CLEAR or TSA PreCheck? How each works, and which might be a better fit for you

Airport. (Photo by Matthew Turner from Pexels.)

We all know how the process works when you’re going to the airport: Check in, get your boarding pass, check your luggage (if that’s what you’ve decided on) and then head to security to make your way to the gate.

It can be a lot if you haven’t traveled in some time. It can be a lot even if you’re a frequent traveler. You’ll often see people fumbling around trying to retrieve their ID and boarding pass before meeting the TSA agent, and then they get their belts and shoes off and people are stacking up behind them. We’ve all been there.

Something else you may have seen in the security lines are the signs that direct PreCheck passengers through a different (and shorter) line. Or perhaps you’ve seen signs for CLEAR. Have you wondered what that is?

We’re delivering to you a quick snapshot of what each is, how you can benefit from them, and what it will cost you. Ultimately, we wanted to provide you with enough information for you to decide if either is worth investing in, and if so, which would best suit your needs.

Read below to see which option may work better for you.

TSA PreCheck

What it costs: $85 for five years.

What it is:

It allows you to go through the TSA PreCheck line at security. By doing this, you get through security more quickly, because there is no removal of shoes, laptops, belts, 3-1-1 liquids, food or light jackets. In fact, according to the TSA website, 97% of PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes.

How to enroll:

  • Apply online. In about five minutes, you can submit an online application and schedule an appointment at one of 380-plus enrollment centers.
  • Enroll in person. An in-person appointment, which takes about 10 minutes, includes fingerprinting for a background check.
  • Get through security more quickly and easily. When you book your flight, simply add your Known Traveler Number to your reservation to get through security with a quicker and more seamless screening.


  • More than 200 airports and 80 airlines provide TSA PreCheck.
  • Family members can benefit from your enrollment, as children 12 and under can join a parent/guardian.
  • Some credit cards have perks that include covering the application fees. Click here to see which companies this includes.

Have more questions about TSA PreCheck? Click here to see the frequently asked questions.


What it costs: $179 for one year.

What it is:

CLEAR can make travel faster, safer and easier, by using touchless monitors to verify members with their eyes or face.

Instead of going through the typical security lines, where you must wait to get your ID checked and then wait to go through security, you’ll go straight to a CLEAR kiosk, where you will be quickly identified by a code that’s generated through your iris.

It is used at 50-plus airports.

How to enroll:

This is actually quicker and even simpler than signing up for TSA PreCheck. You can sign up at any airports that have CLEAR, or you can do it directly on the website. You fill out an application and then go to a CLEAR enrollment center, where your fingerprints and iris will be registered. Once you’ve set up your account, you can begin using it immediately.


  • You get to skip straight to a special line specifically designated for CLEAR users.
  • It can be used at venues and stadiums across the country -- not just for travel.

Some notable differences

  • TSA PreCheck is offered in far more airports.
  • Sports and entertainment fans have an extra perk with CLEAR.
  • CLEAR’s lines at the airports are typically quite a bit shorter, helping travelers get to their gates more quickly.

Have more questions about CLEAR? Click here to see the frequently asked questions regarding sign-up and usage.

For everyone with an exciting trip ahead, happy traveling!

About the Author:

Dawn Jorgenson, Graham Media Group Branded Content Managing Editor, began working with the group in April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.