Thanks to increased travel these days, most people have heard of TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR, but few know the difference between the programs. Knowing if PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR is the right option for your travel needs all depends on your style of travel. Whether you travel with a group or by yourself, domestic or internationally, those differences matter when searching for the right program. We’ll go over and try to uncover the mystery of these three airport security services to determine which program is the best option to get you through the fastest.
Knowing The Differences
The U.S. agency the Transportation Security Administration offers travelers a program called TSA PreCheck. TSA PreCheck is one of the most recognized expedited travel programs that travelers can use to streamline their airport security screening experience.
What PreCheck Offers Travelers
Travelers with TSA PreCheck are allowed expedited passage through airport security at hundreds of airports nationwide. Basically, what this means is that you can pass through security without having to remove your shoes, belts, or jackets. It also means that you don’t have to take out your electronic devices as well as any fluids carried on.
The only catch is that PreCheck only works when flying domestically in the United States. Outside the U.S. your TSA PreCheck will prove useless at other airports around the world. In general, having PreCheck can greatly reduce your wait time in the security line to around a little less than 5 mins.
How To Get TSA PreCheck
For travelers who are interested in getting TSA PreCheck, the first step is to apply online for your pre-approval. The next step after you are pre-approved is to schedule an appointment for an in-person interview. The whole process involves a 10-minute interview and a background check that includes fingerprinting. In addition, the TSA also requires an unexpired U.S. government-issued photo identification and proof of citizenship (i.e. Passport only, or Driver’s License & Birth Certificate). These are documents that you are going to need to bring with you to your interview.
After providing the needed documentation, you will then need to pay the enrollment fee of $85. Once you are enrolled you will receive a KTN or known traveler number, which you will provide anytime you book a flight. You need to provide this in order to use your PreCheck benefit. Once you’re approved, your TSA PreCheck enrollment lasts for 5 years before you need to go through the whole process again. However, there are ways to actually get the TSA PreCheck without paying for it technically. There are quite a few paid travel credit cards that will reimburse or otherwise cover the $85 PreCheck fee. Depending if you own one of those cards, this may be something worth looking in to.
How To Use TSA PreCheck
Once you have your known traveler number (KTN), using your new PreCheck service is quite simple. When you go online or in person to book your flight, there is a space to enter your traveler number. Once it’s entered and your flight is booked you are all set.
When it’s time to check in and get your boarding pass, it will have the needed info on the pass. You can then proceed to the TSA PreCheck screening line for your expedited security screen.
TSA PreCheck Tips
There are some bits of information that are worth mentioning in regards to the enrollment into the PreCheck program. First, if you plan on traveling with family or a group of people, they are not covered by your plan. Only approved individuals already enrolled in the PreCheck program can pass through the expedited security process with you. If you have a child traveling with you under the age of 12, they are the only exception. They can go through the process with you. However, if they are older than 12 they will have to go through the normal screening process like everyone else.
Also, remember that even though you have the TSA PreCheck, you are not
guaranteed an expedited screening process all the time. However, you will almost always receive expedited screening where available, as long as you’re at an airport that offers it. Just keep in mind unpredictable events occur all the time and when traveling it’s good to be open and flexible.
Even though PreCheck is available at most airports, not every airline supports the program. While PreCheck is a great deal, it’s worth checking to make sure your home airport participates in the program. Otherwise, you may be wasting money on something you won’t actually be able to use easily.
Global Entry is similar to the TSA PreCheck except it works with the U.S. and other countries Immigration and Customs Department. When it comes to entry into another country getting through customs can be an ordeal. Global Entry helps to expedite the entire process.
What Global Entry Offers Travelers
Global Entry is a program that aides in expedited processing through a country’s Customs and Immigration screening process. In most cases, this program includes the TSA PreCheck as well. Using it just involves listing your Global Entry KTN when booking your flight.
Getting Global Entry Through Reward Programs
For those travelers who frequently travel outside the country, Global Entry may be the way to go. The process of applying for Global Entry is a little more intense than trying to enroll in TSA PreCheck. One thing to mention right off is that, much like how you are able to get PreCheck for free essentially, the same can be done for Global Entry. One way to get free Global Entry is by having Platinum or Diamond Medallion status with Delta. Delta Platinum Medallion members can receive a $100 voucher toward Global Entry enrollment while Delta Diamond Medallion members receive two $100 vouchers. Another method involves going through a number of paid credit cards that are offered on the market that will actually grant you Global Entry credits on your monthly statements.
Some of the credit cards that offer credits towards getting your own Global Entry membership such as the: Capital One Venture Reward Card, United Explorer Card, Bank Of America Premium Rewards, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and The Platinum Card by American Express to name just a few cards. A lot of the credit cards that offer an application fee waiver also allow you to buy Global Entry for someone else. Just note that with some cards you may not see the credit on your statement for up to eight weeks.
Applying For Global Entry
In order to complete the application for Global Entry, much like the TSA PreCheck, it must be completed online here. On top of the application that must be submitted, you also are required to pay a nonrefundable application fee of $100. If everything goes smoothly you’ll get conditional approval, and the next step is you need to schedule and complete an in-person interview. This process applies to every applicant regardless of age and even children under 18. So your kids must apply separately for their own Global Entry membership. Any children under 18 during the interviewing process, they will need to be accompanied by an adult or legal guardian. However, your TSA PreCheck benefit will still apply to any children under 12 traveling with you.
The interview itself is generally just a 10-15 minutes long process. There you will be questioned about your application and possibly why you are interested in getting Global Entry. You’ll want to remember to bring your letter of approval, your passport or an equivalent permanent resident card, and some form of evidence of residency. You can use a driver license, mortgage, or utility bill to show residency for example.
After successfully going through the interviewing process, the final step before you are granted Global Entry is to have your fingerprints and a photo taken for your new card. You should receive your new Global Entry card in the mail in about seven to ten business days. Once you get your card, don’t forget to activate. Although you won’t ever have to ever use the card here in the U.S. domestically, other countries may actually require the card to have Global Entry access.
How To Use Global Entry
To start, when booking your flight, you will want to provide your Global Entry known traveler number. Doing this will ensure your expedited security screening as well as identify that you can use TSA PreCheck if it’s available.
With the Global Entry program, in order to gain expedited entry into a country, there are Global Entry kiosks located there to help. When you arrive at the immigration, look for the Global Entry signs and head that direction. Once at the kiosk you can use your fingerprint to identify yourself. At Canadian and Mexican borders when coming back into the US you will have to use your Global Entry card for expedited entry.
Global Entry Tips
Sometimes things can get backed up at government agencies from the sheer number of demands. If your interview date seems just too far off to wait for, you can try showing up for an interview without an appointment. There have been a number of people who have had success doing just this. It is risky but you have nothing to lose except a longer wait time.
Another option for enrollment is available if you are having trouble doing so and reside in one of these 24 states or Canada. You can also enroll at the airport when you arrive. Just make sure to have your passport and plan your time accordingly.
Your Global Entry membership once you get it, is valid for up to five years. When it expires, it always does so on your birthday of the fifth year. In the past, there have been delays of up to two months for some people to receive their new cards in the mail. Since there is a six-month grace period, it’s best to renew your membership at least six months prior to it expiring.
CLEAR is an expedited security program that has made its way to 28 airports — and 14 stadiums in the U.S. The program works directly with airport security regardless of airline or membership status.
What CLEAR Offers Travelers
CLEAR is another service for getting expedited airport security passage that is similar to TSA PreCheck. The main difference with CLEAR over PreCheck is that PreCheck is only accepted by some airlines, while CLEAR is accepted by the airport regardless of what airline you fly with.
How To Get CLEAR
To enroll in CLEAR, there are two ways to do it. One way is to apply online and the other way is to apply in person at a CLEAR office location. The entire process is pretty simple and does not require that you make an appointment. For the final part of the application process, you will need to go to a CLEAR processing location in order to complete the process. You are needed to answer a few simple questions to verify your identity, providing a valid photo ID and method of payment and attaching your fingerprints and iris images.
As long as you have completed the above and are a U.S. citizen who is over the age of 18, the only thing left to do is pay. The CLEAR membership costs $179 per year. As a member, if you have children under the age of 18, they can use the lane for free when accompanied by a CLEAR member. Plus you can also add three family members for an additional $50 per person.
You can also get a CLEAR membership through Delta. Delta and CLEAR have partnered up for a special SkyMiles Members rate for the CLEAR membership. SkyMiles members with Diamond Medallion status receive a complimentary membership for CLEAR. Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion members along with basic cardholders can get a membership for only $79 per year. Finally, for non-cardholders who are still SkyMiles members, the cost is $99 for them.
How To Use CLEAR
Once you are enrolled in CLEAR, it is pretty simple to use because it is tied to your bio-metrics like fingerprints. After you have checked in and have your boarding pass, you can skip the first stop at the security I.D. check and simply press your finger on the fingerprint reader to verify and gain access. from there a CLEAR agent will escort you to the front of the security screening or PreCheck screening, depending on what service you have.
This is where it can pay off to have both CLEAR and TSA PreCheck. PreCheck members are not guaranteed expedited access every day, as they can be randomly excluded and sent to the standard line, unlike the CLEAR line. Just keep in mind that PreCheck only works when traveling with a participating airline. CLEAR, on the other hand, works when traveling with any carrier.
Tips For CLEAR
A lot of times when traveling, in addition to airline tickets, people also need to also book hotels and even rental cars to get around from place to place. For the travelers who need to rent vehicles when they travel, they will be able to use Hertz Fast Lane service. The Hertz Fast lane is powered by CLEAR but is only available at certain Hertz car rental locations.
CLEAR is only available in a limited number of cities so be sure to check to see if your home airport or one you visit frequently is a participant in the CLEAR Program. Otherwise, you may end up wasting money on a program you can’t take advantage of easily.
Also often at times, CLEAR is used in conjunction with TSA PreCheck to ensure 100% that you will have expedited security screening. Travelers who only have TSA PreCheck are not guaranteed expedited screen all the time because they have to allow for random checks in their security process.
So after looking into TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs, CLEAR, we can see that although these programs all offer some sort of expedited security screening, they are still very different. Depending on where you live, or the airport you primarily fly out from, how often you fly, and whether you fly international, will help you to determine the right program or programs for you.
It is also important to save your money and remember that some of these programs have ways of enrolling for free like Global Entry and TSA PreCheck through paid credit cards. Unfortunately, there’s currently no available free method of enrolling in the CLEAR Program. Applying for one of the many credit cards that offer the benefit may be worth the time and investment. With most of the credit cards, you can also earn cash back or rewards points that can really help to extend your travel funds.
Also as mentioned before, only you will be able to correctly determine which is the right service for you. However, you now know your options and how well they will work when traveling as a group or with family, CLEAR is probably the best options for groups of people. Just like individual international travelers may want to opt for the Global Entry, which includes the TSA PreCheck as well. In the end, it’s up to you, just be sure to do your research and plan accordingly.