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I love Trusted Traveler Programs.
Enrolling in a program like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry is one of the greatest measures you can take to immediately improve your quality of travel.
If you’re a member of TSA PreCheck like 6% of America, you’ve got the freedom to pass through TSA airport security without stripping down to your delicates. You don’t need to remove your shoes, belt, or light jacket — and you can even keep your laptop and carry-on approved toiletries in your bag. This means you won’t have to feed six different gray bins through the X-ray machine. There’s even a dedicated PreCheck lane that tends to move significantly faster than the standard security lane.
TSA PreCheck costs $85 for five years.
An even more exclusive club is Global Entry, with about 2% of Americans registered. This program completely eliminates the hours of processing you experience when returning to the US from abroad. Instead of standing in the tortuous immigration line, you simply walk to a Global Entry kiosk, scan your fingerprints, take a 20-second survey, and exit the airport.
Additionally, Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck benefits, so it’s the better choice between the two. Global Entry costs $100 for five years.
You can get either of these programs for free simply by paying with one of the top credit cards for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. These cards reimburse the application fee for these programs with a statement credit once every four or five years, depending on the card.
But there’s another expedited screening program that I’ve ignored until recently: CLEAR. Only about 1.7% of Americans have CLEAR. And no wonder, as it costs up to $179 per year.
The Platinum Card® from American Express offers an annual statement credit to offset the price of CLEAR, so I figured I’d give it a whirl. It’s actually pretty great — my airport security experience has been reduced to seconds.
CLEAR is a surprisingly useful travel luxury
See Pay Over Time APR
100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in your first 6 months of card membership, plus 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership
I have to say, I wouldn’t have signed up for CLEAR if American Express hadn’t prodded me by offering it for free. The Platinum Card (and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
) provide up to $179 in annual statement credits to offset CLEAR membership, which is enough to cover an entire year.
Here’s what CLEAR does to make your travel life easier. Once you arrive at the TSA security checkpoint, you’ll see three lanes:
- One for general travelers who are not a part of a Trusted Traveler Program (can be super slow)
- One for travelers who have membership to TSA PreCheck (often significantly faster than the regular line)
- One for travelers who have membership to CLEAR (skip all lines and head straight for the gray bins)
Nearly every time I’ve arrived at airport security, the CLEAR lane has been completely empty. There are often two or three CLEAR employees loitering around the entrance, wishing upon a star that someone would approach them for assistance.
They’ll bring you to a CLEAR kiosk, help you input your biometric data (fingerprints and iris scan), and then literally escort you to the front of the line where you can flash your boarding pass to the TSA officer and head toward the body scanners.
I used this benefit for the first time in Washington, DC (DCA), and was blown away at the velocity with which I was able to negotiate airport security. There’s an initial setup process you’ll undergo the first time you use it, but that only happens the first time — and it takes about five minutes.
Stack CLEAR with TSA PreCheck
14.24% – 22.24% Variable
Good to Excellent
120,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card within the first 3 months of card membership
0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases eligible for Pay Over Time
You don’t have to choose between CLEAR and TSA PreCheck. Both programs serve different purposes, and they make for an airport security dream team when you’ve got them both.
The Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum Card offer statement credits for both TSA PreCheck and CLEAR — so as long as you’ve got the card, you can keep renewing your membership for effectively free. I’ve got them both, and here’s what my security experience looks like:
- Arrive at a crowded airport with excessive lines
- Head to a CLEAR kiosk and spend 45 seconds inputting my info
- Skip the line and put my bags on the conveyor belt (without having to take my laptop out)
- Walk through the body scanner (fully clothed)
- Grab my bag from the X-ray machine without hurriedly shuffling over to a bench in my socks with an armload of paraphernalia
I find that membership to CLEAR nearly guarantees the amount of time I’ll spend at the security checkpoint. Once you’ve made it to the gray bins, the process tends to take about the same amount of time. It’s the line waiting to show your ID/boarding pass that can mess with your schedule — and that’s the part CLEAR eliminates.
Other ways to get free/discounted CLEAR membership
See Rates & Fees
30,000 points after you spend at least $2,000 in your first 3 months of account opening
The Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum Card aren’t the only ways to get a discount on CLEAR. You can dramatically reduce the program’s $179 annual fee by paying with the American Express® Green Card
, which offers up to $100 in annual statement credits toward CLEAR.
Also, both United and Delta loyalty members can save big on CLEAR:
- Free for: Delta Diamond Medallion and United 1K elite members
- $109 per year for: Platinum, Gold, and Silver elite members of both Delta and United
- $109 per year for: Cardholders of most Delta or United credit cards
- $119 per year for: General Delta or United members (no elite status required)
Once you have a CLEAR membership, other family members can benefit. You can add up to three adult family members to your account for just $50 per person. Children under 18 are free (though they must be traveling with an adult who has CLEAR).
CLEAR is more of a luxury membership than that of TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. But it’s a solid complement that minimizes your security checkpoint experience and helps you get to the airport lounge faster.
If you’re a Amex Platinum or Amex Business Platinum Card cardholder, CLEAR is completely free for you because, when you pay the membership fee with these cards, you’ll get a statement credit of up to $179 each year.
There’s nothing to lose by enrolling (you can ask the CLEAR attendants at the airport — it takes just a few minutes), and you can experience more rapid travel than 98% of America. I highly recommend it.
Good to Excellent
3 free nights (each valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases and 10x total points on eligible purchases in select categories
Good to Excellent
$200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
Good to Excellent