airport security line

How Does CLEAR Work at Airport Security and Should You Get It?

Scott Laird

Scott Laird

February 13, 2024

6 min read

Going has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Going and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses, and recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities. Some of all of the card offers that appear on this page are from advertisers; compensation may affect how and where the cards appear on the site; and Going does not include all card companies are all available card offers.

Table of Contents

Security screening can be one of the most frustrating portions of any journey by air. CLEAR is a private subscription service in the United States that operates dedicated lanes for travelers at security checkpoints at several airports—in many cases saving them time when lines are backed up at security screening checkpoints. The service isn’t completely flawless (nothing is), but it can be a valuable time-saver for many travelers, particularly at airports with notoriously long security lines. 

What is CLEAR? 

Started in the early 2000s when biometric identification technology was in its infancy, CLEAR was purchased out of bankruptcy in 2010 and developed into a subscription service that allows users an alternative to TSA identification checks at airports. CLEAR has expanded to over 50 US airports, and the parent company, Clear Secure, went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2021. 

CLEAR also provides CLEAR Reserve, a free service that allows travelers to book a place in line at security checkpoints at select airports in the United States and Europe and also provides expedited entry services at a number of US sporting arenas and stadiums, but we’ll be discussing CLEAR’s airport security product, called CLEAR Plus, here. 

Pros of CLEAR

  • Separate lanes for TSA identification checks for both TSA PreCheck and non-TSA PreCheck subscribers
  • Uses biometrics, so no need to show an ID card in most cases
  • Generally reduces or eliminates line waits for ID checks

Cons of CLEAR

  • The service can be expensive—particularly for infrequent travelers
  • No guarantee the CLEAR line will actually be shorter than the regular line
  • Processing can sometimes take slightly longer than the TSA ID check, and users are still subject to random ID checks

How CLEAR works

CLEAR is a subscription service that stores a user’s biometric data. Using images of a user’s eyes and fingerprints, CLEAR can verify their identity and their boarding document, allowing them to bypass the regular TSA lines. In essence, it’s the TSA allowing a private contractor to perform the ID verification portion of the security screening process allowing for (sometimes, but not always) expedited processing. 

Once a user signs up with CLEAR online, they’ll complete their enrollment at a CLEAR lane at the airport. They’ll have a picture taken and scan their eyes and fingerprints for the database. On subsequent visits, they’ll scan their eyes or fingerprints, along with their boarding pass, and a CLEAR agent will escort them directly to the TSA ID check through a dedicated lane. The CLEAR agent shows the TSA officer their ID and tells them they’ve been cleared. TSA PreCheck members may also need to briefly show the TSA officer their boarding pass to show their TSA PreCheck validation.

Users are sometimes subject to random ID checks. In these situations, the CLEAR agent will inform the user to keep their ID handy to show to the TSA officer, but they’ll still be escorted to the front of the line using a dedicated lane. 

Which airports have CLEAR? 

CLEAR is available at 55+ airports in the United States, including: 

  • Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)
  • Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
  • Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI)
  • Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport(BHM)
  • Boise Airport (BOI)
  • Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF)
  • Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) 
  • Columbus John Glenn International Airport (CMH)
  • Dallas Love Field (DAL)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
  • Denver International Airport (DEN)
  • Detroit Metro Airport (DTW)
  • Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  • Greenville/Spartanburg International Airport (GSP)
  • Hartford Bradley International Airport (BDL)
  • Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
  • Houston William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)
  • Kansas City International Airport (MCI)
  • Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)
  • Long Beach Airport (LGB)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Miami International Airport (MIA)
  • Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE)
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
  • Nashville International Airport (BNA)
  • New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY)
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
  • New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
  • Oakland International Airport (OAK)
  • Oklahoma City Will Rogers World Airport (OKC)
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO)
  • Ontario International Airport (ONT)
  • Palm Beach International Airport (PBI)
  • Palm Springs International Airport (PSP)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
  • Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
  • Providence Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport (PVD)
  • Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)
  • Sacramento International Airport (SMF)
  • Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)
  • San Antonio International Airport (SAT)
  • San Diego International Airport (SAN)
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
  • St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)
  • San Jose Norman Y. Mineta International Airport (SJC)
  • San Juan Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU)
  • Tulsa International Airport (TUL)
  • Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
  • Westchester County Airport (HPN)
  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)

How to apply for CLEAR

Travelers can apply for CLEAR Plus either online or at a CLEAR kiosk at the airport. If members join online, they complete the forms and pay the fee, then visit the CLEAR kiosk at the airport to submit their biometrics the next time they travel. It takes a few minutes to collect and verify biometrics, then they’re stored in the system for the duration of the membership. 

How much does CLEAR cost? 

CLEAR Plus is $189 a year for an individual. Family members under the age of 18 can join the CLEAR Plus member in the CLEAR Lane. A Family Membership is the same $189 per year, but travelers can add up to three adult family members or friends for $99 per person.

Discounts are available for government employees and airline frequent flier program members. 

How long does CLEAR membership last? 

CLEAR Plus membership lasts for one year and is renewable.

How does CLEAR compare to TSA PreCheck? 

CLEAR Plus is a separate product from TSA PreCheck and can be used together with TSA PreCheck or separately. CLEAR Plus members still use designated security lanes at their designated checkpoints, but it’s important to pay attention to whether the checkpoint is solely designated for TSA PreCheck or not. At some smaller airports TSA PreCheck and non-TSA PreCheck members use the same lanes, but go to different stations for screening. 

It’s important to remember that CLEAR only covers the ID check portion of the screening process—it’s essentially a line-jumping service only. CLEAR Plus members without TSA PreCheck will be subject to the normal screening procedures.

CLEAR Plus also does not perform any background checks; it stores biometric data only, so the enrollment process is faster. TSA PreCheck assesses a traveler's risk profile using a background check in exchange for relaxed security screening, so the enrollment process is lengthier.

How to save on CLEAR

Military service members and government employees can get CLEAR Plus membership at a discount. 

Several airlines also discount CLEAR Plus for members of their loyalty programs.

  • Delta Air Lines
    • $179 per year for SkyMiles Members
    • $149 per year for Platinum, Gold, and Silver Medallion Members, and eligible Delta SkyMiles American Express cardmembers
    • Eligible Delta SkyMiles American Express cards include: 
      • Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card
      • Delta SkyMiles Gold Business American Express Card
      • Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card
      • Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business American Express Card
      • Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card
      • Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card
    • Free for Diamond Medallion and Delta 360 Members
  • United Airlines
    • $179 per year for Mileage Plus members
    • $149 per year for Premier Silver, Gold, Platinum, and United U.S. Credit Card members
    • Free for Premier 1K and Global Services
  • Alaska Airlines
    • $179 per year for all Mileage Plan Members
    • MVP, MVP Gold, MVP Gold 75k, and MVP Gold 100k will receive 1,500 miles for enrolling for the first time and 1,250 for renewing or reinstating their CLEAR Plus membership

Which credit cards include a benefit of reimbursement for CLEAR? 

Several credit cards offer a rebate towards CLEAR Plus membership, including: 

Sign up

Frequently asked questions about CLEAR

Who can apply for CLEAR?
CLEAR Plus is open to US Citizens and Permanent Residents aged 18 or older.
What's the cost of CLEAR?
CLEAR Plus costs $189 per year unless the member qualifies for a discount as a government employee or with frequent flier memberships with Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, or Delta Air Lines.
How long does it take to apply for CLEAR?
CLEAR Plus applications can be completed in minutes, either at the airport or online. Online enrollments require a few minutes at the airport to collect biometric data to be stored in CLEAR’s systems.
What's better, CLEAR or TSA Pre-Check?
CLEAR Plus and TSA PreCheck are separate programs. TSA PreCheck members have the advantage of a separate lane for ID checks, while CLEAR Plus members also have a dedicated lane for ID checks that may or may not be shorter. TSA PreCheck members also benefit from different, less restrictive screening procedures. Because of this, the application process for TSA PreCheck can be longer. It’s important to remember that CLEAR Plus is basically a line-jumping service only, while TSA PreCheck provides additional benefits during the security screening process for qualified members.
Should you get both CLEAR and TSA PreCheck?
Combining CLEAR Plus and TSA PreCheck is a good way to travel seamlessly through US Airports. Travelers may or may not skip longer security lines (depending on the situation at individual airports on each individual travel day) with either CLEAR Plus or TSA PreCheck, but having both memberships allows travelers more choice between security ID check lanes.
Is CLEAR worth it?
That’s a matter of individual preference and travel habits. Travelers who do not frequently encounter long security lines may not find benefit in CLEAR, but if they travel at airports where security screening lines are notoriously long, CLEAR has definite value. If there is no wait whatsoever at TSA PreCheck or General checkpoints, the CLEAR Plus ID check process may take a few seconds longer than TSA’s own ID checks, and travelers may also be subject to random ID checks by TSA even if they have used CLEAR Plus.


CLEAR Plus is good for frequent travelers, especially those who often encounter backed-up ID check lines at airports. Infrequent travelers may find the per-use cost prohibitive, as may travelers who do not often encounter long security lines. 

Travelers who frequently travel to or from smaller airports without CLEAR Plus lanes may also not find much value in the membership. It’s also noteworthy that CLEAR Plus is a domestic program, so travelers who frequently fly outside the country will only benefit from CLEAR Plus membership on their outbound departures from participating US airports. 

It can be frustrating to use CLEAR Plus when there’s no wait at the regular ID check line or if the CLEAR Plus kiosks are running slowly, allowing non-members to clear TSA’s ID checks faster, but it can also be affirming to breeze through a CLEAR Plus lane when the TSA ID check lines snake all the way through the terminal. It really requires a thorough assessment of an individual traveler’s pain points to determine whether CLEAR Plus is a good value.

Going has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Going and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses, and recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities. Some of all of the card offers that appear on this page are from advertisers; compensation may affect how and where the cards appear on the site; and Going does not include all card companies are all available card offers.

Scott Laird

Scott Laird

Freelance Writer

Scott developed a passion for travel during frequent childhood trips between homes in Anchorage, Alaska, and Kaua'i. Currently Dallas-based, he's been writing about travel for the past 8 years and is a frequent contributor to TravelPulse, TravelAge West, TripSavvy, and Conde Nast Traveler. When not in Dallas, he can typically be found in Europe, on the US West Coast, Alaska, Hawai'i, or Tahiti.

Published February 13, 2024

Last updated February 13, 2024

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