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Is Airport Fast Pass CLEAR worth it?

CLEAR can help passengers bypass long airport lines for $179/year.

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CLEAR can help passengers bypass long airport lines for $179/year.
CLEAR can help passengers bypass long airport lines for $179/year. Courtesy: CLEAR
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There are so many different lines at the airport, and we frequent flyers are always looking for new ways to cut the line (insert grimacing face emoji here). So, just when we thought TSA Pre-Check had become a bit passé arrives another way to speed up the airport process: CLEAR.

CLEAR comes in handy as a fast pass for one of the airports many lines. It’s not going to help you with baggage check or baggage drop lines. For those, you’ll need elite status or a business class ticket to avoid the regular lines. But for the security line required to reach a TSA agent for presenting identification and your ticket, it can be a heaven sent.

It’s no secret that TSA Pre-check lines have grown larger and larger at major airports. Sometimes, the line can be longer than the regular, initial security line. CLEAR comes into play by allowing passengers to skip the first of two security lines by using biometrics of eyes and fingertips. (The second security line, the actual screening line for checking your bags and passing through the metal detector is not affected.) Basically, you don’t have to wait in line for or present your identification (license or passport) and ticket to a TSA agent. You do this process yourself at a CLEAR kiosk. That basically gets you behind the line of the TSA agents to go through security.

After, if you are also TSA Pre-Check, you go through the TSA Pre-Check screening line, where you are not required to remove shoes or items from checked baggage. If you are not TSA Pre-check, you go to the regular screening line.

While it might sound odd to pay for CLEAR since it gets you just to the front of one of two security lines, it’s a game changer for many. For those who don’t have TSA Pre-Check, it’s a super smart move: you won’t wait in the that forever-snaking line to get you to the metal detector. And for those who already have TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry, it’s basically doubling down on expediting your airport security experience. You’ll skip that initial TSA Pre-Check line, if and when it exists and scoot right behind the TSA agents.

Naturally, there are a few catches. One is that CLEAR is not available at every U.S. airport. It’s rapidly expanding but at press time found at 65+ airports (plus stadiums and other venues nationwide.) You’ll want to check CLEAR’s up to date “Where We Are” page before you enroll and make sure your home airport is there. Also, just because CLEAR exists at an airport doesn’t mean it’s in every terminal. For example, at Boston Logan International Airport, CLEAR has kiosks in Terminal A, which serves Delta Airlines, but not at any other Terminal.

Moreover, this fast pass will cost you: $179/year to be exact. So, if you currently have none of the current skip-the-airport-line options and are debating CLEAR versus TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry, we recommend the latter. (Remember: Global Entry is just $100 every four years, comes with automatic TSA Pre-Check, and if you use the right elite credit card to pay this fee, you’ll get the fee back as a statement credit.) But if you already have TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry, your home airport/terminal offers CLEAR, and you find TSA security lines are longer than they should be, it may very well be worth the investment of $179/year. After all, time is money, and if you can save an average of just 10 minutes per airport visit and fly six times monthly, that’s 720 minutes or 12 hours per year. When you break it down, if you’re time is worth more than $15/hour—and we are guessing it’s worth that ten, twenty or thirty-fold—then it’s well worth your while to enroll in CLEAR.

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Award-winning travel writer and economist Paul Rubio is a credit card enthusiast, whose sophisticated use of points and rewards has helped him travel to 132 countries for free. Paul is a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in economics. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University with a double major in economics and environmental policy and a minor in conservation biology. He attended both undergraduate and graduate schools on full scholarships. Paul worked in the field of wildlife conservation before embracing his writing talents full-time in 2008. Since then, he has won more than two dozen national awards for his exemplary work in travel journalism. The prolific writer contributes to a number of top-tier international, national, and regional publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Florida Design, Fodors.com, Palm Beach Illustrated, and Robb Report.