CLEAR vs TSA PreCheck vs Global Entry
You’ve already heard all the hype on these programs, so what’s the difference? I’m here to help make some sense out of it all.
What is the CLEAR Program? Basically, you get to skip the security line and go straight to the security screening. If you have TSA PreCheck, you get to use that line. If you do not have TSA PreCheck, you go through the regular screening line.
The CLEAR program costs $179 per year, and you can add up to 3 people for $50/person. Your membership also includes CLEAR Sports at participating sports stadiums. That will get you and a guest past the security line. If you are a Delta Skymiles member, you get a discounted rate, depending on the level of membership you have attained. Visit CLEAR for more details on the CLEAR program and its affiliate programs.
So, now that we have cleared that up (haha, see what I did there? Moving on…) , let’s discuss TSA PreCheck.
TSA PreCheck allows you to use the expedited screening lines where you get to keep your shoes/belt/jacket on, your toiletries in your bag, and you walk through the metal detector. It generally works pretty well (unless those shoes you’ve never worn through a metal detector end up setting the metal detector off…that may or may not have happened to me) and people move rather quickly through the line. TSA PreCheck will cost you $85 for 5 years of service (and boy, is it worth every penny), you have to interview in-person at an enrollment center, and pass a background check. Once you’ve done all that, you add your Known Traveler Number (KTN) to your reservation or frequent flyer profile and you are all set. But, you may not get TSA PreCheck every time, make sure to check your ticket. Oh, and TSA PreCheck is only for domestic flights, if you want to move quicker through international airports, you have to buy a business/first class ticket or use your credit card rewards program.
If you are a frequent international traveler (or you just want to get through customs and immigration faster), then Global Entry is the right choice for you! It also includes TSA Precheck for $100 every 5 years (that’s only $15 more than the PreCheck program). You apply online for this program, just like TSA PreCheck, and you have to do an in-person interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center (may be the same as TSA locations, check online). I have enrolled in this program and getting through customs checkpoints rarely takes more than a few minutes. Here’s the list of participating airports (as of 9/2018): https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/locations
There are a couple of other programs that are out there as well: SENTRI for entry into Mexico via driving/pedestrian routes, NEXUS for entry into Canada (via any route), and FAST for commercial drivers entering from Mexico or Canada.
So, find the program that works best for you and enjoy it!