expedited airline security.
The Clear app is free to download and includes free access to Clear Sports and the Clear Health Pass as well as other basic identity verification services.
If you want to use Clear to expedite the airport security screening process, you’ll need to become a Clear Plus member. This is the $189 per year membership service — though below, we’ll cover the ways you can lower this price.
If you are traveling with family, you can add up to three adults to your Clear Plus account for just $60 each. Children under 18 can use Clear lanes for free when accompanied by a Clear Plus member, and college students can apply for a discounted $60 Clear Plus membership.
What are the benefits of Clear membership?
The biggest benefit of Clear is the ability to skip long airport security lines.
At the first step of the security screening process, you get to enter a separate security lane, where you’ll verify your identity using an eye or fingerprint scan and show an agent your boarding pass. From there, you’ll be escorted past the standard security line and straight to the physical screening process — cutting down your wait significantly.
This is a different process than you’ll find with either TSA Precheck or Global Entry. TSA PreCheck allows you to save time during the physical airport screening process — you enter from a separate lane and can complete the screening without removing shoes, laptops, liquids or gels. Global Entry, on the other hand, is for international travelers. When you enter the United States from another country, you can use Global Entry to quickly verify your identity at U.S. Customs and complete your required declaration forms.
Want to know more? Here’s our guide to Clear vs. TSA PreCheck, as well as our guide to Clear vs. Global Entry.
There are benefits for Clear members outside of airports, too. Even without Clear Plus, standard Clear membership allows you to expedite security at eligible stadiums and arenas, create a digital vaccine card and even reserve a time in the airport security line in advance.
How to get Clear free or almost free
There are a few different ways to get a free or discounted Clear Plus membership.
First: with a credit card. Select American Express credit cards offer statement credits for Clear memberships, including the American Express® Green Card* and The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Frequent flyer programs can also help you score discounts. United MileagePlus and Delta SkyMiles members receive preferred pricing on Clear memberships.
Another way is through your job. Clear offers special pricing for students, government employees and active duty military and veterans. And finally, if you know someone who has Clear already, you can get a referral discount.
Here’s more about each of these methods:
American Express Green Card
If you have an American Express Green Card, you can receive up to $189 in statement credits toward Clear each year — enough to cover Clear Plus membership.
You’ll also get a $100 annual credit toward lounge access with LoungeBuddy and 3X Membership Rewards points on transit, travel and worldwide restaurants (1X points on everything else).
That said, the Amex Green didn’t make our recent list of the best travel credit cards. The $150 annual fee is high for an entry-level travel credit card, and frequent travelers may prefer the perks that come with an elite travel card. If you’re thinking about applying for the Amex Green Card, compare its cost with your regular spending to decide whether the American Express Green Card is worth it.
The Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express offers both a $189 annual statement credit for Clear Plus membership and credits to cover the cost of Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
This premium credit card charges a $695 annual fee — but the numerous airline, hotel, transportation, dining, fitness and entertainment credits could more than cover the cost, as long as you travel regularly often enough to take advantage of the card’s benefits. The American Express Platinum Card may be worth it, but take time to understand all the benefits and rewards options before you apply.
United MileagePlus members can enroll in discounted Clear Plus membership, with pricing based on your status in the airline program:
- Premier 1K members: free Clear Plus membership
- Premier Silver, Gold, Platinum and eligible United Airlines credit card members: $149 annual membership
- MileagePlus members: $179 annual membership with 14-day trial
Delta SkyMiles members can also receive a discounted Clear Plus membership, depending on frequent flyer status:
- Diamond Medallion members: free Clear Plus membership
- Silver, Gold, Platinum Medallion Members and eligible Delta SkyMiles American Express credit card members: $149 annual membership
- Delta SkyMiles general members: $179 annual membership with 14-day trial
College students with a valid school email address and student ID can get Clear Plus membership for just $60 per year. Apply online through Clear’s student enrollment portal to get started.
Federal, state and local government employees can qualify for a discounted rate by contacting Clear directly.
Active duty military and veterans
If you are a member of the United States military or have veteran status, you can receive a discounted Clear Plus membership for only $99 per year. Make sure you provide your military or veteran ID card when you apply.
If you know someone with Clear, you can get two months of membership for free via referral. If you sign up this way, the person who refers you will also receive two months of free membership.
How to enroll in Clear
Enrolling in Clear is pretty simple.
You can complete the first part of the enrollment process online, providing basic identifying information such as your name, address and date of birth, as well as your payment information. For the second part of the enrollment process, you’ll need to visit a Clear kiosk at a participating airport. A representative will verify your passport, driver’s license or another form of photo identification, and scan your eyes and/or fingerprints to complete your enrollment.
If you prefer, you can complete the entire enrollment process at a Clear kiosk the next time you visit the airport.
Where is Clear available?
Today, Clear is available at 50 airports in 44 cities across the United States. You won’t find access everywhere yet though, especially if you typically travel to or from smaller airports.
That’s why it’s important to make sure that Clear is available at the airports you visit regularly before you apply. Clear isn’t worth the cost if you can’t use it, after all!
What is Clear Sports?
Clear Sports and Events is a free service offered through the Clear app — you don’t need Clear Plus membership to access the service, but you can use Clear Sports if you already have Clear Plus.
This tool allows you to enter stadiums and arenas using the app. At an eligible stadium or arena, you can simply log in to unlock a QR code. Use the code at a Clear lane to confirm your identity and pass through security.
Right now, only a limited number of stadiums and arenas offer Clear Sports access, so you should make sure your home venue offers the service before enrolling for your next game or concert experience.
Is Clear worth it?
If you regularly travel to or from airports that offer Clear lanes, paying $189 per year for a Clear membership could be worth it.
The time you’ll save moving through long security lines could help reduce your risk of missing a flight and cut down your time spent in the airport overall. Plus, if you already have an eligible American Express card or you qualify for a discount through a frequent flyer program, you reduce the cost even further.
Another thing to consider is applying for both Clear and TSA PreCheck. With this combination, you can expedite both the identity verification and the physical security screening process. However, this is an even more costly method, and while you can use TSA PreCheck at any airport, you’re still limited to participating airports for Clear.
Ultimately, Clear can be a great time-saver. It’s most worth it for people who don’t mind paying for more convenient airport screenings and frequently travel in and out of cities that offer Clear lanes at the airport.
*The information about the American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.