Security expediting memberships are enticing travelers with the promise of making travel easier. Those who are planning international travel will find that Global Entry offers speedy re-entry into the country plus the benefits of TSA PreCheck for just a few more dollars. Travelers who want to cut some time off their airport screening will find TSA PreCheck is a good lower-cost alternative. Travelers who want to speed up the process as much as possible and truly avoid the check-in line should look into CLEAR.
Make sure the airport you use most often provides kiosks so you can make the most of your service. TSA PreCheck is currently available in 200 airports nationwide, while CLEAR currently is available only in 24 airports.
Travelers who use TSA Precheck pay $85 for a five-year membership that makes domestic security screening faster and easier. Members don’t have to remove laptops or liquids from carry-ons or take off shoes, belt or jackets before boarding most domestic flights. They can go through expedited security lines at U.S. airports, but some smaller airports don’t have these separate TSA Precheck-only lines.
Applicants enroll in TSA PreCheck by filling out an online form on the TSA website and then making an appointment for an interview at a nearby enrollment center. There they get a background check and fingerprinting. The interview usually lasts about 15 minutes.
While TSA PreCheck works for only domestic flights, Global Entry works for both international and domestic flights. Travelers who are approved for Global Entry also receive TSA PreCheck. The cost for Global Entry is $100, or $15 more than TSA PreCheck. An online application and an interview appointment are required for Global Entry just like TSA PreCheck. The interview, which is administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, lasts about 10 to 15 minutes.
Global Entry allows members returning from international travel to check in at a Global Entry kiosk without filling out paperwork. Members speed through customs faster other travelers who have to wait in processing lines.
A third option, CLEAR, is newer on the scene. While this service truly does let travelers jump to the head of the line, the limited (although growing) number of CLEAR kiosks seriously restricts your ability to use the service. The cost for CLEAR is $179 a year. There’s no requirement to schedule an interview for enrollment in CLEAR; you can sign up as you wait to get through security. The process takes about 10 minutes.
Travelers check in at a CLEAR kiosk near the screening checkpoint. The CLEAR kiosk employs biometric technology that uses either fingerprint or iris scanning. After the kiosk check-in confirms the traveler’s identify, a CLEAR representative escorts the traveler past everyone waiting in line to the front of either the TSA PreCheck or regular security line. The traveler doesn’t need to show ID but gives the boarding pass to the TSA agent.